Every day of our lives as impassioned, educated members of the LGBT community – and just as human beings – we are inundated with messages imploring us to help. Rescue victims of the Haiti earthquake. Donate a jacket or blanket to keep someone warm this winter. Help your elderly neighbor with her groceries.
Money, time, energy, effort. Everyone needs it, from individuals to organizations, and many of us like to give whatever we can to causes we support. The question is, who deserves our resources the most?
Our community has a tendency to play the game of “Whose issue is the most important?” Is it HIV/AIDS or LGBT youth? Are we more concerned with second-parent adoption rights or workplace discrimination? Transgender equality or marriage equality?
We’re like crabs in a basket, each of us with the issue we’re passionate about strapped to our backs, struggling to be the crustacean at the top of the pile who gets the funds, the volunteers and makes change happen; striving to be seen and heard above all the rest.
And the thing about the LGBT community is that chances are, if we think an issue is worthy of our time and money, we get very defensive against those who don’t agree, or who see it fit to donate or volunteer to a cause other than our own. So-and-so gives to Affirmations, but not to the Triangle Foundation. LGBT leader X mentioned bullying as an important cause, but not HIV/AIDS.
But as our Between Ourselves participant John Di Donato taught us this week, “Seek out the things that unite, not divide.”
Now there’s a novel idea: What if not donating to an organization didn’t have to mean that you don’t support or believe in its work? What if not speaking about an issue didn’t mean it wasn’t important to you? What if we each took what we were most passionate about and put our hearts and souls into it, and let everyone else do the same?
We can pursue our own passions and support others’ causes at the same time, and in doing so, we can accomplish more than bickering about our levels of importance will. We don’t have to volunteer in Haiti and at Affirmations. We don’t have to donate to both the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. We don’t have to rally for adoption and marriage and bullying and discrimination and HIV/AIDS and hate crimes.
When it comes to volunteering your time, energy and money to a cause, do like Ann Perrault and Jackie Victor of Avalon International Breads did: stick to what you love.
For them, that means keeping their efforts Detroit-focused and using their business to raise funds for AIDS Partnership Michigan. But for you, it might be something completely different. And that’s OK.
Don’t be overwhelmed by cries for help, all of which you feel compelled to answer. If you can afford the time and money to give to several causes, that’s great. But no one should ever feel guilty for focusing their efforts on a particular issue or set of issues, or even just one organization they adamantly support. Let’s stop playing the game of who-trumps-who, because really, we’re all on the same team anyway.