Be an expert in something

By Michael Tune (NLGJA executive director)

I am all over the place in my passions. I can get so excited about golf, then cars, then religion, then “The Great Gatsby.” My husband and I joke about my “flavor of the month,” a trend that actually runs in some of my family. I suppose it’s the flightiness in each of us, the “something shiny” that catches my eye.

I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. It can mean that I am able to talk about a variety of issues and subjects. However, it also has the potential to make me useless in any one given thing.

In my private life, and in my work, I try to find one, two, or perhaps three things that I’m passionate about, and spend the majority of my time concentrating on those. I find that if you are passionate about something, you spend time on it. If you spend enough time on it, you become a bit of an expert on the topic.

Working at a nonprofit is a lot like so many other jobs: The duties and responsibilities can be all over the place depending on the day or the project. As nonprofit leaders, we can find ourselves doing everything from cleaning the bathrooms and screwing in the light bulbs to presenting a new program to a potential funder or meeting with a Fortune 500 CEO.

Oftentimes, being a jack-of-all-trades is absolutely necessary. Your boss needs X, Y, and Z. She needs it today, and you need to pay your bills. However, it also means you’re spending lots of time working on issues or projects that you really aren’t that passionate about. Be mindful that, over time, you’ll run the risk that the passion you first felt for a job could die completely. You risk burnout, or even losing your edge.

In your personal life, find something you’re passionate about, and become the authority on that issue. If possible, make sure it’s marketable and, as always, look for ways to incorporate it into your work to help capitalize on your growing skill. You may not ever become a walking Wikipedia, but since Wikipedia already has that particular passion cornered, you can instead find that one thing to truly own for yourself.

A Reminder We’re Not Done

Those participating in the ‘It Gets Better’ series are right – it DOES get better.   Sadly, many of us in the LGBT community can tell our stories of growing up in families or with schoolmates who didn’t see us for who we were.  With little education on the topic, and few role models in our circle, we led secret, psychologically, and sometimes physically destructive lives.

Sharing this past, I’m then amazed whenever someone can question the need for organizations like NLGJA.  Surely, they tell me, in this day and age, there’s no longer a need for nonprofits that work for equality in the workplace or in the news.  They often use students as an example, describing how comfortable the next generation can feel being out at their schools or in their new jobs.  I don’t know whether I’m thrilled that this person doesn’t face discrimination, a definite sign of progress; or whether I’m saddened by how out of touch one can become in some of our safer communities.   For example, I live in Washington, DC, a relatively welcome home for the LGBT community.  I don’t have to travel far, however, to see that’s not true in every area, neighborhood, or even a few houses down the street.

Today, the Chicago Tribune produced interviews with local students in Illinois who have experienced bias in college, a place where many of us believe would be the safe haven from the torment we received as adolescents.  Although we’ve come a long way in many communities across the country towards treating LGBT individuals with respect and equality, we don’t have to dig far to see discrimination still exists.  A recent study showed that more than 90% of this country is NOT in the LGBT community.  We will forever be a minority.  As such, we have to champion each other in our universities, our families, and our workplaces.  We have to join with allies to keep our schools and offices safe.  For those of us who are members of NLGJA, the recent news reminds us we’re still not finished.  We’re not finished being part of a network that can create a supportive professional life, and one where we can return the favor.

Why NLGJA Membership Matters

nlgjaIf you’re a journalist, you should be a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.  To do so says you not only care about fair and accurate coverage of millions of people in America, but also that you care how they’re treated in the workplace.  And you do care.  Most likely this person is right down the hall from you. 

NLGJA is the one organization that does not carry any agenda with the LGBT community other than reporting the facts and helping fellow journalists out.  This unique position allows journalists, who must remain neutral in such news discussions, the ability to get involved in the news about their own community.  NLGJA cares about the careers of all journalists, their network, their ability to get a new job, their ability to keep their current one.  What journalist wouldn’t want a group of advocates listening and educating on their behalf? 

Although many organizations are now providing workplace benefits for spouses or partners, many other organizations still don’t.  Many in the LGBT community are afraid to be open about their own families.  They won’t put pictures of loved ones up on their desk.  They won’t bring their spouses or partners to company celebrations.  They are afraid to write about their own people.  Imagine a work environment where suddenly your day-to-day life and family were no longer appropriate at the office water cooler. 

With the recent economic downturn, and with so many journalists out of work, the LGBT story is often cast aside, or given to someone with little experience in covering the community.  There is a history to this minority.  The sources needed from both sides of the discussion, the approved and appropriate style of telling their story, this will be lost without support from more than simply the minority itself.  It requires all journalists to care enough to volunteer their time, their spare change, and their voice to represent others. 

These are your peers.  Show them you support their family and their career.  Proudly tell them you’ve joined NLGJA.  Boast around the office of your participation.  Let your peers know, and your company know, that although the LGBT community is a minority, their story deserves to be told and told well.  Those who are LGBT deserve to live a healthy work life.  Those who are not in the community should do their part to help them do it.