Annually, my company has us take ethics training. This is a strange endeavor as it really has little to do with ethics. In fact, I'm generally left quite perplexed by the whole experience, trying to find some meaning in what is going on.
While we were all together at home office this week, they decided to do it as part of our conference.
Here's the dilemma they posed. Your brother in law is looking for a job. Your company has a job opening. You've heard your brother in law make gay and lesbian jokes at family gatherings. Do you refer him for the job?
Good grief, what a controversial topic that turned into.
Now, far as I know, there are only 3 gay people in this group of 100-ish, which seems odd. So, there was a clamoring of people and the topic got really hot in the discussion and even at dinner, I heard people talk about how upset they were with what other people had said.
There were plenty of people that said NO, you do not hire someone that would make gay and lesbian jokes.
There was also a contingent that said that you could tell the brother in law about the job, but not actually give him a reference or a referral because you don't think he'd fit in with the company's culture.
The people that stood up for what they saw as my right to not be discriminated against in the workplace made my heart swell.
Unfortunately, I was one of just a few voices in the room that disagreed with them all.
Equality and inclusion are not just the accepting of gay people. Equality and inclusion are the accepting of everyone. Whether their beliefs are the same as mine or not. If you can do the job, without offending or suppressing the rights of anyone, why shouldn't you be allowed to?
There are people, and I have heard them talking at work, who don't believe in my right to marry Rob. And, there are people I've heard talking who don't believe we have a right to our relationship because it is offensive to them.
But, does that mean they don't get to work? Earn money? Feed their families? Get the chance to excell in their chosen career?
It's one thing if someone comes to work and says something offensive about or to me. That person needs to be counseled about what it takes to have a good working relationship with everyone that they work with. To accept everyone for who they are.
But, that's not the same thing as changing what they believe in their hearts and minds.
Society. In a society, we all have to be treated equally. That's what I'm standing up for and that's what I will fight for. And, it's the environment that I have created around myself. And, I'll take you down if you try to deny me what is my due...which is the same thing that is everyone's due. It is the respect and rights due any person.
But, personally, I don't care what you believe. It's whether you can act in a way that fits in with society that counts.
I think we get all bogged down in the right to marry, when really, marriage is not what it's all about. It's the right to be who you are and to love who you love and to do what you want to do without having another person or group of people suppress that right.
And, one person or group or company suppressing the rights of others has to be stopped. But, stopping that behavior is not the same thing as judging people for what they think. It's about judging them based on what they do.
Oh, the argument went on and people began to ask why telling a gay joke was different than telling a lawyer joke, or a catholic joke or a sexist joke.
In the course of the conversation, I outed myself and shared that I am gay. I'd never done that to the larger group, tho many know Rob and know about my family. There were people in the room that were made uncomfortable by that. Even in the culture I work in that brags about diversity and inclusion. The lady sitting next to me, who I had been sitting next to all day had said some things during the training, before she knew I was gay, that were expressions of her opinion. That didn't make any difference to the fact that I think she's a nice person and it won't change how we work together. She's entitled to her beliefs and opinions, just like I am. And, so long as she doesn't use those beliefs or opinions to suppress my right to equality, she's perfectly in the right to feel that way. I don't think that it changed her opinion of me as a co-worker and I know it didn't change my opinion of her.
When I said that I tell gay jokes, another lady said that she did not think that was funny. And, she vehemently said that she would not laugh at a gay joke, even if told by a gay person.
We have the right to disagree.
And, we have the right to be equal. Everyone is never going to think just like me. That's why Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors and the country has a two or three party system (depending on who you ask). That's why Ford makes more than one model of vehicle and why more than just Ford manufactures cars. And, so long as you don't try to tell me that I have to drive a Chevy, we're gonna be just fine.
One lady pointed out that I am a vocal person who would stand up for my rights, but that the person sitting next to me might not have that comfort and that we needed to protect the person that would not stand up for themselves. She presented a good argument. She made a good point. I respect that, even though I don't agree.
But, that's what the discussion was all about. People sharing opinions. Diversity of thought. Those are good things. Where I think the company went wrong was in bringing it up for discussion. Knowing how other people feel about gays and lesbians is not appropriate knowledge to have. It can end the cohesiveness of a team that works well together and was a huge gamble.
Mama always said that it takes all kinds. And, if everyone at my company was the same, there would be no diversity and there would be no new ideas.
It's my responsibility to show people that I am not different than them, not less deserving than them. I've spent years working on that. When I first started at this company in the 80's, I had to hide my sexual preference. I lied. It was what was done. Being gay was still a fire-able offense. But, over the years, as I became honest, people changed. And, I'm going to take a large part of the credit for the changed that happened around me. I showed them that I was not a predator. I was not a molester. I was not after the innocent. I was not any of the myths that they believed. And, while I am not a recruiter for the gay lifestyle, I am an encourager. A cheerleader for those that want to be who they are.
But, being gay doesn't make me special. And, it doesn't qualify me for special treatment. The fact that I am a human being qualifies me for exactly the same things that everyone else has. Whether I think they are right or not.
Mis-use of power is what we have to watch out for, not diversity of thought. Think whatever you want. Just don't use those thoughts to impose your will on others.
Okay, so this has turned into a long post and I didn't mean for it to be. But, reverse inequality has come up twice this week for me. And, I guess I had a lot to say about it. More than I could fit into that 45 minute discussion this afternoon.
Hope you are all well. Today I get to go home. And, if I can get there fast enough, I might get to hear Sydney sing a solo at the choir concert tonight. If not, then Rob is going to tape it for me. She has the rift in Bohemian Rhapsody with the high note.
Middle school kids singing songs by Queen. Now, there's progress and diversity for ya'.