Putting Things on the Back Burner

When it comes to my nonprofit sometimes I have too many good ideas. Let’s build wells at the schools… and playgrounds! Playgrounds would be great. Except for… one small problem. That those ideas would mean giant program expansion outside of the mission. Even if these ideas fit into our mission, my organization certainly doesn’t have the funding for these projects.

I pride myself on being a creative person who can come up a lot of interesting ideas for my organization. There are a lot of people who involved with my non-profit. So what do we do when we acknowledge that an idea is good, but it just doesn’t work right now?

My organization has come up with the “Back Burner” method. It’s really simple and it helps acknowledge great, creative ideas that might not work now, or ever.

Say you have an idea comes along and a lot of positive ideas are exchanged building it up. Then, whether it is a board member or someone who leans towards the more realistic side, points out the issues of implementing said idea.

These ideas officially go on our organization’s “Back Burner”. It’s a nice way of saying ‘hey awesome idea you came up with, maybe we can revisit it later’. Most ideas that have been put on the back burner never return to the front, but some seem to creep their way into new programs and ideas that are more in sync with our mission.

I don’t like the idea of completely nixing ideas. A lot of them may never come to fruition, but it’s hard to tell how these ideas will evolve over time and circumstance. Sometimes the best idea for a new program is something you thought of six months ago, but it just needed to sit for a while before it transform into something that flushes perfectly with your organization’s mission.

You never know… your ideas may surprise you.

The Toxic Closet

When it comes to the ‘closet’ construction, I don’t think my straight friends and peers get the whole picture, especially in reference to the non-profit sector. I mean, how could they really? My heterosexual friends have described the closet as simply ‘not coming out’,  ‘just not mentioning your girlfriend’, or ‘ not mentioning anything gay’. When I have tried to explain the emotionally complexity I felt, I have been met with blank faces. Honestly, I thought that I was starting to over-extrapolate how terrible I felt being in the closet, especially when working with my organization.

And honestly, I would be lost within that inner conflict if it weren’t for my mentor extraordinaire. When we were discussing my trip abroad, she said:

“I don’t think straight people understand how toxic the closet it.”

As far as I have researched (and please correct me if I’m wrong), there really isn’t any data on the workings of LGBT* aid/development/non-profit workers. What does being in the closet mean for different people? How does the LGBT*humanitarian interact with donors, constituents or volunteers when they know they can’t be out? What are the safe spaces, abroad and domestic?

Is there even a way to study these questions if we are all stuck in the closet?

The closet doesn’t just hide us from people who may hurt us, it also prevents us from making valuable personal connections. I can think of one LGBT* colleague who works in general non-profit sector, but they aren’t out in their work. I’m sure I know more, but if I don’t share that I’m a lesbian, I’m just another person they have to hide their sexuality from.

The closet is toxic for many reasons, but for me one of the worst aspects has been the lack of queer humanitarians in my life. There are many out and proud individuals working within LGBT* non-profits, and that’s fantastic. But I would love to have someone in education development to talk to who’s  traveled to county X,Y, and Z, and we could swap stories, and the best practices within non-friendly environments (domestic and internationally).

I know that putting on my non-profit ‘hat’ also means that I have creep back in the closet, but maybe if I knew who was stuck in the closet with me….. I don’t know…. maybe it would be less toxic.

International Update (Sorry you’re only getting one…)

The country I have been working in has waxing and waning internet access, so I figured I would dedicate myself to one longer post versus two shorter ones. And I have also, you know been doing work for my non-profit, so I haven’t given myself much time during the day hours to process .

Warning: the following post will be rambly, highly emotional,  and only mildly edited.

I’m not going to give you a play by play of each daily experience, because most of the time throughout each day there wasn’t really an issue 95% of the time. And honestly, I haven’t actively thought about the issue from day to day. Which sounds great yes? This lesbian is definitely not stressed out about being in _____ as a gay women?

Nope.

As many of my gay peers know, it really only takes one incident to rattle you. We were at a local market, and being the good girlfriend that I am, I was looking for something to get her. As we were walking through stalls with one of our hosts (who I am out to), she mentioned (in the language of ____) that it was for my girlfriend, and quickly changed it to ‘friend’. I was not looking at who our host was talking to, but I know a flash of horror passed across my face.

And the moment was gone in an instant. In reality I felt no danger, and mild panic. Nothing out of the ordinary in my daily life honestly. But I just couldn’t settle it… until a colleague of mine had said that in the future I could use the ‘foreign language excuse’  when referring to my girlfriend.

Aaaaand then my righteous anger set in. Not at my colleague, she was right after all. I was angry at everything: the world, this country, my country, social inequality, prejudice… and the list just goes on. Why should I have play silly games of mispronunciation? Why in meetings should I have to feel concerned that I’m giving off to much “gay”?

WHY SHOULD MY SEXUAL ORIENTATION HINDER MY ABILITY TO TRY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE?

I should be leaving this trip feeling accomplished, satisfied, and happy. We have so much to work towards, and I want to focus all of my energy towards the future of my organization. But what does that mean as I continue to stay in the closet for the sake of success and funding?

I guess I’ll have to find out.