I work part-time at a queer non-profit that does activism and outreach around issues of spirituality, religion, ministry, and LGBTQ communities. I just had a big "this is why I do the work that I do" moment.
An older, disabled queer man who lives in a poor city on the outskirts of the Bay Area just called the office. His life was threatened this weekend, in part because he is queer. He's trying to get a restraining order against the person in question, and he went to the police. He was basically told that because the threat was homophobic, the police "can't do anything." He's scared, vulnerable, and very isolated.
He used to be a seminarian, which is why he called my office. First he just said he wanted to speak with our executive director -- but when I asked why he was requesting a meeting with her (to give her more context for the meeting request) he sort of nervously rambled out his story, and ended with, "I'm scared. I need resources. I'm disabled and isolated and I try to make it out to San Francisco to welcoming church communities, but sometimes that's hard, and there's nothing where I live. I'm wondering if there's anything closer, any other resources, since the police are obviously not helping."
My organization is not an anti-violence resource organization, but I completely and totally get why he called us. I know that feeling spiritually safe and held, having a community of support when you're contending with danger and trauma, is just as important as feeling physically safe and protected.
This man and I talked for less than ten minutes. It was tricky, trying to gauge what advice to give, especially since my organization doesn't usually give personal referrals. But I didn't want to let him down. I thought on my feet. I was really glad I've spent so many years in queer non-profit and social service land and know where to direct people when my organization can't quite do what they need. I rattled off a list of anti-violence resources for queer people, and then I directed him to our resource list of lgbtq-affirming congregations. I said he could call or email back any time, and I said I'd keep him in my prayers.
Granted, this isn't much, and I'm under no illusion that our eight minute talk makes him any safer in the long run. But he sounded relieved -- like he could breath again for a minute -- and that means something. He just kept saying, "It is so nice to hear a friendly voice at the other end of the line. Thank you so much. These resources are an amazing start."