Kindness Before Judgment: A Lesson in Charity and Prejudice in My Hometown

My parents, my sister and I all grew up in a small town in upstate NY. I graduated from the local high school and inspired in part by community service work that I did back then, I have devoted my career to social justice work. I am married now and have two wonderful, little girls. Oh, and I am gay. I came out almost 20 years ago and was pleasantly surprised how everyone I spoke with in our hometown was supportive. I have kept in touch with many friends and we have celebrated each other’s weddings and births. I was proud of Massena for going against the stereotype of small town America being a place of ignorance and narrow mindedness.

That’s why I was disappointed to hear that the local neighborhood center recently refused donations to help families in need because the funds were being raised by a group of performers who happen to be gay. The claim was that a drag show would include “sexually explicit” material, but the bottom line is discomfort with gay people.

One of the organizers stated,”We didn’t feel it was appropriate. We deal with a lot of families.”  I had to check the calendar to confirm it was 2014 with this tired, old idea of gays being the antithesis to families being trotted out.  There are more risque images in prime time commercials for beer and body spray than you will usually find at a drag show.  It is too bad that the charity staff could not put supporting the people they serve before their own biases.

More than ever, the holidays are a time we should be able to come together to help people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families.  It is sad to see antiquated ideas result in less funds for a group working to help those living in poverty.

After the funds were rejected, the local St. Vincent DePaul stepped up to partner with the group. If you are looking for a charity to give to and an opportunity to show support for LGBT people and families, think about making a donation: St. Vincent DePaul, c/o Amber Skyy & Friends, 128 Main St, Massena, NY, 13662.

Some have said,”It is their right to refuse donations or to not work with a group.”  That is true.  But just because we can do something does not mean we should.  During the holiday season more than ever we should put kindness before judgment and philanthropy before personal agendas!

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2 thoughts on “Kindness Before Judgment: A Lesson in Charity and Prejudice in My Hometown

  1. Tanya Lynne Taylor

    I find this completely uunnacceptable. Isnt the very community they serve the ones coming to the drag show with donations? If you would deny a hungary person food instead of taking it from a hand of a gay person, you are not serving anybody but yourself. I cant imagine any person who is in need of food or clothes would refuse them based on where they came from. I think the neighborhood center should change leadership in an attempt to show the community that it cares about all of its people not just the ones who they approve of. Some of those performers after all reside in the village.

    Reply
  2. susan heisler

    I have many Gay, Lesbian friends, and some of them are kinder and more honest than a lot of other people I know…..I am from Massena, N.Y. also….

    Reply

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