(888) 277-4253

COMMUNITY PROFILE: Tom Kirkman

Tom Kirkman is a volunteer extraordinaire!

Whether he is working as an usher at the monthly FilmOut San Diego screenings, tending bar at The Diversionary Theatre, or helping with San Diego LGBT Pride activities, Kirkman lends a hand whenever a community group needs it.

As former executive director of San Diego's SAGE Center - Seniors Active in A Gay Environment - Kirkman enjoys giving back to the community that his given so much to him!

Kirkman is 69 years old, single, and has lived in San Diego for 11 years. He hails from Lawrence, Massachusetts.

What organization(s) do you volunteer for, and why?

FilmOut San Diego and Diversionary Theatre.

Both of these organizations were supportive of the seniors I worked with at the SAGE Center – and I wanted to give something back.

I have also volunteered for San Diego Pride, San Diego Remembers and the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation.

What motivates you to do the volunteer work you do?

In addition to wanting to give back, volunteerism is also a way to stay active. And most of the institutions/organizations in our community are non-profits – and they benefit greatly from the volunteer hours they receive.

I also enjoy the arts (theater and independent films) – so choosing Diversionary Theatre and FilmOut were easy choices for me.

Do you volunteer because of your work, or not? And what do you do for a career?

I am retired. I worked has a high school teacher for thirteen years, Director of Human Resources for a large geriatric complex for twenty-one years and then as Executive Director of the SAGE Center for nine years.

What is something that many people do not know about you?

I enjoy cooking. Preparing a meal for friends is exciting.

What would you like to see change in the LGBT community?

I would like to see the LGBT community focus more globally on issues – rather than one issue at a time.

Today marriage, tomorrow DADT, etc. These individual issues are very important – but there is a bigger LGBT equality picture which includes senior housing, bullying, LGBT youth homelessness, AIDS.

We have to be role models for our youth, supportive of those living with HIV/AIDS, and be there for the pioneers of our community as they age.

Like many of my peers, my biggest concern growing up gay was that someone would find out or that I might be beaten up coming out of a club. But in the past few years I have attended same-sex marriage of friends, marched for marriage equality and cried when military members of our community marched together at Pride.

These are exciting times in our history and I’m glad I’m still around to witness them.

What do you like most about the local LGBT community?

We have much to celebrate. We have sent several members of our community to the Statehouse and Congress where they work toward equality, we have elected several to serve our City on the council and on school boards and now we have two openly gay members of our community running for mayor.

This is exciting. Unfortunately, we still have our ‘dramas’ – and I doubt that will change in the near future. It can have a negative impact on our growth as a community. We are all in this journey for full equality together.

We have many good potential community leaders among us – we seniors need to support them in their efforts and the younger members need to remember our community’s history and respect those who have paved the way. This is not always easy to do.

Recently, we have seen younger members of our community come under attack because they are volunteering to serve meals to the poor with the Salvation Army. This is a good thing – and until very recently, I would have raised an eyebrow or two at just the thought of doing it. These volunteers set a great example.

What sorts of things do you do to enrich your social life other than volunteering?

Meeting friends for breakfast at Mo’s, going to the museums at Balboa Park, visiting the San Diego Zoo, joining other seniors at the Top of the Park on Friday night when not volunteering, seeing friends in Palm Springs.

I also enjoy bike riding.

If you or someone you know should be featured in an upcoming community profile, e-mail Ben Cartwright at ben@sdgln.com.