Feb. 9, 2009.
I want to say something about the work in a group that is different yet in a sense the same issue — worrying about the wrong issues or projects.
Specifically, it has been my experience in the one organization I have worked with for over 30 years (ONE/HIC), now mostly by email, that too many people join an organization and want to participate, but when you get them to a planning meeting or board meeting, whatever, instead of adding something to the work, they, as the phrase goes, try to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
It doesn’t apply to us only because other people didn’t allow the diversion and constant arguing to “tank” the organization.
One of the main purposes of someone coming on a board is to try to add money and energy, etc. But in at least half of the cases we have had, the new person did not donate any more money than they did before, and made no effort to get others to donate. They did not do any more work than they did before. What they did do was to try to rearrange how we spent the money and energy we did have. In several cases we tried their new ideas and it did more harm than good, and shortly, they left.
I am not saying these were bad people, all had good intentions (with one exception, another story since he was still a Mattachine person — J. J. Belanger, as he had been a lover of Hal Call — and not really a ONE/HIC person, so his conflicts and loyalty to Mattachine Society made him harm our group), and they all were sincere but merely took what had already been done and tried to change or redo it instead of adding ideas and material.
One example was that one man, David Kennedy, thought that our financial problems could be “helped” if we changed the branch of our bank to one nearer our office — the one we had was near our first office (of three). He was treasurer, so almost without a discussion he went and moved the account.
Soon we started having troubles at the new branch. This was not anti-gay but just that the people didn’t understand our work. So eventually we had to move the account back to the original branch (a wonderful branch, Bank of America, Universal City, which knew how to deal with non-conforming people and groups as they deal daily with movie stars, etc.)
But David Kennedy was a good worker, like all of our co-workers, and was the one who got us the attorney who sued Pacific Telephone & Telegraph when they screwed up our phone number. Even though technically PT&T did not lose, they paid us an out of court settlement, something they did not do for several other lawsuits at the time, when they had actually harmed a few businesses, etc.
That is another story of prejudice: after several letters trying to solve the issue, we realized that two people were casing our problems at Pacific Telephone. One was a bigoted Mexican American woman who was backed up by a black officer. What others at PT&T later admitted was that these two were so stupid that they had actually in writing and in phone conversations said prejudicial things about our work. The wise attorney said to take the settlement they offered, even though we had written proof they had made a mistake dealing with our phone when we moved from Cahuenga Blvd. West to Hollywood Blvd, and to win you had to prove financial harm. Even though the sum was small, I think about $10,000, we would have a hard time winning in court.
I should point out that it was PT&T that had said our use of the name “homosexual” was good as their operators got calls for such a service and had no idea who to refer the callers to, and we were the first to use the word homosexual in the phone book.
So possible generic problems in any organization should be explained to new members before it is a personal issue.