For the queer year wrap-up, I'd planned to write about Brit's vagina or Lindsay's rehab. You know, the stuff that really matters to gays. But that was before I got an early Christmas present: the Dec. 13 resignation, after seven months, of Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director John Hummel.
That might not appear as good news, considering BRO had to look for its third executive director in less than a year and a half. Turns out, it only took them a little more than a week to decide on BRO Development Director Jeana Frazzini last Friday. It's an interesting choice. With Hummel, it was better to cut our losses than go the distance with a loser. I can count his PDX achievements on two fingers (he—with a lot of staff help—raised a record amount of moola at the annual BRO dinner, and kept some anti-gay referendums off the state ballot).
During his short Oregon stay, my opinion of him worsened, culminating in one of the oddest interviews ever. Last summer, I tried to get Hummel to share the roles he saw for himself and BRO now that the state Legislature had finally passed bills barring discrimination against gays and allowing gays to sign up for domestic partnerships. Rather than answer the simple question, he read from what sounded like a script. When I pushed him for an answer, he pushed back, saying: "I don't know what you want from me. I've only been here a short time. Cut me some slack."
But I couldn't, given that he repeatedly proved just as unable to articulate BRO's cause—whether he was at a cocktail party or on the front steps of the state Capitol.
"John and we mutually agreed it wasn't working for either of us," says Laura Dellinger, a longtime BRO board member. "Our job, as a board, is to look at the long-term needs of the organization and respect our staff in the process. Unless both of those elements are working successfully together, we need to find a new way to make that happen. And that's what we did."
Why write about Hummel now that he's out and Frazzini is in? Because his unsuitability for the job gives us a chance to take Dellinger up on her statement and find a new way for BRO.
For BRO supporter Alex Bailey-Gilliam, the big issue is broadening BRO's name recognition to include non-gays. "To be successful in their mission, BRO needs to cut a much wider swath," says Bailey-Gilliam, a gay 35-year-old global-marketing expert.
I agree with Alex. Now that gays and lesbians are finally getting what we want, it's time we started sharing the love. It's happening with other local queer organizations. Brother to Brother, a gay African-American male-centric group, started accepting sisters this year. That was after some shake-ups in that organization, too. And Cascade AIDS Project's executive director is Jean Ann Van Krevelen, an out lesbian in a role traditionally held by a gay man. And the gay man who used to run CAP, Thomas Bruner, now runs the Red Cross. It would have been interesting if BRO had done the unthinkable and hired a straight person to run their organization (hell, it's the least we can do since Portland seems poised in 2008 to elect its first openly gay mayor). BRO's decision to hire a lesbian doesn't preclude broadening its reach.
We've got to stop worrying who's actually screwing who, and focus on not getting screwed over in 2008. Good luck Jeana.