Language is everything. In its absence, expressions and body language, along with audible expressive sounds, assist us in understanding context within a framework of communicating with others. I hope to shape our opinion of words we choose, as well as labels, to which we attach ourselves. When I first heard the word “Straight Allies” my head went into a spin. I understood the good intentions behind the group who stand up for gay and lesbian rights, but I struggled with this title. Why? I struggled because it refers to sexual orientation rather than having the moral courage to state clearly the “who” or the “what.” I am not saying that anyone who is a Straight Ally is not morally courageous. In fact, I think this is the reason why some of us who have wondered about the title, do struggle with it. I know some of the Straight Allies, and I know they are courageous and do wonderful things for the LGBT community. However, their title implies that they are allies to themselves rather than allies to the LGBT community. This was a safe and full proof marketing strategy and not risky. Advocates and activists take many risks in calling out the wrong and in naming the cause.
I had a discussion not that long ago with a friend of mine who is Trans – like me – and we talked about the frustration of how we consistently are overlooked and overshadowed by those who only think of LGBT in the context of “straight” versus “gay.”
We both had a rather misfortunate experience participating as part of a coalition and just in everyday life, in coming up against individuals who have a poor understanding and generally are ignorant when it comes to gender identity. It was disappointing to realize that the Straight Allies didn’t really comprehend the significance of this label and that it was misleading to the public. If I lived in a cartoon world – which we know doesn’t really exist and I replaced the words with LGBT – then, pulled out my remote control and selected “rewind,” the group may not have been as successful. It would have been wonderful if they could have, as individuals, chosen to make more profound statements such as “I stand up for Transgender individuals because …” or “I stand up for Gays and Lesbians because of…”. Perhaps some have done this while others definitely have not named for whom they stand, which brings me around to another point, that it is imperative we continue to educate on the subject of transgender identities.
We do not live in a cartoon world. I do get it. I think the intention behind this label was for a group of straight individuals to name themselves as a collective group who stand up for the LGBT as a way to show solidarity. The problem with this label is that it comes across divisive; “Straight versus Gay” and in reality some of the transgender individuals are straight. So where do they fit in?
It is too late to really do much about it since the title has already been embraced. I am shedding light on the title and hoping to effect changes in attitudes when those of us who express differences and to educate on the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. The correlation between sexual orientation and gender identity is individual and very separate from each another.
I recently had met over coffee with a Urologist, Dr. Judy Herring, who gives TedX talks about Gender. Her Ted Talks are insightful, and she leaves us holding one thought “Do we really need labels based on our genitalia?”
Check her out. Judy Herring “Gender Bound: Lessons from the World Between.” In the meantime, I appreciate any efforts put forward by anyone who stands up for my rights, my trans identity and simply for being a decent human being in helping in ways they are comfortable and with the willingness to learn about LGBTQIA along the way. Oh … the “A” in this acronym stands for asexual; another type of sexual orientation and not an ally.
Aristotle once said, “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.” nptrust.org
This is a case in point for those of us who – not only do gratis work but – who also help fund work. When we speak out as Philanthropists expressing concerns that end up being dismissed, we realize our problems are not taken seriously. So, we ask ourselves, “do we continue to support an organization whose leadership dismisses our concerns, or do we affect change in addressing these concerns privately and, when this fails, then publicly?”
As an Activist, Philanthropist, and Advocate, I can only share my experience working on a project for elderSource. The PhotoVoice project comprised six participants. I tried to remain faithful to the participants, but this was not without challenges. I witnessed how others, like me, expressed sentiments of not being treated with respect or whose concerns were dismissed.
The gratis work and amount of hours my intern and I put into this project to uphold the authenticity of what the LGBT elders voiced was not valued any more than the participants’ contributions, as evidenced in the end. The leadership cared about their funding, not the profound statements made by three participants – all on film – all very compelling – rolled out in one statement (Precarious Legal System). Leadership argued that a statement such as this would place their organization at risk of losing funding.
(1) The statement “Precarious Legal System” was made and disputed by the leadership.
One of the participants (near the end of the project, right before the exhibit) passed away. The participants had come to know her in all the months we worked closely with them. We suggested a postscript in her honor and to celebrate her contribution as a valuable member of society. She was our one and only trans woman in the group.
(2) Postscript was initially rejected.
