Tackling transitions

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The last few weeks have shown that the local LGBT community is one in transition, in more ways than one.

The longtime leader of LGBT-health facility Mazzoni Center vacated her role this past weekend, amid allegations of sexual misconduct by an employee and racial bias at the organization. It was a move that had been urged by some current and former employees for months, whose commitment to the cause of transparency and accountability should be commended. 

But celebration of the development runs the risk of eroding the deeply ingrained issues at play. The allegations of covered-up misconduct, implicit bias, discriminatory policies and more won’t be solved with the departure of one person. While an organization’s leader certainly wields considerable power, and change should start at the top-down, this appears to be the start of a transition period — the navigation of which will be imperative in shaping the outcome of this situation.

Mazzoni is not the only entity in transition. The city also recently saw the ouster of the director of its Office of LGBT Affairs, the installation of a new department head and the seating of a commission to guide the city’s LGBT policies and programs. On a broader scale, in the turbulent political climate, and with recent advances for LGBT equality, the community has in recent months been forced to re-examine its goals and priorities.

As this community has seen, total consensus over its direction is not an attainable aim; there will continue to be divisions and disagreements among members’ visions for the future. But among the myriad work that lies ahead, the strongest rallying cry has been around holding community and nonprofit leaders accountable — not just for the quality of their work but in how adequately and accurately it reaches and speaks to the diversity of the local LGBT community. 

Traversing a transition — as an organization, city agency or entire community — requires genuine investment from all parties involved. Egos need to be checked at the door, as does privilege, and listening must win out over hearing. The underlying mission of Mazzoni — advancing and protecting the health of LGBT people — should be the constant focal point of these conversations; in such a turbulent time, the value of that goal is at least one thing that all people in our community can agree on.