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I Have A Dream Foundation Accepts Gay Mentors - Slaps On Warning Label

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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 08:21 PM
Original message
I Have A Dream Foundation Accepts Gay Mentors - Slaps On Warning Label
Edited on Fri Mar-10-06 08:28 PM by Cronus Protagonist
I wonder what you think of this. There's an amazing program called I Have A Dream Foundation that takes an entire class of kids, assigns them mentors, provides support and even money for college as long as they stay in the program. It's awesome, and I wanted to be a part of it, so I applied and asked if they accept 'gay' mentors , I was told OF COURSE! They wanted me there, so I filled out the application, they did the criminal background check and talked with my references, ran me through Choicepoint and met with me on site at my home for a personal interview. I passed and I was ecstatic!

Next day I got a call from them to let me know that I may have difficulty being matched with a mentee because they have to disclose my sexual orientation to the parents of the child. In other words, my name as a mentor comes with a warning sticker. So, of course, what parent would allow me to be their mentor when I come with a warning, as if my sexual orientation were relevant to my ability to mentor a child? (given that no other mentors have warning labels, only openly gay mentors are singled out for this treatment)

For those of you who still think homosexuals are the same as child molesters, let me warn you that the vast majority of child molesters are heterosexual, and most of them are relatives of the molested. Heterosexual mentors, however, are not offered up with a warning notice, and nor should they be, because not all heterosexuals are child molesters, and beside that, the mentors have all had their backgrounds thoroughly checked, and the program itself is well constructed to disallow any possible harm to the children. Every visit with a mentor is followed up by a project coordinator and both the mentor and the mentee are quizzed about the visit. Any nefarious actions would result in immediate detection and a harsh response from law enforcement.

Therefore none of the mentors, whatever their sexual orientation, are likely offenders and the success of the program testifies that the program is completely safe and well constructed.

Here's the sticky wicket. If I had lied and not told them, I would be fine right now and would have been matched no problem. Now that I told the truth, since I'm honest, I'm damaged goods. The moral of the story is that I Have A Dream Foundation thinks that lying, closeted mentors are AOK and of high moral standing, but honest, trustworthy openly gay men and women are not.

There is one exception that I know about. In San Francisco IHAD Foundation, this is not the case. There, the IHAD Foundation has the parents sign a non-discrimination agreement because the Foundation uses school property and materials and also accepts government grants and is a non-profit. The parents sign it, knowing that the IHADF has no way of knowing for sure anyone's sexual orientation, so the mentor may turn out to be gay, or convert to Judaism, or become disabled, or any other changes might become clear at a later date. This has been working for years in San Francisco without any problems at all. Disclosure of the mentors sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, etc. is not done as it's considered irrelevant.

In Los Angeles, and other locations, IHADF also uses school resources but does not ask the parents to sign a non-discrimination agreement, and then IHADF treats gay mentors discriminatorily by flagging their file and disclosing this "important information" to the parents of the prospective mentee.

Remember now, if the mentor is a dominatrix, no notification is required or done. If the mentor is a heterosexual polygamist and has three wives, no notification is required or done. If the mentor has a mental illness, no notification is required or done. If the mentor is black, Jewish, elderly, disabled, Mexican, white, heterosexual, no notification is required or done. If the mentor is having a sexual relationship with his dog, no notification is required or done.

But if he's openly gay? RED FLAG WARNING NEEDED.

What do you think of this situation, and what do you think I should do about it? I need your advice.

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Meldread Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 10:05 PM
Response to Original message
1. Well... is obviously bothering you. I'd suggest talking with someone at the I Have A Dream Foundation, maybe they can explain things to you and give you a satisfactory answer. I mean, they didn't turn you away and even encouraged you to join. So, really, I wouldn't raise too much of a stink about it.

If I were a parent I'd want to get to know the mentor before I let him or her have any time with my child. I mean that's the *RESPONSIBLE* thing to do as a parent. I'd certainly like to know as much about the mentor as possible. For example: Are they married? Do they have children? Are they religious? If so, what religion, and do they attend Church/whatever regularly? If you aren't married and don't have children, and over the age of 35... the question is going to be raised anyway. I mean, what responsible parent WOULD NOT want to know who their child is going to be hanging out with?

Although, personally, I'd look for someone with slightly different values or a slightly different lifestyle than I live for my children. Simply because I'd want them to be exposed to a wide range of experiences, ideas and ways of life. So if I were a heterosexual, hopefully I wouldn't have any problem with it - in fact I'd probably rather have a gay mentor than a straight one. Of course, if I had a gay child and I were straight, any parent worth their salt would want their children to have a responsible and good gay role model. Someone who can share his or her experiences and help the child through difficult things that straights simply have a hard time understanding. I know I would have killed for a gay mentor when I was a teenager.

Oh, and a warning. If it is a teen of the same sex as you I'd keep an eye out for him/her developing a crush on you. From what I've noticed it's pretty common in my experiences, especially if the teen is just coming out or you are the first real live gay person they've met. I've seen more than my fare share of situations like this. It should pass soon, and if it doesn't you can just maintain a professional distance and explain to him/her that nothing like that could ever happen. In the end, they might be slightly embarrassed, but hopefully will gain some respect for you.
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 10:34 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks for responding
Edited on Fri Mar-10-06 10:35 PM by Cronus Protagonist
I have talked with the national office. They don't have a national policy, but they might make one and they're going to follow up on Monday. A little birdie told me in the national office that the decision is to make every chapter disclose in this prejudiced manner. I wish I were in the closet, because if I were, I wouldn't have wasted all the effort to date and I would have a mentee without the stigma of being labeled as spoiled goods. I'm thinking right now of not bothering to continue because I'm basically already feeling like an accused molestor when that's furthest from my actual condition.