The reason that was given for rejecting the postscript? It would take away from all the other participants’ stories and overshadow the voices of the others, even though her voice was a part of this project.
I worked hard, helping the leadership realize in a one-on-one discussion at my studio that this participant had worked equally hard throughout this project. To not have a postscript in her honor would be a dishonor.
The statement “Precarious Legal System” was placed on the exhibit’s wall at MOCA.
(3) Despite the rights for creative control written in my job description, the statement was shrunk down to a size that conflicted with the directives I had given. I was never informed and did not know about the alteration until I arrived at the exhibit’s opening.
(4) I also received the directive, after reaching a compromise, to keep the postscript of the trans woman to one page.
The exhibit was to travel to Baker County, an oppressed area where topics such as LGBTQIA are controversial. We were initially informed that this project would not pose any problems. We were given space in their conference room and hallway right outside the conference room.
(5) My colleague and I traveled to Baker County’s Health Department, where we were informed that they were in a meeting; elderSource and the Director at the County Health Department all agreed ahead of time to remove the trans woman from the project, despite earlier emails confirming my role and time of arrival.
(6) Rather than stand by their promise to give voice to all participants – and honor terms throughout the traveling of this exhibit – they agreed to erase the trans woman from the project in favor of the organization’s self-interests. In doing so, they devalued the human being – now -deceased and unable to defend herself as one of their participants – like all the others – was informed that her voice mattered.
The act of trans erasure sent a strong message of non-acceptance and rejection to our trans community.
When we asked for a list of their board members, which was unavailable online, we received only one name.
(7) The President of elderSource’s Board was sent a letter addressing my concerns.
(8) The Board sent a response that I felt was condescending and served as a way to shut those of us up by returning the funding to the foundation.
(9) The leadership announced they would do the project themselves shortly after that and dissolved their LGBT Elder Taskforce.
Cultural competency is an added value to any organization’s Best Practices. Transmisogyny is serious and permeates our culture.
Holding organizations accountable who accept funding from those of us in the LGBTQIA community – when their leadership diminishes concerns raised by those in our society – is out of necessity and not meanness. Some of the individuals involved with the LGBT Elder Task Force throughout this project tried to reason with the leadership. Still, instead of listening, the administration decided to dissolve this task force comprised of individuals who wanted to improve the quality of lives within the elder LGBT community. Just for the record, I was fortunate to have a witness to the Baker County incident, and I knew I did not stand alone. There is history at this organization for blatantly disregarding the issues raised. These ranged from concerns expressed, by others familiar with the organization, to the lack of materials available at Pride celebrations. Leadership criticized the LGBT community for failing to support the PV project, never acknowledging that neither did the cisgender community. The need to remind that two LGBTQIA individuals from this community had funding before the Kickstarter campaign.
This experience of mine with this particular organization has me evaluating how we can affect change positively. Continually receiving conflicted messaging was disturbing to me. Other participants also verbalized receiving conflicted messaging. What stood out even more profoundly was a letter from an LGBT Elder Task Force member, counseling the leadership to work matters out with me to save the project from collapsing. After receiving a copy of the letter from its author, the author resigned from the task force. If the project was abandoned because I chose to uphold my end of the terms and adhere to my commitment to the participants as opposed to defending the self-serving interests of the leadership, then it is not a surprise to hear others say that their concerns were dismissed. This means a lot.
When I inquired who would deny them funding, I was informed, “The State.” What happens to elders who express concerns about this agency or others not meeting their needs? Are they heard? Are they dismissed?
During one of our meetings at MOCA, there was another attempt made to revoke my creative rights. I reminded everyone that I had been working on this project for six months before completing it. To have it altered right before the event was not reasonable nor a part of the agreement. We were running out of time.
Some of us were dismissed many times, and at one point, I was called names during a phone conversation with one of their staff members. I was accused of being aggressive (typical of sexism when females assert themselves in business). I had insisted that the terms of my job description gave me creative rights over the project.
