Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Gay or Straight–Moving Away From Labels

The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. - Chief Joseph

I'm not an activist; I don't look for controversy. I'm not a political person, but I'm a person with compassion. I care passionately about equal rights. I care about human rights. I care about animal rights. - Ellen DeGeneres

Some years ago, I had a secretary who had an annoying habit of taking work that was error-free and filling it with errors before sending it on to clients.  I asked her often why she did this and her response constantly was an excuse of “the spell checker is wrong”, “I thought I could do it better”, etc. and I had noted warnings to her (and in her HR file) that this behavior could not continue.

She was also routinely late completing mundane tasks and so one day out of curiosity, I checked the Internet access logs for the company and found that she surfed porn sites for an average of 20-30 hours per week from her office computer.  As someone who doesn’t like to censor access to information, I had mistakenly assumed that my team could self-regulate in regards to the use of office equipment during company time – she was the only one in all my years who violated that assumption.

One Monday morning when I came into the office, I noticed that a lot of our servers had been dismantled and left as they were.  Going to the building security office and reviewing logs and security video, we were able to ascertain that she had signed into the building with a false name and had people accompanying her for reasons that were never explained to me.  These were the people who had dismantled our servers (also for reasons unknown to me).

This was the last straw and I arranged to have her employment terminated.  I also mistakenly assumed that this was the end of the matter even though she protested during the termination process that the previously noted concerns were not sufficient for termination.

So imagine my surprise a few days later when an attorney contacted me to make arrangements for the out-of-court settlement which I was told I would be forced to sign.

“After all”, the attorney said, “my client represents many minorities.  She is African American, a woman, a single mom and gay.  You are also violating her freedom of expression by telling her that surfing porn sites during business hours is not permitted.”

After he had finished his spiel, I calmly said “Look – I fired her for the reasons I explained to her.  I don’t care about her physical attributes, her orientation or anything else.  I pay her to use her abilities to fill a need in the company and to stretch and grow as a person.  If she has no interest or ability to do that, she can’t work here.”

We had a testy exchange, after which I told him to go ahead and file a lawsuit against us and I would bring her performance (or lack of) data against his sensationalist, unrelated, opportunistic agenda.  I went on to tell him that I believed that he was leveraging her minority status for his own gain and that he didn’t give a s*&^ about her as a human being.

I never heard from him or his client again.

Today I saw the Department of the Interior invite the LGBTQ community on Facebook to tweet photos of themselves in US parks with the hash tag #ImOUTdoors, promoting their sexual orientation.

Department of Interior Photo

The invitation took me back to the woman who I had fired many years before, where the reason for her termination (poor performance) took a backseat to other attributes of the individual that had no bearing on the job that she attempted to perform.

And then I thought about humanity and the challenges we face globally today.

I wonder if we spent more time celebrating each human as a miracle, individually and collectively, instead of focusing on why we are so different, then we could move on to the greater things that we can and must accomplish together.  We should also focus on the things that matter within our respective mandates so that such focus produces a result commensurate with our mandate and potential.  For the Department of the Interior’s promotion, sexual orientation appears to be the prominent theme, with the beauty of nature playing a secondary role.  However, according to Wikipedia, their primary role is stated as follows:

The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States.

I think this promotion strays from their mandate.  As I poked them today on Twitter, I didn’t see a similar promotion for Black History Month.  How would it read, I wonder.  Would it be viewed as a racist promotion?   Probably.

The Bottom Line

The uniqueness of humanity is truly a miracle. We must make sure that the rights of everyone are protected morally, ethically and legally.

When we strive to work together, with our uniqueness protected in these ways, then there is no limit to what we can create together.

However, when we focus instead on our individual specialness for no reason that moves us forward as a species or when we promote a specific subset of humanity as “special and unique” beyond that which is necessary to protect their rights, then we set ourselves up in little camps and fiefdoms.

And once we have done that, I think divisions and cracks appear in humanity, weakening our ability to tackle the real challenges that we face in the world together in the areas of the economy, the ecology, war, disease, hunger, poverty and other key areas. 

Many who claim to be oppressed should look at people who are really oppressed and then maybe they would find a new cause to embrace that furthers humanity.

LGBTQ or straight, white, black or any other color, Christian, Muslim, atheist or other belief, male or female and other labels we like to apply to ourselves are often used to either claim victimhood or claim superiority over others.

Neither approach, victimhood or superiority, helps us to be better as individuals or as a society.

I think we need to focus more on what we can achieve together while we make sure that our rights as individuals are protected and not be used as exclusionary promotions that promote specific people.

I also think that in our hurry and blindness to be politically correct and socially sensitive, I wonder if we realize that our haste to promote one group as “special” always slights other groups, creating an irony of reinforcing differences that we are trying to get rid of.  To that point, the more we try to highlight everybody’s uniqueness, the more uniqueness will surface demanding to be recognized and we will never catch up.

This is exacerbated by some people like the attorney I mentioned, the media, politicians or opportunists like the divisive Al Sharpton and others who use such divisionary “stuff” to serve their own needs under the guise of serving someone else’s, oftentimes using venomous, confrontational, divisive, bullying language to accomplish their alleged task of bringing people together.

As my gay cousin and friend Paul said today:

“Most of us do not care and we think those other protests are stupid. I want to tell them to shut up and go be mature. Those are only the vocal ones. They don't speak for all of us, just like no one person or group can speak for all the straight people.”

We are a miracle and the things we create are nothing short of miraculous when we apply ourselves appropriately and collaboratively, celebrating and leveraging our uniqueness and protecting the rights of others while not exploiting our uniqueness to diminish others or promote ourselves at the expense of others.

How about we celebrate and embrace that more?

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – The Necessity For Calm, Respectful Dialog

Some people are offended by my personal policy of always asking for respectful dialog that embraces everyone.  Those people who are offended by a call for calm, respectful, data-centric dialog often carry agendas other than or in addition to the one that they are promoting and should be examined closely before being embraced as a “voice” of any specific community.

Calm, respectful dialog often carries the day quicker, more effectively and more fairly, something that is sometimes secondary in priority for those with ulterior motives.

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