Diversity Guides

Brian McNaught's Gay & Transgender Issues in the Workplace Blog

Archive for January, 2011

Love is…

Monday, January 31st, 2011

The massage therapist cried in my arms after telling me about his unrequited love for the spa’s attendant. The massage was a birthday gift from Ray, and I tried hard to maintain silence and focus on the physical experience. But we talked instead—of how hurt he was that his generosity to the man was never reciprocated. As he finished his work on me, I urged him to take great pride in his wonderful skills, having heard from him that he has worked on former First Ladies, movie stars, and CEOs. I also asked him to let go of the man who didn’t love him in return, and focus instead on finding a man who would take good care of him. That is when he cried. He didn’t think it possible that he would ever find such love. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and hugged him for a long time. "Don’t give up," I said. "He’s out there." Read more…

It’s So Pretty, It Could Be Plastic

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

In the classic holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life, George and Mary walk home from the school dance in borrowed football attire and bathrobe. When George accidentally disrobes Mary by stepping on her garment, she hides in one of the two large, fully-flowered, hydrangea bushes that border a pathway. As an avid gardener, I assure you that the bushes were plastic, as are the flowering plants in most idyllic films. If everything is in bloom at the same time, and there are no yellowing leaves, or browning blossoms, you know for certain that nothing there is real. It’s all plastic make-believe.

Because plastic flowers, or those made of silk, are so perfect, people sometimes see real flowers and comment, "That’s so pretty, it could be plastic." If someone is always smiling the same way, regardless of the situation, they are said to have a "plastic smile."

This raises questions. Are our lives, our homes, our religion, our jobs, and our friends real, or are they so perfect that they’re plastic? When we step back and honestly assess ourselves, can we say with integrity, "It’s a wonderful life"? Read more…

A Very Masculine Woman and a Very Effeminate Man Walked into a Bar…

Monday, January 17th, 2011

This is not a joke. A very masculine woman and a very effeminate man walked into a bar to get a drink, but neither could afford one. According to a new study released by the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, gender non-conforming people and transgender people live in extreme poverty at four times the national rate, and are twice as likely to be unemployed. If they’re persons of color, they fare far worse.

When openly gay actors Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch, from the popular television program Glee, won awards at the Golden Globes for best supporting actor and actress in a series, one might have been tempted to announce "Mission accomplished. The culture war has been won!" But it hasn’t yet, especially for people who make us uncomfortable because they are gender non-conforming. Young people refer to such non-conformance as "gender queer." Read more…

If We Smell Gas, Say So

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Asking if Sarah Palin, and others who use inflammatory rhetoric, share blame for the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is like asking if spilling gasoline around a house had anything to do with its destruction by fire. Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, among others, didn’t light the match, but they encouraged someone else to strike it, and despite their "shock" that anyone would look their way, they’re not without personal guilt. But neither are any of us who didn’t complain loudly that we smelled gas.

Anti-gay bullying by straight and deeply-closeted sailors in the U.S. Navy can likewise be attributed to the homophobic rhetoric of Captain Owen Honors, chief officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, who used anti-gay slurs in his video communication with his 5,600 crew members. He doused his sailors with gasoline, but no one, until the video was finally leaked to the media, spoke up about the fumes.

If the head of your political party places a target on someone and repeatedly uses the terminology "lock and load," and if your commanding officer repeatedly refers to gay sailors as "fags," there is an increased likelihood of violence. But don’t we all share some blame if we had the ability to speak up, and didn’t? Read more…

Relationships That Are Meaningful

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

There was an editorial cartoon in a recent edition of The New York Times that depicted a decrepit Hugh Hefner with his new, young, bride-to-be, Little Orphan Annie. It will be the third marriage for 84-year-old Hefner. His fiancée, Crystal Harris, is 24. The media played up the story that she received a $90,000 engagement ring. Most people speculate with confidence what Hefner is getting out of the relationship.

The day before seeing the cartoon, I spent most of my time at a party with a very cool married couple who have three children in their twenties. We talked excitedly about politics, gay people serving in the military, John McCain’s sad state of mind, gay marriage, and our shared experiences of growing up in the volatile 1960s. We then focused on the 60-year-old husband’s disability. He was playing hockey with friends four years ago, and an accident on the ice left him paralyzed from the chest down. He now counts on his wife to do most everything for him, including cut his food. He has feeling and mobility in his two thumbs, which allows him some dexterity in his electric wheelchair. He drives, shops, goes to movies, and continues enjoying his work as a developer. But his wife is always nearby. How might an editorial cartoonist portray this couple?

My spouse, Ray, doesn’t face anything as debilitating as being paraplegic, but he has been seriously handicapped by chronic back pain. He recently asked me, "What do you think about us?"

"I think we’re doing great," I replied. "Say more about what you’re thinking." Read more…