This organization was not interested in agreements, let alone upholding any agreements with venues for the exhibit. At one stage, the struggle became overwhelming, and I realized very quickly that my creative rights to ensure this project would remain intact were about to fall through; I offered to revoke funding until they could live up to my job description or decide to do otherwise. I was accused of sabotaging the project. Shortly after this, I was told that I was a “bitch” in a private conversation held at late hours over a four-hour phone conversation to try to work through finalizing the marketing and brochures for the exhibit. The lack of professionalism was very telling. How the participants were selected in the first place (no men, no people of color, etc.) and why the PhotoVoice project was an interest remained baffling when they were not willing to use the one profound statement of the three participants who used it. It was their voice, after all.
The censoring of this statement opened Pandora’s Box for some of us. After all, what legal system is not precarious? Those who experience marginalization and discrimination have not always had the law on their side, particularly in the absence of human rights protections. The educated individuals at this organization failed to understand the terms of the job descriptions they approved for this project. As someone who worked with Best Practices in healthcare, I wondered what their understanding was of other contracts they held with service providers? The lack of cultural competency could be pulsed. If I were ever to fund or recommend to others to support an organization’s project again, I would begin with funding a healthcare consultant trained and well versed in cultural competency.
In the end …, the leadership (prematurely) received an award for the project before it went on display at MOCA. The Board probably never really knew the other side of this story, and the participant will never know that she did not contribute once the exhibit traveled.
Trans erasure occurs every day. JamieAnn Meyers in The BLOG of the Huffington Post wrote a beautiful article on Trans* Invisibility. It’s up to trans* people to be proactive and make sure that our individual and collective voices are heard loud and clear by the public and the media and that we continue to be written into the record of queer history. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamieann-meyers/trans-invisibility_b_2619929.html
My perspective and expertise in Best Practices tell me that this isn’t unique to this particular organization. It raises the question that when organizations make statements, they are allies to the LGBT community. Whether they do so to try to get funding or whether they understand their ally-ship to the LGBTQIA community needs to be demonstrated through actions and not run parallel with conflicts of interests.
Some thoughts on a previous dialogue. This is to serve as a gentle reminder that trans people have reasons to raise concerns and, if not concerns, at least some questions. Some of us continue to read about how the law erases who we are and how complacency contributes to the marginalized group at an alarming rate. Celebrating a marker without considering points raised by trans people is participating in silencing our voices when we raise concerns.
Will they serve the transgender population well? What about the gender queers? How will cishets and cisgays know the differences in determining how to move forward in treatments, asking questions and simply just having the dialogue? Does it matter to differentiate? Should a medical form encompass a bit more than just the umbrella terms, transgender? Some of us think it should. For instance, in a medical form, the term transgender could also accompany a series of questions to seek clarification and to help with codifying and classifying for actuarial studies. This makes a tremendous difference in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the ways this could actually foster dialogue among practitioners to better serve the transgender population.
Are you MtF? Are you FtM? Are you in transition? Are you female but identify as male? Are you male but identify as female? Are you gender fluid and MtF? Are you gender fluid and FtM? Are you straight? Are you gay? Are you a lesbian? Are you a bisexual? Are you pansexual? Are you asexual? Are you intersex? Are you aromantic?
By what pronoun do you prefer to be addressed?
The above questions are some of the ways the exploration towards understanding the patient who presents for the first visit can help clarify who they are as an individual.
This matters. It matters because it will determine who we are as transgender-identified individuals. We are part of a rainbow. This same marker should be used for LGBT. It should not erase anyone else from medical forms from exploring their preferences and identities.
When non-trans people are quick to accept limited representation and dismiss questions by trans and take an adversarial position towards this very marginalized group – despite the validity of their questions, they must welcome questions and not view these as attacking. We need to move away from personalizing any criticism raised by those who are transgender individuals. We experience marginalization every day. Markers on forms are not necessarily all-inclusive and to hear anyone state that “this is a start” is farthest from welcoming all inclusive and intersectional sectors who serve under this umbrella term. “Microaggression, a theory coined by Chester M. Pierce back in 1970, hypothesizes that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as small acts of mostly non-physical aggression.”
“Verbal and behavioral indignities are classic symptoms of microaggression.” Mary Rowe in 1973 who wrote about it on sex and gender.
Some of us have served on committees and experienced microaggression in settings right within our borders. This is not okay. It feels attacking when we raise valid concerns. It is time to move beyond the power struggle and move towards harmony, without taking positions that those of us who raise concerns are delivering these in an attacking manner.
