Give Back

by Neal Simpson

So you’re out of the closet. You finally put that pride sticker on your car, you proudly wear the rainbow wristband at the gym, and you aren’t afraid to click on your Pandora “Showtunes” playlist at the office. Now what? Sure, we’re all proud of you, and we’ll tell you so…at first. Now that you’ve joined the ranks, however, it’s payback time.

Don’t worry…you’re not about to get jumped into the gang. You should, however, look for ways to give back to the community that welcomed you. What you probably realized as a closeted or not-quite-fully-gay person is that being gay isn’t all about glitter and rainbows (though pride parades can be deceiving). Being gay is tough, and when you chose to come out, you probably had help. If you didn’t have help, I’d bet you wished for it.

Disclaimer: Not every LGBT person wants to come out of the closet…I get that. I was in the closet for about 15 years, and I respect those who choose to stay there. Coming out is a very personal decision, and timing is everything. When someone asks me if he or she should come out, I always respond with “Sure, if you’re ready.” I’m not advocating for coming out or staying in the closet; that much is up to you. What this post is about is a call to action.

This call to action is simple, and is rooted in giving back. As LGBT people, we are acutely aware of the challenges associated with being LGBT; living in the closet, depression, suicidal thoughts, being teased, being bullied, and being profiled. We have a responsibility to make things better for the next generation, in the same way that the Stonewall generation made it better for us. This outreach work takes many forms. You can donate money to an organization such as Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), OutServe, or Parent, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

If you want to go beyond financial donations, many of these organizations have local affiliate offices where you can volunteer your time. There are kids and teens in your community who are scared to talk to their parents or teachers. Some of these kids hear that they are going to hell for being themselves, and the very people that should be accepting them and loving them (parents, youth pastors, religious school teachers) are giving ultimatums instead. These kids need positive role models who understand the unique challenges associated with being LGBT. They need young adults who remember the sting of a bully’s comments and can help them learn to deflect the hate.

Bottom line: Things like the “It Gets Better Project” videos are amazing, beautiful, and helpful. They need to be used in conjunction with real conversations, with local LGBT adults who can tell the story behind the story. Our LGBT youth are today where you were not too long ago. If you’re out, and you want to help, reach out and do so. The lives you touch are the lives you’ll change. And if you have the temperament and ability to provide leadership in your community, you have a moral obligation to do so. Being a leader sucks, but if you can and don’t, you’re not giving your fair share.

Another organization whose contributions cannot be overlooked is the Service Members Legal Defense Network. Working on the front lines with service members who have experienced discrimination, the organization is now leading the charge in the fight against DOMA. If you would like to get involved, SLDN is always looking for volunteers to help with local events and Pride booths. They welcome active duty service members to assist in reaching out to there fellow service members. Additionally, they welcome veterans and others interested in making sure there is a level playing field for LGBT service members. With the repeal of DADT, many civilians think the fight is over. SLDN strives to educate the public about the problems that still exist, including lack of partner/spouse/family recognition and benefits, no discrimination protection and the continued fight for our trans brothers and sisters. In recent months, SLDN has seen contributions fall off due to the misconception that the fight is over, and even though SLDN is reducing staff to right size, they encourage active duty troops to make a financial contribution through the Combined Federal Campaign. For more information, visit or check
your CFC brochure during this year’s campaign.

For more information on how you can help, contact the following organizations:

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network:

Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays:

The Trevor Project:

It Gets Better Project:


Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

About Neal Simpson

Neal Simpson is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, a combat veteran, and recent company commander whose blogger voice will help military leaders work through issues concerning Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal.

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