Diversity Guides

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

Archive for March, 2011

The 30-Second Gay Talk

Monday, March 28th, 2011

You’re assigned to train the troops fighting in Afghanistan about the new policy on openly gay people in the service. Imagine that you’re huddled behind a rock with three soldiers who have been pulled from their posts to listen to you. You have 30 seconds. Start talking.

You’re boarding an elevator and a colleague makes a derogatory joke about transgender people. You’re a well-known Human Resources employee. Two senior managers look at you waiting for your reply. You have just eight floors to address the issue. What is your "elevator speech"?

You’re sitting at a table with a straight ally, representing your company at a gay workplace conference. A gay person comes to your exhibition booth, picks up your company’s give-away rainbow wrist band, and makes a lewd comment about how he might use it. He then asks the straight man if he’s gay, and when he learns that he’s not, he says, "Oh, what a waste." How do you respond before he walks away?

All three of these situations—the last one relayed to me on Facebook as having recently happened—require a response. Not to say anything is a gross violation of your role as an employee, not to mention the moral imperative we all have to speak up. Read more…

Life’s Golden Record – You Have to Choose

Monday, March 21st, 2011

If you had to pick one picture of yourself, and one personal artifact, to represent your life for all future generations, what would it be? That’s your Golden Record. And if you don’t choose the photo and artifact, it will be chosen for you.

Thirty-five years ago, NASA sent up two Voyager spacecrafts with greetings to other life forms in the universe. Besides the message, translated in 55 languages, the 12-inch gold-plated copper disk contained 115 representations of planet Earth’s literature, music, and samples of architecture. The house down the street from us in Provincetown was one of those selected to show aliens how we lived. The disc is called the Golden Record.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been asking well-known gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for one personal photograph and artifact that will represent them in the Stonewall National Museum & Archive for all future generations. Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, sent a handmade bowl with the image of Elpheba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Lynn Lavner, early singer, song writer, and comedian, has sent the signed original score of one of her most popular songs, and a poster of herself in leather. Leslie Jordan, of Will and Grace fame, wants us to have a signed Playbill from the West End theater district of London where he is now appearing. One picture and one artifact is all they get. That’s their Golden Record. Read more…

Out on the Street

Monday, March 14th, 2011

You’re an openly gay investment banker and your office partner is the top revenue-producer in the company. The Golden Boy is talking to a group of colleagues within earshot. He says, "I did everything I could to land the account, except give the guy a blow job." He looks at you, and says, "Hey, I should have brought you along. That’s your strength." The group laughs.

No one takes your complaints seriously, including Human Resources, and the big boss is getting angry that you’re giving the Golden Boy a hard time. No one wants to lose the top producer. If he leaves, he’ll take his clients with him. So, man up.

You continue to solicit gay clients. As the openly gay person on the team, you’re assigned to bring in the money from the wealthy gay people you know and meet. Later, you leave in frustration because the workplace feels too unwelcoming. Your gay clients learn of your feelings, and get angry at you for having them invest their money in a bank that is hostile to its gay employees. What should you have done? Read more…

What are You? What am I?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

A brilliant, theologian friend and I sat knee to knee at the edge of Ray’s and my pool, with our feet in the water, talking about the significance of "identity." I suggested that our various identities prevent us from ever achieving full awareness of what we are, and how we are related to all other living things. As long as we cling to an identity, we will never be able to transcend the limitations of our human experiences.

And yet, I am constantly pinning other people down with questions about their identity, none more dramatically than with my search for "stars." As part of the Stonewall National Museum & Archive’s opening exhibition on 11/11/11, I am asking well-known gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to donate a photograph of themselves and an iconic artifact that they feel best capture what they are to the public. For example, Billie Jean King might send a photo of her historic tennis match against "male chauvinist" Bobby Riggs, and the signed racket from the game. Each star gets one chance to represent himself or herself to all future generations with just one photo and artifact. What do you think they will be? What is their identity? What are they, and what do they want us to think about them? Read more…

The Unnecessary Revolving Closet Door

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Being gay is hip with straight 30-somethings. Genderqueer is in. Provincetown is cool. Ft. Lauderdale is hot.

Anne Hathaway and James Franco made sure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were well represented at the Oscars. In their opening monologue, the 29-year-old actress talked about the big presence of lesbians, with the films The Kids are Alright and Black Swan in contention for awards. Later, when Hathaway was cross-dressed in a tuxedo, the 32-year-old Franco appeared in Marilyn Monroe drag. Billions of people in the world saw him in a blond wig smiling.

Our 33-year-old, straight, Wall Street nephew sends us regular e-mails regarding gay and transgender issues. His wife is trying to get me into her firm to do diversity training with executives on gay and transgender issues. They both love spending the 4th of July in Provincetown with us.

Some straight 30-somethings are hipper with being gay than some gay 30-somethings are. In the latest issue of Out magazine, the editor explained they couldn’t get one young, out gay actor to agree to be featured in their Hollywood-themed edition. Instead, a straight actor who plays a gay character on Glee got the front cover. Aaron Hicklin, the editor, explained with frustration, "It’s the dirty secret of Hollywood that even gay actors have to measure their appearances in gay media, because gay is tough enough. But too gay is deadly." Are we sure of that? Read more…