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It seems like some people have the stereotype that others who are “involved” in the LGBT community are just all “crazy activists” who spend their weekends planning rallies and going door-to-door getting people to sign petitions. This is not appealing to them, so they use this stereotype as an excuse to justify not participating.
Certainly, there are some activists (most of them are not crazy) who do give hours of their lives to ensure a better, more equal future for us all, but there are really so many other ways to get involved.
Doing things like going door-to-door, phone banking and protesting, are all very important and I am so thankful for those who coordinate these activities which work to change the hearts and minds of those who may not support our community. I consider myself highly involved in the community but these are activities I only participate in from time-to-time. Contrary to what some people may perceive, I really do not have a picket sign affixed to my right hand.
I get asked all the time, “Benny, I want to be more involved in the LGBT community, but I don’t want to be at rallies all the time – what can I do instead?”
My answer is always, “Just do something!”
There are hundreds of organizations in town, statewide and nationally that need help. Even if it is an LGBT social or sporting organization, being a part of it is doing good for the community.
Let’s use the LGBT flag football or softball leagues as an example. While I do not participate as a player in either one of these leagues, I am a big fan and attend games whenever I can (although I must disclose that I am slightly more biased towards football – I have to support Ricky). Another friend of mine who plays in the football league was telling me how he wants to get involved in the community but he is so busy with work, personal life and football.
I explained to him that he IS involved with the community. Our sports leagues are doing an amazing service to the LGBT equality movement whether they not realize it or not. Aside from providing a safe space for LGBT people to play, have fun, meet people and stay in shape, these leagues are breaking down stereotypes about LGBT people in organized sports and getting us out there in the community. I told him to stick with football and realize what a great thing he is actually doing!
Being involved in the community is fun. While I would not wish some of the meetings I have to sit through on anyone, in general, the connections you make by being part of community groups is amazing. Also, there are so many other non-traditional ways to be involved – you do not even have to be a part of a group or organization.
My favorite type of activism is mixing in with our LGBT nightlife scene.
One great thing about working for Hale Media (the publisher of this wonderful website you are reading, along with our sister product, SDPIX) is that we are committed to giving back to the community. We support and sponsor numerous events year-round which benefit our community. Supporting these types of fundraisers and events that take place in bars and nightclubs is always fun and rewarding. Attending, supporting, or helping to organize these events is a great way to be involved in the community and is so much fun.
I recently met an incredible young man who his relatively new to San Diego and has an idea. I won’t divulge many of the details, but his goal is to unify San Diego’s LGBT and straight communities, while raising a lot of money for the community. He is not connected to any one organization or movement in town, in fact, the only organization he had ever even heard of was The Center.
After talking to me, I encouraged him to go forward with his dream and this idea is really picking up steam. Soon, you will read details about this young man’s idea, and see how easy it is to take your idea and make it happen.
There is no shortage of ways to get involved with the community. Participating in any of our community’s activities, organizations, services or events is being involved. All you have to do is get off your couch or computer and sign-up. Nothing is stopping you. You are not too busy to make a difference.
This Saturday marks the first ever Harvey Milk Day in the state of California. In honor of Harvey and for our community, take some time Saturday to think about what you can do to make the community better, and then just do it.
Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".