Each year the Oscar Awards are given to individuals who were nominated as Best Performing Actor followed by all those in other categories for their excellent performance and achievements.
Having directed sets, plays and teams, I am cognitive of the hard work each individual contributes in efforts put forth to ensure that recognition didn’t happen because of just their single part; that it happened because they were a part of the team.
If anything cannot be stated enough throughout this essay, it will be this very sentence just written; emphasis on the importance of any participant’s collective work of art or act of force, in their role to deliver an exemplary outcome, cannot be undermined and only happens when everyone respects each person’s contribution.
In a few weeks in an upcoming conference at UNF, I will be sharing thoughts on the slow process the media plays in addressing public representation as well as misrepresentation of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Questioning-Intersex-Asexual (LGBTQIA).
I don’t want to detract or undermine the efforts of actors who – on stage -as well as – on sets – come prepared after agonizingly studying their character roles, to ensure they deliver, as convincing as possible, without having to appear convincing at all, the character they portray.
While I recognize that actors are acting and aim to have a connection to their characters, even going as far as portraying the character building throughout their work and personal life, all to strengthen their identities in portraying the character. I know that t is through developing, practicing and shaping their roles in character studies, which will deliver outstanding performance and that it is a lot of bloody, hard work.
Why is it that those of us who are transgender and/or gay persons, belly ache rather loudly about cisgender persons taking on roles of those who are transgender or gay? Why do we sound angry or unappreciative? Is it because we are not even considered capable and therefore, leave others who cast actors in these roles, to feel culpable? Is it that we are disqualified because we are transgender or gay persons? Why are we passed over?
Some of us feel it is an injustice to impart roles. To cisgender persons when these could be played by the very party who represent us or any particular population for that matter. An illustration dates back to just a few decades ago when white actors portrayed Native American Indians. I must say that their performance wasn’t all that convincing since it felt off somehow, (not meaning any disrespect) but, I think the same could be said of the white man portraying an African American, African, a Middle Eastern, Mexican, Latino and Asian character.
As someone who has performed the roles of characters, I know that it is bloody hard work. It is even harder work for the minority actor to achieve, because of all the cultural practices of the misunderstandings, misappropriations, misogyny and the long ties to cis behaviors, within a binary world, whose players participate in marginalizing a population – directly affecting the minority individual – cast in the role representative of them. The minority among the majority has been examined time and time again by sociologists, interested in the field of study, including preschoolers of the minority functioning within a native group. Studies show that they have behavioral problems unique to their culture of which there is a correlation between socioeconomic and psychological factors stemming from the first generation of immigrants. One such study referred to as the Generation – R study from the Netherlands included 7925 participants. This study was not in any way involving or about LGBTQIA, but rather to any minority race and culture. “When considering generational status, we found that the risk was particularly increased in children of first-generation immigrants, though the second generation also presented more problem behavior. A potential explanation for this finding is that immigration risk factors such poor proficiency of the native language and cultural barriers, more common in first than in second-generation immigrants, can lead to social isolation and associated stress in mothers, which may affect children’s behavior [1,34].”
We can say the same about our culture since many cisgender persons just do not understand the language binding our sense of who we are as much as how we live and practice. When some of us are asked why we dress like men, when we are women, we have to explain ourselves. When we are asked why we don’t hang with our gender, we have to tell ourselves, once again. When we are asked why we emulate specific characteristics, we have to remind those posing questions and seeking clarification that we are who they see and that following is cross-sectional throughout history as much as it is in the world of cisgender persons. We have to continuously explain ourselves even to the detriment of exhausting ourselves. We have to step out even among some of our sub-cultural groups, who seem to also fail to recognize differences.
The roles are given to actors who portray people from other classes, rich or poor; other populations and subcultures among cultures; race, creed; blind or deaf, etc., in no way make the actor a lesser human being. In fact, their role requires some strenuous efforts in character studies; the study of history, the study of subcultures within the culture, as well as the study of current affairs to understand the character role they portray. It is doubly hard for the minority; just because the majority truly doesn’t really “experience it through our eyes and ears.”
