The end of 2015: A monumental year for queer rights.
No one would argue that perhaps it was collectively the biggest year to date. Yet within our own Utah queer community there still seems to be derision, dysfunction, drama, competition between organizations, and constant criticism from all age demographics about how fucked up we are when it comes to being a unified collaborative community team. Many have offered wise suggestions as to how we can, individually as well as a community, come together and actually work toward lasting, solid, fair and just solutions. But still the problem exists.
I talk to hundreds of people across the LGBTQ spectrum on a monthly basis and I am still perplexed that so many have negative opinions about the overall community and queer organizations. The Utah Pride Center, by all appearances, seems to be broken and toxic with leadership that is clueless as to what their queer stakeholders really need, want and appreciate. In fact, stakeholders connotes people who actually care, who are invested and engaged in an organization, and I am not sure UPC has many of those left in the greater community. Hopefully with the new and vital seasoned leadership of Executive Director Carol Gnade, long overdue persistent problems will finally get a new set of visionary eyes to fix what seems to many as irreparable.
Why do most people in the community look toward organizations to meet their needs, to obtain permission or take action, to create groups that specifically target what they want?
“Poor is the person whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.” — Madonna Ciccone
Why do seemingly most all organizations feel and act as though they represent every single LGBT person when it comes to issues in which the organization supposedly has mastery? Why? It has been proven time and again, and across all queer organizations, that the needs are not being met. I’d like to suggest we look to ourselves, our group of like-minded comrades and go about discovering the solutions to the needs, services and social belonging we desire. Many of our established large organizations think they have the responsibility, the knowledge, as well as the corner on all things queer. That’s bullshit!
Furthermore, when stakeholders of an organization observe or perceive a lack of truth, transparency, dishonest communication, near zero operational results, or C-minus leadership, it does not result in enhanced perceptions of status and competence for the organization. Quite the opposite. When an organization, queer or otherwise, appears to be dictated by lack of means, lack of improved ideation, or a total lack of awareness of what is needed, it will not lead to positive inferences and perceptions from anyone.
As I have observed the Utah queer community over the past many years, in various roles — leadership and otherwise — the following seem to be the main reasons organizations are mistrusted, flounder and become obsolete.
- Lack of clear direction, purpose, vision, values
- Failure to meet, or too rapid growth
- Complacency or not seeing critical trends
- Excessive change, external and internal
- Living with poor performance; disengaged Board, executive director, staff and volunteers
- Lack of delegation or unwillingness to control
- Poor or irrelevant communication
- Unrecognized brand value by stakeholders
- Not sharing freely — clean and concise financial information
- Not telling stakeholders the truth — transparency, honesty, trust
Following all of these, and other important, elements of an effective nonprofit organization is challenging, but at the core is success, longevity, and positive perception and acceptance by the community.
There are numerous groups who’ve already organized and are meeting various needs of the queer community right now. One of the most recent is Gay Men Aloud, a wellness community and social group for mature gay men. Organized over this summer and meeting twice monthly, it already has attendance of 50+ at most meetings, and has discussed the meaning of maturity, community and tribe, depression and loneliness, and capturing life stories.
Other strong examples — some old, some quite new: blackBOOTS, Utah Bears, BDSM Munch Group; lesbian groups such as OLOC, Golden OWLS, OWLS, Swerve, Swirl, Pearl, and The Thelma & Louise Coffee Group; the Men’s Sack Lunch Group, Restore Our Humanity, All Families, Salt Lake Men’s Choir, QUAC, Red Rock Women’s Music Festival, Utah Stonewall Democrats, RCGSE, The Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and several others — all proving that independently operated groups can be successful, fulfilling and easier than the bureaucracy of large centralized organizations. These groups meet specific needs, make decisions efficiently and effectively, and offer opportunity and enjoyment for those involved. Simpler!
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” —Leonardo DaVinci