Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Further Musings on the Town Hall

I thought I had finished, but as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I figured out the other elements that I felt were missing from tonight's meeting.

As I've worked with different groups in the LGBT community, and seen how things happen, I've noticed that we are actually quite the cheery bunch and that we all have many skills, qualities and items that we can contribute to make things go in the community. In these town hall meetings though, we aren't being asked to help create or work or do anything useful. It seems like just a fill-in on what is happening.

I propose that we institute an impartial mediator during each of these meetings, with no two meetings being mediated by the same person.

I propose that each group come with a list of projects, events, etc, that they want the community to know about, and that they need help with. They can give a brief spiel about the event as it is presented on the agenda, and then people will have the opportunity to sign up after the meeting is over. We can organize food drives, service projects, parties, fundraising, and anything else we can think of this way.

I propose that every person try to bring an ally with them to the meeting. LGBT people are not the only ones affected by the issues in our community, and we all should try and bring our friends. If possible, we should also invite our elected officials.

I propose that we design a set of rules that are in effect during each meeting. This would include only making comments that are constructive; no comments that call out an individual by name; no speaking out of turn, etc. If we don't have rules to set the tone of the meeting, we won't accomplish anything.

I propose that we choose 1 or 2 topics to be discussed as a community during each meeting. These could include racism, sexism, outreach, community awareness, our education system, bullying in schools, homelessness, etc. There are many important topics we need to address, and they will never be discussed unless we provide some time. I think 1 topic would be ample, allowing us at least an hour for discussion.

I propose that an agenda for each meeting be published. I recognize that some issues come up on short notice, but if each meeting has an agenda set 2 weeks in advance, people will be prepared to discuss the pertinent topics.

I'm sure there are many other things I am forgetting, but we need to demonstrate that our community is a force to be reckoned with. If we come together once a quarter and actually accomplish something, we may be able to work faster to receive equal rights.



Critique of our LGBT Town Hall Tonight

Tonight I felt a particular sense of frustration at our LGBT Town Hall Meeting. I've decided to write a critique in response to what I feel were some of the shortcomings of the meeting. This is by no means meant to say that I could have done a better job, but I feel that there were some major issues with the formatting.

First and foremost, these meetings need to have a set place and time that is advertised well in advance, so that everyone has the possibility to attend. I would recommend choosing a date such as the 2nd Wednesday of the first month in each quarter (i.e. January, April, July and October). If there is a consistent time and place, it will make it easier for everyone to attend, with the possibility that visitors may also come if they choose to do so.

Secondly, we need to start and end on time. This is frequently an issue I've found at meetings with LGBT groups, and it is frustrating because it demonstrates a lack of respect for people's lives. We all have other things we need to do as well, and no one wants to waste time at a meeting when we don't feel the meeting is being productive.

Thirdly, there needs to be an agenda. All issues that are seeking to be part of the agenda should be emailed to the person in charge no less than a week before the meeting. Each topic should be given a set amount of time, so that the meeting moves smoothly, and all topics get discussed, even if there are comments and/or questions that still need to be answered.

Fourth, each group that would like to be represented should have an information sheet about previous events and future events. It is nice to hear about things that are going on, but I actually read the news, and I'm not there for a recap of everything that has happened. If people fail to inform themselves, each group can have their relevant information handy.

Fifth, we need to discuss real issues. When we discuss everything going on with each group, it unnecessarily extends the meeting, and forces us to focus on topics that are best handled between the involved parties. I have enough drama in my life; I don't need to become embroiled in the war between the different groups in our community.

Sixth, I believe there should be comment cards or paper available to all attendees. Either that or a list of email addresses to contact all of the different groups. That way, if we object to a certain portion of the meeting or have comments pertaining to a certain group, instead of bringing it up in the meeting, we can address the relevant parties directly.

I believe that these meetings are meant to bring us together, and allow us to focus all of our energy on accomplishing goals within the community. Lest we forget, the infighting we have doesn't help stop atrocities like the recent suicides in Georgia and Massachusetts.

These meetings should be discussion about what needs to happen in the community, and involve coordinating efforts to bring change. We all spare the time to show up, but then nothing happens when we do.

Please, let us work together to help make a better future!

Nate Bassett