Efforts to improve LGBT health include:
Curbing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with interventions that work.8
Provide supportive social services to reduce suicide and homelessness risk among youth.9
Appropriately inquiring about and being supportive of a patient’s sexual orientation to enhance the patient-provider interaction and regular use of care.10
Provide medical students with access to LGBT patients to increase the provision of culturally competent care.11
If the actors stood their ground on behalf of those from minority groups or pushed the talent agencies and scout agents to seek individuals representative of the minority group, that would shed light on efforts made by everyone to ensure that the measures were taken to insist that these roles are filled by those who could best portray the character.
Is this being done? Are we assuming that it isn’t being done?
The worst representations were of those who as whites performed as Africans. Makeup artists had to work hard in producing a convincing outcome. Not quite.
What about those who pass? An illustration of someone who passes is the person with sight and hearing who portrays a blind or deaf character. Do we bellyache about the lack of representation when casting blind or deaf characters? Do the blind and deaf actors complain? Do we ever hear, see or read about any of the blind and deaf actors complaining? Pause … yes. They had and had to prove even more so than those with sight and hearing that they are exemplary at acting. Why is it that we have to “pass” at all?
What about Down Syndrome characters? We now have Down Syndrome actors who portray a character with their genotypes. They are performing in a character role.
Is it fair to state that a really superb actor could perform any character of any population? Yes. We would say that this person had to work doubly hard to be convincing without appearing this way. Do we even understand that it is even harder for the minority actor to represent someone from their group? Do we get that the minority are inside the borders of the majority?
Is it fair to state that the marginalization of a population hinges on participatory efforts by those who are unaware of the role they play in real time opposed to the character they should be playing? They could turn down the role. Right?
Actors earn a living. Inside the borders of the entertainment industry is a world comprised of shareholders, bankers, board members, producers, etc., who play an even more powerful role and in a twisted sort of fashion could end the careers of many individuals. I, therefore, am reluctant to bash an ensemble, who as a collective force, participated in delivering their contribution to bringing a successful outcome.
I am one of those individuals who wants to affect change in the way our industry, repeatedly casts actors who replace those from the very population they portray.
Some of us even have felt this way about efforts put forth by allies who should be giving the LGBTQIA the platform but, who stand in place of all these individuals representing us as if we are incapable of it ourselves. We know we need allies! Not anyone of us denies the strength in collective bargaining tactics. We understand more than anyone outside of our borders that we must align with the forces of those who stand up on our behalf to show support as well as encourage others of their group to do the same. Political strategizing consists of a number of principle practices without participating in criminalizing or marginalizing minority populations. Yet …, we experience the counter-intuitive.
I will not bash actors who performed the role of you or I. I will criticize their speech delivery in not addressing the issues and why acting as the minority is a privilege. Many actors have stood up and made political statements as the world looked on. Last night would have been a successful evening if a transgender person could have performed a speech right alongside Jared Leto on behalf of transgender persons. How about Janet Mock?
I think what many of us, who have opinions about the Global Awards, feel is that the privilege of playing the role of a minority isn’t recognizing that LGBTQIA are a minority, and it feels a bit as if we are removed from the human element. Even comedy has a place at the political helm. Otherwise, we are behaving entitled. We fail to underscore the messages. We fall short of our human side when it becomes all about accolades and very little about the roles of human suffrage.
Living a life as a minority everyday, every waking hour, calls within us an alert state; at a heightened level, which we cannot afford to reduce to a low hum and not because we don’t want to, but rather because when we do, it is then that we are at risk in falling prey to the misogynistic and homophobic/transphobic practices by those who think it is their place to stand against or for us without realizing their role and how they affect us on a level impossible with which to connect, because in their daily life they do not have to defend themselves. Why is it that in the Dutch study and many others like it, the minority are classified as having behavioral problems? Pathology assigned and we are labeled as disturbed in some way. Is it any wonder that we appear angry? The studies are done to protect the minority in efforts to reduce the pitfalls of any minority group not well understood. We implement practices and hope that we can actively legislate on behalf of the individuals who are victimized and often lack representation across all realms.
“There is a lot of brokenness in the Gay community” once said a friend of mine during a conversation we were having on his porch about what life is like inside our borders. Eventually, I would have to agree with him.
There are many individuals who, as children, did not have their emotional process affirmed or accepted, because of parents and caregivers being dismissive of their gender identity/expression or fluidity during their growth and development; a painful journey for many and certainly one, in which anyone who has gone through it in their childhood, leaves residual, emotional scars.
