Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Followup to Previous Post

First of all, let me thank everyone who has written concerning my letter, as well as those who have emailed me directly, concerning my points of view regarding "Pride" this year. I wanted to put out in the open what many in the LGBT community have been saying behind everyone's back to incite discussion on this particular subject so that we may do things for our entire communities best interest.

I will address everyone's concerns and how I came up with my decision to boycott Pride this year so you may all gain an understanding.

#1: Entrance Fee: As previously stated (and somewhat overlooked), I understand the need for the entrance fee. $5 is not a big deal to you and me and many others of this group, and free tickets are available to those who want to volunteer. I am big on volunteering (my feet still hurt from Saturday's Gala) and my initial response to someone complaining about it was "Great! Volunteer! I'd love to see you there!" Too few of us do volunteer for anything but Pride anymore and I would love to see more people getting involved.

#2: No outside food or drinks: I recognize that vendors pay to be there. And they should. This is where the bulk of the money should come from. Why? Because they are making a profit from our community. Booth rentals can vary, like someone mentioned, based on size and profit and non-profit status. But at the end of the day, they still walk away with money in their pockets from our LGBT brothers and sisters. Vendors SHOULD be footing the bill - they are the ones who will have the residual advertisement and business as a result of being at Pride. I know I patronize those businesses as much as I can because of their willingness to participate. I don't go to Starbucks and spend $5 on a cafe mocha - I prefer to let the small gay-friendly coffee shops do that for me. They do it better anyway.

#3: Pride as a fund-raiser: The reason why Pride is so well attended (approx 30,000) is because it was the last area of our community that didn't come with a price tag. I receive tons of fund-raiser invitations for between $50-$300 per person to raise money for the Center. Not everyone is able to contribute those large sums of money and I go to as many as I can or send a check when I can't, but at least I am given the option. I am privileged that I contribute as much as I do every year because I DO recognize the Center's worth. However, if the whole purpose of Pride is to fundraise, well, then, Pride has turned into one of those "members only" exclusive deals like so many dinners have been where you are only valued by the amount of money you are willing to spend.

#4: Alcoholic Beverages: I could honestly care less whether or not the beer garden is gone. I don't feel alcohol should be roaming around Pride, it only invites underaged persons to drink and requires more security. Many of us are out of that stage where being drunk outdoors is cool. I think it is reasonable to say "No outside alcoholic beverages" to preserve decorum. No one is going to get drunk on homemade sandwiches. As for checking coolers, it has never been a problem in the past.

What it comes down to is the vendors don't want outside competition and the whole outside food and beverage issue has been put in place to preserve the vendors rights, not the community's at large.

#5: The Arts Festival: The reason why so many cultural events like the Arts Festival charge entrance fees and the like is because typically, Utahns, unlike Californians and New Yorkers, do not spend their money on art. They have to charge entrance fees and outlaw outside food and beverage just to keep some culture in this valley. But, the best part, we are NOT the Arts Festival. We are the LGBT Community of Utah. We are supposed to care about everyone who is oppressed by their sexual orientation and gender identification rather than the amount of money in their pocket.

#6: The Pride/Center Staff: I agree, not a job I envy. As for rolling up my own sleeves, trust me, I do a lot in the way of donations and volunteering for events to do my part. I would be more active in Pride, but to be honest (and a great many of us feel this way) the Committees have become cliques, much like High School. It is obvious by the response I have received from this letter that my statement is true. No one wants to see a dissenting opinion about Pride, even if it makes sense, because it somehow attacks those involved. Not true. I am eternally grateful for all the hard work these people have done. If I weren't recovering from surgery and caring for my child, I probably would have volunteered this year. However, as in all things, my health and my family come first.

#7: Where does the money go?: If, conservatively, 30,000 people attend Pride this year, that would make about $175,000 just on entrance fees alone, not to mention vendor permits and sales percentage profits (which should be in place anyway - 7% of total sales is not a lot of money). With all the questionable accounting from years passed, I want to know what the Center is planning to do with it. There's no financial statement or financial intention or even a dollar goal listed anywhere on the GLCCU website. My emails in the past to the GLCCU have gone unanswered. How much DOES it cost to put on Pride, brass tacks. How much do we need as a community to raise to keep the Center open? If we raise more, where does that money go? The Royal Court? In an interest bearing account? I am sorry, it's not that I don't trust the Center, but I don't know everyone's intentions.

At least at my daughter's church, we know exactly how much per week we need to have in contributions to keep the church going - to the penny. It is also published in the following week 's bulletin how much was raised so we know if we are on target. Who is keeping track of the target? If we had a number - a solid number - the community would be more likely to pitch in to hit a goal instead of some blanket statement that says, "Pride costs more and more each year."

Pride is supposed to be about our COMMUNITY - NOT THE CENTER. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not one in the same. The only reason why Pride was put under the amazing leadership of the Center was due to so much embezzling in the past that was kept hush hush. For those of you who have been around for the past 10 years, you know this is true and I won't expound on the subject.

Pride is as much yours and mine and the average 19 year old gay boy who has to work two jobs to keep a roof over his head because his parents kicked him out. Should he be denied entrance to Pride because he can't volunteer? And then have to leave Pride to get something lower cost to eat at a non-gay-friendly establishment in the area? NO!

I do not work to divide our community. The actions of the Center/Pride staff have already done that by placing value on us based on our incomes. I am speaking out for all of those who won't be attending Pride because you have chosen to limit our entire communities options. Your action effect us all, especially the lower income. Did we forget about who we serve?

If all of your concerns were really about including everyone in the community, then do it. Be sensitive to the fact that some of us who do go to Pride would probably be willing to pay a VOLUNTARY $5 donation at the door and probably buy our families lunch. I spend a lot of money at Pride every year, but I am not about to discourage someone else who can't. It's their day, too.


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