Obviously, they think I'm a risk for the child, in which case, why even consider me as a mentor? If they think I'm ok as a mentor, why label me as defective goods? If I was in the closet, I wouldn't be a risk, as far as they're concerned. If they didn't know, they wouldn't tell, but if they know, suddenly you're enough of a risk to need to carry a warning label. One wonders how many closeted or "brokeback" mentors they have on the rolls who are, apparently, all functioning perfectly well since there's no problem reported. And if the closeted mentors are working fine, why would an open mentor not be at least as good?

It pissed me off. And I've heard several offices tell me that their minority communities are "bigoted" and "prejudiced" and they have to take that into account, which is their validation for the position that they need to disclose. In fact, IHADF is basically adopting the prejudices they project onto the community and continuing the cycle when they have an opportunity to rise above it. And for sure, the entire Hispanic and black communities are not "bigoted" like they claim. Sure there are black bigots, hispanic bigots and white bigots, but it's racism to claim the entire community can't rise to the occasion because the community "is bigoted" and they have to "respect" that. No community is bigoted - blanket statements like I heard all day today are pure classic racism.

As for developing crushes, that's all covered and expected. It's a known developmental characteristic and no mentor would allow the child to behave inappropriately, or behave inappropriately themselves. Setting boundaries is all about gaining the respect of the mentee, and as you noted, they do appreciate that in the end even if they feel embarrassed at the rejection.

I think I'm gelling how I feel. I think I'll back out. That's obviously what they want anyway. I just wish they were up front at the beginning so I wouldn't have had to go through all the work and have my expectations dashed.


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Meldread Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-11-06 04:06 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Don't back out.
You are missing the forest for the trees. This program isn't about THEM and it isn't about YOU. It's about the children, all of whom have nothing to do with their policies. That's why you joined, and that's why you should stay.

Believe me, I can understand how you feel. It's so blatantly... just... well think of it this way; it's the least of the things we have to worry about as a community. You aren't damaged goods, and you shouldn't even think of yourself that way. How many heterosexuals would get up in the morning and go through what you did JUST to help children? Obviously not many.

Look at things this way. Your sexuality is on the table. The parents of the child are going to know you're gay. That's not a bad thing. It saves you the trouble of having to come out to his or her parents. It gives you the ability to talk openly about gay issues with the child. It gives you the ability to make an impression and to wipe away prejudices.

If you want to show them, I mean REALLY show them, then you should not only stick in the program, but become the best damn mentor you can be. It's about the children, after all. You have the ability to make a difference. Are you going to walk away from that simply because of some bigots? That's just letting them win. That's exactly what policies like this WANT you to do. That's letting yourself be defeated, and what's more that's depriving a child of the ability to have a mentor, and not just any mentor, but a mentor that can open his or her eyes to a whole new world of people and possibilities.
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-12-06 11:50 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. I went to a training session yesterday and I feel a bit better
Now that I've seen a lot more of what the situation is, I think I actually prefer that they disclose in advance, but I think they should offer the choice to the mentor rather than doing what they proposed.

The reason I want them to disclose now (in mny situation) is that the parents of the children in this school are almost all Hispanic and none of them have more than a rudimentary capability in English while most of them can hardly utter ten words. In this situation, it would be nearly impossible for me to have an open conversation with the parents at a later date when, having not disclosed, it would surely come up. I had thought that when it did come up, perhaps after years of mentoring, our relationship would be well established and it would be a huge non-issue because they would all know me by then and would know it's a non-issue. Hopefully that's how it turns out in the cases of the mentors who are in the closet now.

I think that, given the language barrier, it would be best to be up front about it. Not in a way like "he's damaged", but more of s "by the way" type of communication. Then I wouldn't have to feel like I'm hiding sometihng from the parents and I would feel more comfortable since I hate to be in the closet. I just don't want to be rejected due to bigotry and I don't like the attitude that I heard which indicates that some people in the organization seem to want to promote fear and hatred of differently oriented people.

So now it's a waiting game to see if they actually place me or not.


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Guy Fawkes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-12-06 09:48 AM
Response to Original message
4. I think this poses a problem to the IHADF....
consider this: closeted student with fundie parents wants mentor to help him/her through rough time in life. Fundie parents make sure that no mentor could possibly be gay. Whatever mentor the kid gets, they're sure to be great- but maybe C. Student is looking for someone whose been there... someone to relate to.

Also, judging by the name the IHADF holds MLK, Jr. in high regard, and his go-to guy on the protest trail was gay.
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-12-06 11:54 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. Yup - the whole thing is a tempest in a teacup but it hurts to be tarred
I'm thinking maybe I need to wear a lapel pin so everyone knows I'm not like them. It makes me think of Nazi Germany, quite frankly. Anyway, I think I'm over the initial shock and I'm looking forward to being matched. I just hope it's possible with the disclosure. I met one of the project coordinators and she's really nice and I just can't see her using s.o. as a club when she's short 50+ mentors for her program. I'm thinking she might think long and hard about it and make it work for at least one student. Here's hoping :)
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sui generis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-12-06 07:06 PM
Response to Original message
7. for those of you who still think homosexuals are the same as
child molesters

Thank you for DUing a DU poll to support execution of child molesters in Oklahoma with 26 percent of responders - given that some people indeed do not differentiate.

Oh what a world, what a world.

On DU no less!

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