The Flint Hills Observer
by Deb Taylor
In the middle of studying, working, and impatiently waiting for warmer weather, FHA and BGLS find themselves looking for officers to lead Manhattan and Kansas State University into 1997-98. And I find myself wondering who will take charge, who will stay committed, who will make an impact on these groups (and its members), and who will blaze a productive path for the officers of 1998-99.
In the years that Iíve worked with officers of both FHA and BGLS, Iíve witnessed different styles of leadership. I seen peacemakers and dictators, officers who focused on politics and those who focused on parties, officers who ran for popularity and those who ran to make a difference, and those who "stuck it out" as well as those who gave up in mid-season. Iíve seen a staff of one or two people produce a full slate of activities and Iíve seen a full staff do little more than nothing. Whatever the styles, the flip-flop nature of officers has been the most constant reality. In other words, no one can assume from one year to the next what type of group FHA and BGLS will be; weíve not been very consistent.
I suppose this has to do with the nature of our town. Itís transient. People come and go. Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals come and go. How many of us moved to Manhattanóyears ago or recentlyóand consciously stated "Iím going to live in this town for the rest of my life"? (I know I didnít.) Perhaps our transience prevents us from feeling a need to invest in Manhattan or KSU. Why be a part of setting long-range goals when I donít plan to be here? Why plant seeds when I wonít be around to watch them grow?
Perhaps another contributor to our lack of consistency stems from the nature of our sexuality. We are a group of people whose attitudes range from "Iím here, Iím queer, Bite me!" to "I canít get the Observer sent to my home because my letter carrier might think Iím gay." With comfort levels this extreme, finding a common ground is indeed a feat. So we find ourselves trying to figure out who will make the best officer. Do we elect the "out" person who has no leadership skills, or do we elect the closeted organizer? Do we pick Person Q because s/he was the only one to run for office, or do we wait until the right person comes along?
Maybe the foremost contributing factor to our inconsistency lies in the simple fact that our "queerness" is our most common bond. FHA and BGLS exist solely because we are not 100% heterosexual. For some reason, we can all accept the fact that the 40,000 straight people who live in Manhattan wonít see eye-to-eye on all issues, but we have more difficulty accepting this fact for the 1,000+ queers who live among us. As a result, weíre afraid to admit that weíre different and that we donít HAVE to like all lesbians or all gay men or all bisexuals.
And weíre afraid to publicly disagree. We have difficulty accepting criticism or different ideas. Weíre too thin-skinned. We quit before a problem is resolved. We see resignation as more achievable than careful investment in resolving conflict. Weíre committed until the kitchen gets too hot. Perhaps this is because thatís what we as lesbigays have been taught. I donít know. Perhaps we all need lessons in both giving and receiving constructive criticism, and in not being afraid to publicly disagree. Why is it easier for us to tell everyone else how upset we are with someone instead of simply addressing the person who upset us? Why is holding grudges based on personality conflicts easier than compromising based on fact? Why do we give up on FHA and BGLS and therefore stop attending functions instead of "sticking it out" and helping with the decision making? Why is our support so transient?
I donít have the answer, but I suspect it has little to do with sexuality. Rather, I suspect we have these problems for the same reasons as everyone else in the world: weíre human.
Unfortunately, we donít have a lot of time to be merely "human." Much is happening in Manhattan, KSU, Kansas, and the United States. Quite a few faculty and administrators at KSU are still homophobic; how can we protect our queer students, faculty, and staff? Even while one of our brave gay men in Topeka is challenging the constitutionality of the Kansas Sodomy Law in court, the Kansas Senate has just passed a bill which will amend the current Kansas sex offender registration law to include adult consensual sodomy. How can we protect ourselves from such blatant discrimination? By fighting over whoís going to host a potluck, or by educating ourselves and working with other concerned people?
We need hard workers and rising heroes to run for officers in FHA and BGLS. We need men and women with vision and guts. The officer positions are open to all of the Observer readers and Manhattan/KSU residents who (even if youíve just moved to Manhattan and know no one) feel motivated to make a positive difference in our world and who feel convicted to give one year of commitment. We need to get beyond petty quarrels; we have way too much to do.
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