Several years ago, I started a management position with a huge, global corporation in the financial arena. Before I even had a chance to fully settle into the new job, it was time for a team building event. Oh, yay.
My unit's other managers and I – 7 people in total, I think – spent the afternoon bowling, courtesy of our manager. She was a go-getter among go-getters – the kind of person who's dead-set on winning at all costs, in the office and at the bowling alley. The event wrapped up at a local pub, where we ate burgers and wisely refrained from booze while chatting about life. Being the new guy, I was fresh meat so – hopped up on Diet Coke – endured a barrage of questions from my new team.
It was a Friday. It was fun. I would have rather spent the day in the office.
First thing Monday morning, my boss – let's call her Gina – swung by my desk to let me know that she wanted to "chat for a few minutes." She guided me past the cubes of my clearly concerned employees to one of the meeting rooms that lined the perimeter of the floor. As I sat down, I watched her twist the wand that closes the blinds and, as if to attract attention, makes curious onlookers even more agog.
In my first couple of months at the company, I quickly learned that closing the blinds was a huge non-verbal scare tactic around there. If the conversation was serious, the blinds got closed. Period. Rather than first thinking about myself, I imagined that my team of about 25 employees was d-y-i-n-g to know what was going on.
Hell if I knew.
My first months with the team had been noteworthy only for my quick assimilation and early results – so I had been told in my one-on-ones.
The meeting became a blur very fast. After reminding me how "great it was to have me on the team," Gina warned me to watch what I say. She said something about it being a conservative environment, and that people without conservative values don't go far. Before attacking the rest of her Monday with her usual power-broker vengeance, she tried to dull the blow by chattering about a great week ahead and my certain contribution to that. I don't fully remember.
She left. I sat. In that stupid, small room with the blinds closed. My team imagining, I'm sure, that I was trying to repair myself emotionally from whatever had happened.
The truth is that I was pissed. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I had mentioned Caanan at our team event. Just as everyone else had talked about his/her significant other, I had too. Appropriately – probably overly so. I was the only person called out for it.
My boss threatened my employment because I am gay. Her actions were upheld by the company and legal in this country. When will this kind of thing stop?
My experience is just one small example – and we have many between the two of us alone – of the kind of stuff that goes on day after day. As we've said before…
All over the globe, people are – by law – imprisoned or executed on the basis of their sexual orientation. In our own communities, people are injured, threatened, killed, denied jobs, and treated as second-class citizens for the same reason. It happens in your country, your state and in your town.
We don't give gay rights a lot of airtime around here. Today, we are asking you to help us. When we're not on the road, Washington State is our home base (in case you've missed us bragging about it!). This November, Washington residents will be voting on whether or not Caanan and I should have the right to marry.
To us, this isn't about the institution of marriage as much as it's about equality. We want the same choice that others have. It's about hospital visitation rights, financial security and equality in the workplace. Even more than that, it's about dignity. It's about being fully accepted as a committed couple doing the best we can to live a good life and to contribute to a better world.
You can help in the following ways:
1) Share this post.
2) Use your website, Facebook and Twitter to urge Washington State voters (and the nation!) to support R74
Love is love. We're just like you, and we'd appreciate your help.
I bet you're wondering what happened at that job. Well, when you can't bring all of you to whatever you do, your wellness gets out of whack and things don't go so great. Things got worse. However, I didn't let her dim my light, and I got the hell out of that job as quickly as my less evolved self could (I have some good stories about that – let's discuss over a drink). And Gina? As we also said last week, if you try to be closed off and superhuman, things don't go so well either. Gina eventually had a breakdown and went out on medical leave. Turns out she was a closeted lesbian.
UPDATE: Many people have e-mailed expressing disbelief that discrimination based on sexual orientation can (still) occur in the workplace. See some of our replies to comments (below) to learn just how alive and well this kind of discrimination is.