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a big gay party

July 1, 2013

Every year, for the last 8, I have worked as a volunteer at San Francisco Pride.  My job, ostensibly, is to manage and herd other volunteers, particularly those that man the “donation buckets” at the entrance gates into the event.

That may sound simple, but it isn’t.  There’s prep work, of course, part of which is figuring out which groups of volunteers to put at which gates, and how many we are going to need at each gate.  There are materials to be sorted and prepped, training meetings to be held, hands to hold and all that which comes with organizing volunteers.

On the actual day of the event there is a lot more.  We have to manage supplies and people in a crush of humanity that borders on insane.  Over the course of two days, our volunteers are subjected to name calling and derision, they are ignored, pushed around and made fun of…all because they are attempting to raise money that will eventually go to help a list of community organizations that the LGBT community in San Francisco has come to rely on.

Every year it gets harder and harder.  Every year fewer people give.  Every year fewer and fewer organizations volunteer and each organization brings in fewer volunteers.  

I think there is a direct correlation happening here.  The fewer people who actually donate money, the less money there is for the organizations that volunteer.  The less money there is for the organizations, the less incentive they have to volunteer.

Add to that the fact that in many cases our volunteers are not treated well by the people that attend Pride and the fact that no one seems to know what the donations are for, and it is easy to see why donations are down and volunteers hard to come by.

As the crowd turns to younger and younger people who are there to party and carry on like nearly naked fools (especially those of you who forgot sunscreen while exposing bits of your body that don’t ever see the sun except for pride…and those of you who did not drink enough water….or drank too much other than water), we can feel the excitement of knowing that they are free to do so because the older ones fought the battles…but the other side of that is a lack of ownership in the community, a lack of responsibility for taking care of each other.  

They haven’t had to fight as much to be accepted for who they are, and they haven’t yet found themselves in need of the services of many of our volunteer organizations, and they are young and immortal and don’t want to be reminded that no matter the victories, all is not well in the LGBT world.

And yes, financially the world is still hurting.  Many of those that came to Pride, came to let go of the fact that they are unemployed and don’t know how they’re paying this month’s rent.  And yes, they deserve to party too.

If you came out to Pride, whether or not you dropped a little money into one of those white buckets, if you still have the little Pride Guide booklet, go ahead and go to the back of the booklet.  There’s a list in there of the community partners that served their organization and the LGBT community at large by standing at those gates, enduring the abuse of the general public to collect donations.  They span a vast array of services, from pet services to religious organizations, from drag queens to young people, from community centers to support organizations for those with HIV/AIDs/Cancer and other ailments.

That is who you are giving that five dollar (or more) donation to.  And, it get’s you a dollar off beverages all day.  Five drinks and you’ve recouped that five dollar donation.  Just remember that the next time you’re pushing your way through the gate and past those buckets.

Sure, it’s a big gay party and sure, we should all go and have a good time…but let’s not forget what it took to get us here, or the organizations that are there to support you when you need them.  If we don’t support them now when they need us, they won’t be there when the time comes that you do.

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