As soon as I finish this post, I’ll head downtown to begin volunteering at Outfest, LA’s gay and lesbian film festival. This will be my tenth consecutive year working for the organization.
I have been such a regular volunteer for this festival for a great variety of reasons — even if I sometimes question some of the choices of the programming department — including an overall support of the organization’s mission (I believe film can be an important vehicle to promote a greater understanding of gay men and lesbians) and an appreciation for their attitude toward volunteers.
This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s true: I have never volunteered for a gay organization that has shown greater respect for its volunteers. I can no longer count the times I have been thanked for my efforts. Having supervised volunteers for nine years, I strive to express the same gratitude. Outfest allows volunteers to see films for free (on a space available basis) and holds annual cookouts, both before and after the festival, to thank returning volunteers and the current year’s volunteers, respectively.
Recently discussing the way Outfest treats its volunteers with a friend on the left, also enthusiastic about the festival, he too contrasted the organization with other gay groups and suggested that some have this kind of expectation of activism, that they believe gay individuals “owe” it to the community to give of their time. Thus, they take our efforts for granted, with an acquaintance reporting that when he recently volunteered at the LA banquet of a national gay organization, his supervisor wouldn’t allow him a bathroom break.
It’s as if they feel we should be honored to be able to volunteer our time.
So, once again, kudos to Outfest for the gratitude it shows to its volunteers. May other gay organizations follow its example.