November 27, 2011

Queer Issue: When Good Charities/Organizations Go Bad.

It's that time of year again and probably most people reading this have heard the ringing of bells for the Salvation Army. Most people probably even dropped in their lose change or maybe some dollar bills.

What many people who are donating might not realize is that the Salvation Army has a long and sordid history of discriminating against homeless and disenfranchised queer individuals as well as actively pushing for anti-queer legislation, a history that can be read about here. PFLAG of Genesee County and other organizations have engaged in boycotts of the Salvation Army because of their discriminatory policies.

The thing is, the Salvation Army is not the only charity/organization that does good deeds while otherwise promoting bigotry. Catholic Charities for example, has been in the news recently for discriminating against same sex couples and unmarried couples in their adoption programs. Much like the Salvation Army, this is an addition to promoting homophobic policies within their organization.

See also:
- Illinois, Catholic Agencies At Odds Over Gay Adoptions
- Illinois’ Catholic Charities Lose Right To Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples
- Catholic Charities chooses worst option for complying with DC law...and pretends it has no choice
- Same-sex marriage leads Catholic Charities to adjust benefits

Another homophobic organization is the Boy Scouts of America and their bigoted Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy regarding sexual orientation. I can recall when I was in the BSA collecting food for a local food pantry and participating in a high-way cleanup where we picked up liter on a section of I-88.

Yet the BSA's DADT policy is one that is very harmful for queer youth. During my senior year of high-school, while working on my Eagle Project to achieve the highest rank that the BSA offered, I attempted suicide. My reasons had everything to do with having been forced into the closet as a result of the BSA's homophobic policy.

Now I can already hear the protests of but these organizations do good things! they feed the homeless! they provide structure and activities for youth! they rescue kittens and puppies from burning buildings! and so on...

Yes... true. But any organization that discriminates against a particular group is reinforcing bigotry and the long term effects of bigotry pretty much always include increased poverty, homelessness, suicide, delinquency, and more for the individuals against whom that bigotry is directed. In other words, charities that actively discriminate against minorities are not merely denying services to those minorities, they are contributing to a broken culture that helped to create the problem in the first place. Furthermore, any support of these organizations by outside individuals does exactly the same.

In the long run, it is better to give to and support organizations that do not practice discrimination as these organizations will have a much better effect at actually solving "the problem" (whatever "the problem" may be).

Here are a few examples worth drawing attention to:

Doctors Without Borders
American Red Cross
Ruth Ellis Center
Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Local Organizations for Oneonta/New York State:

- Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth and their LIFE House Program Oneonta
(runaway and homeless youth, foster care/adoption, various other youth related services)

- Habitat For Humanity Otsego County

- Oneonta Community Health Center
(Free Health Services for the Uninsured)

- Positive Connections: An HIV/AIDS support network in Upstate New York.

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