Brokenness within our borders is with the use of drugs and alcohol; measures to self-medicate are not all that unusual. Brokenness witnessed among those who are religious addicts have swapped out chemicals for religion. Then there are those who are unable to stop the G-d talk or giving lectures to the point of saturating and driving everyone away; compromising friendships.
Another friend once said “We have allies who try to convince us that they are our best friends and have our best interests at heart. Don’t believe all of them.” She was referring to outside of our borders and in particular, referencing straights who claim to be allies, because they happened to like gays. What does it take to be an ally for any cause? Isn’t it good enough to like gays?
Good ally-ship requires training and education on the culture the ally supports. Allies, who don’t seek proper training and education, fail to understand the dynamics and the history of how critical issues played a force in the human rights movement. They don’t know how to hold a conversation so in seeking information, it is equally important to speak with individuals who can translate the language of the gay culture. Speaking on issues which affect the rights of a human population requires having the conversations, being able to participate in dialogue and agreeing to remove all caution and stop signs and signals to keep the discussion flowing and moving forward. Once censoring is employed traffic jams occur and the conversation ends; imploding the process. We welcome schooled allies, but we run from those when we see the damage that done because they failed to understand their position on issues affecting the oppressed group.
“Straights who think they can speak for the LGBT and who claim they give LGBT a voice is somewhat insulting,” said another friend of mine. “We have a voice. They don’t want to hear what we have to say. Big difference!” We hear the expression of Giving Voice, a lot.
Do people realize how this is perceived by those never heard? That it is because they either are not invited to the table or are overshadowed by the greater force? Do people realize that when they speak out on behalf of the marginalized group that this is still not giving the individuals of the oppressed group an opportunity to be heard? Do they not realize that the more they speak out, swapping places and swapping expressions, which originated with the oppressed group, are partaking in silencing the very group to whom they should be giving the stage?
Another friend of mine said this “They don’t respect us; if they did, then they would ask for our insights and knowledge on the subject.” We see LGBT human rights groups send in straights to serve as leaders and role models for LGBT organized action as if the LGBT movement for decades has never had any experts in this realm.
LGBT see B.S. a mile away. We recognize mixed messages in a heartbeat. We see patronizing behavior coming before the person finishes delivering. This behavior stems from years of marginalization, having to identify sublimable behaviors and messages. When we witness this within organized groups for action, we see the writing on the wall.
My accounting, living as a gender fluid queer, has been agonizingly difficult – while at other times – liberating when I surround myself with other queers who understand the language and the power in words to help raise awareness of a subculture within a culture. When we are prevented or reminded of who we are through messages from well-meaning straights that sound something along these lines, “Why do you have to talk the gay stuff all the time?”; we realize we don’t have the same rights to joke or have access to conversations unless they are heteronormative. These conversations are a one-way street. The traffic only flows in one direction. To cross over into other lanes of identities and discussions becomes a hazardous endeavor.
I talk, walk, live and breath as the person I am, but only if I am with gays. This privilege is not extended to me once I cross into the hetero world of those who practice living heteronormative lives as cisgenders in a binary world. I have watched the gay community agree to the limit setting imposed on them by cisgenders.
Even in our gay community, we have people who don’t want to move away from heteronormative roles. It is perplexing to me how someone can be gay and be so closed off to the rest of the gay culture. These individuals are equally as guilty as those who refuse to listen and learn about the gay cultural movement.
My friend was correct. We are a broken community inside our borders, but we are also witnessing the brokenness outside of our borders from the cisgender allies who insert themselves, uninvited. They challenge our gender non-conforming behaviors, swapping the language and describing those who are gender benders and non-conformists as aggressive and angry, while they would herald these qualities in cisgender men, challenge these qualities in women and the LGBT.
Privilege is a lovely thing to have, but only when you recognize it and appreciate having it. It is an ugly thing when it becomes a power struggle, leads to entitlement and superiority.
If we could stand up for each other, be kinder and forget what it will do for our popularity, we would get somewhere to civil, and the world might be a better place for all of us. It must start with language and not just a few words as this would abandon the rest of the gay culture. A lesson which could easily apply to any oppressed group.
Bring out the dictionary and let the lesson begin with words.
For more information on good ally-ship, please select the link below.
