August 25, 2010

A Message to Gay Men

In the comments section of the last Man-Making Blog post, What Men Get, I received this anonymous and angry reply from a gay man:
While lambasting me with all the fire and brimstone, remember it is "your dominating culture" that said I had to alienate myself from mentoring, teaching, coaching, comforting, or healing boys because I am not heterosexual. So take your shame and cost calculations and shove it all where it came from. Thanks and good luck. 
In my response to him I told him I have a gay nephew and many gay men and women friends. I explained that I really do understand the ugly, bigoted, unfairness with which many GLBT people are treated. I pointed out that in this world because of pedophile priests and other damaged men, today any man who shows interest in mentoring boys is vulnerable to being labeled a predator. In fact, that fear was one of the common barriers to involvement with boys mentioned by men in the research for the Man-Making book. Getting past these fears is work many men will have to do in order to show up for young males in any way. I encouraged Anonymous to support the young guys in his family, reach out to the children of his GLBT and other friends, or to find his way to a mentoring organization that is open to GLBT mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS)is one of many organizations that welcome GLBT mentors, and has for more than 20 years. It is their policy to ask the family of a potential mentee if they are open to a GLBT Big Brother or Sister for their son or daughter, and to invite the GLBT volunteer to take the same background check all mentor candidates must pass. The people at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities office in my home city of St. Paul said they were happy to have GLBT Big Brothers/Sister volunteers and they have many happy stories of matches with gay Bigs.

As I was preparing this post, I received another comment on the What Men Get post from a gay man named Dan. His response to Anonymous is a good message for us all:

Dear Anonymous,

I am a fellow gay guy. I had fears of becoming a mentor to boys because of the negative messaging we get from the community at large. I get your apprehension.

That said, I chose to break through the fear and do it anyway. I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Minneapolis. It was an experience that made my life better. More importantly, it made the life of my Little Brother better. Though the match only lasted a year, I helped a shy Mexican boy grow to be more outgoing. He became so by simply having a friendship with me, an adult. He loved to fish. So we joined other BBBS matches for fishing outings and also used Minneapolis Park Programs for the same. By the end of that summer, a timid 7 year old became an 8 year old who was helping the other kids with their worms, untangling lines, and taking fish of the hooks. In such a short time, he grew and it made a difference for a lifetime. He was not gay, nor did his parents care that I was. It is the friendship that ultimately matters to all of us.

My experience with BBBS was good; and I would encourage you to try them. They interview kids and parents and ask them if they either prefer to have or not to have (or don't care) a Big that is gay. They then ask the Big if they either prefer to have or not to have (or don't care) a Little that is gay. Then they make a match. I reinforced this conversation with the parents via the social worker - because I REQUIRED that they know that I am gay. This is perhaps an extra step we have to take, but so what.

I can say with certitude to anyone who might read this - the sexual orientation of the mentor does not matter. Get out there and prove 'em wrong buddy, it's worth it. Make a difference.


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