A few days ago, I went to trivia night with some new friends. Midway through the game the question asked which composer had written the Hungarian Rhapsodies, an easy win for us because our team includes two trained musicians. We immediately set to the kind of frenzied, whispered conversation that makes trivia so much fun. We agreed that it was a sneaky question because Brahms was best known for his Hungarian Dances, but Liszt had in fact written the Hungarian Rhapsodies.
A few minutes later the answer was announced. Some teams groaned and others cheered. Then, as we enjoyed the small victory, I heard a man at the table behind us scoff and say, “Figures they’d get it right, they’re a bunch of gays,” and something in Brian’s Brain broke a little.
It wasn’t what he said, it was how he said it. It was dismissive, like we had some kind of unfair advantage and didn’t really deserve the point. We and our collective knowledge had been written off by someone who seemed to feel himself to be morally and socially superior to us.
This kind of thing doesn’t usually bother me. I’ve heard worse, and I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m able to recognize that what people say is only a reflection of who they are and has nothing to do with me. After all, we got the point and his team didn’t. All he really said is that he’s a sore loser with some bigotry he needs to work through. But still, it bothered me.
It bothered me because I’m tired. I’m tired because since joining the community outreach committee and later being elected to the board of Hagerstown Hopes, I’ve been clocking substantial hours doing volunteer work to make positive changes for the LGBTQ community. And while I love the work, the work is hard. It means writing emails during lunch breaks and coordinating schedules with other volunteers who have their own lives and responsibilities to juggle. It means staying up late and getting up early. It means skipping meals and dining on gas station cuisine because meetings run late. It means regrouping and finding a new strategy when hot leads turn cold. The comment bothered me because it made me wonder, just for a moment, if I’ve been wasting my time trying to change a world that seems to be set in its ways.
The moment passed and I remembered what I love about the work. The work is valuable because it is needed, and it is needed because no one else is doing it. It is needed because our community is still vulnerable in the social and political spheres. The work is necessary because many of us have been dismissed, to be made to feel like we don’t matter, and we all deserve and need to know that we do. The work is important because we deserve to feel safe, loved, and understood, and our community needs safe, affirming spaces to act as shelters from life’s storms. The work is about helping people and having the opportunity to be a part of that is worth any sacrifice and inconvenience.
Yes, I am tired, but I wouldn’t give up the work for anything because I know the work is important and it’s a privilege to be able to do it and make life a little easier and a little better for others. I’ve come to realize that change may happen slowly, and some processes can be long and tedious, but every small step, every small victory, is worth it. It’s worth it because all the little things, when put together, amount to big change. So, I may be tired, but I’m going to keep working because there’s work to be done. I hope you’ll join me.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.