Here are some arguments on why political correctness doesn’t have a place in public discourse. For those who spoke on bill 2012-296 at the city council hearings last year, reports came in that there was an attempt at censorship by some of those within our borders who served on the Jacksonville Committee for Equality, including manipulative control by city council members in undermining those who, like LGBT, spoke out about abuse and threats they had encountered over the years. One of the city council members compared the LGBT to citizens living in Egypt. Whether anyone at the time realized it or not, the insults weren’t just directed to LGBT in Jacksonville but were also directed at Egyptians; Kimberly Daniels, one of the city council members, stated she had heard that some of the Egyptians practiced bestiality and necrophilia; implying that gay people did the same. The outrage could be felt throughout the room, and while there were many unkind and untruths spoken, ranging from some of the city council members to those in the audience, the LGBT voices seemed to be nullified in the eyes of those who were homophobic. The rules had to be followed. Anyone who spoke at the city council hearings had (3) minutes without uninterrupted time by either party from the audience, which wasn’t always a practice adhered to by some of the city council members. Much debate ensued on whether or not the LGBT were presenting favorably as citizens. Destiny children had their theories. Those who had impressions based on absolutely minimal historical fact and mostly false rhetoric were determined to lead the process under the assumption that political correctness would nullify any negative perceptions.
The measure to pass the bill failed, as did the amended bill.
Two of the city council members, Denise Lee and Warren Jones, voted in favor of the bill, which encompassed the full inclusive language and, if passed, would have protected LGBT; the watered-down version failed a 10-9 vote.
It became quite evident that the arguments presented weren’t enough. Very little focus was placed on statistics from valuable sources, such as Centers for American Progress (CAP), SAGE, and GLAAD, including our local organizations, such as JASMYN. The civic leaders who spoke up didn’t present economic arguments other than to say, “It is the right thing to do.” While that may be what the LGBT and the community of their allies believed, it wasn’t a sentiment shared among mainstream Jacksonville. Civic leaders could have easily presented measured data to support the need to vote in favor of bill 296.
Reports came in from a few individuals that the civic leaders took measures in their own hands, moved through matters very quickly, barring very little time for educational measures by those who were well equipped to dialogue about the differences in the bill and the proposed amendment, causing the Committee for Equality to lose control of the process.
Hours of deliberation and months later, the community of LGBT felt betrayed and angered for some reason. The discussions among those who talked about the process complained, they had been misled by those on the inside who served on the Jacksonville Committee for Equality. The Jacksonville Committee for Equality defended themselves and felt they had lost control – despite the well-intentioned efforts of those who spoke out on behalf of the bill. The LGBT community learned too late that the fully inclusive bill had been replaced with the amended version and was told that every measure would be taken to include the full inclusive language at another time. Historically, this failed as Orlando some years ago. It was pointed out by Equality Florida’s executive director, Nadine Smith and Joe Saunders, who now serves House District 49 in Florida.
The transgender community felt deceived, and for good reasons. The population of transgender persons runs the highest risk for homicides worldwide, and according to GLAAD, 45% of reported hate murders were Transgender women.
The LGBT community didn’t have any idea what had happened last year. The LGBT and some of the allies lost faith in the process, which brings us currently to the same concerns; the newly formed committee has some hoops through which to jump if they are to win back the trust of those who felt marginalized and thrown under the bus.
Is it any wonder why the transgender community of Jacksonville was angered by anyone from within the borders agreeing to the proposed amendment? Those from within the borders claim they did not see this coming and expressed heartfelt sadness over the shift that occurred. Will they be in control this time around?
When the LGBT could not have their feelings validated without being viewed as negative by even those from within the borders, they experienced what many victims suffer, trauma. Claims were heard that they were blamed for having negative views and, therefore, would somehow affect the political platform and took the criticisms personally. Some of these individuals will not speak out for fear that they will be verbally attacked.
In defense of the LGBT, not one individual was prepared to hear city council members pass degrading remarks at those who reported incidences of being fired because of their sexual orientation or whose property had been vandalized. The LGBT who reported the incidences were led to believe that their behavior (for merely having a sexual orientation other than that of heterosexuality and gender nonconformity) caused the vandalism and were the reasons for losing their jobs. What would this mean for heterosexuals who are gender non-conforming? How many of these individuals have experienced marginalization? Is anyone listening? Does anyone care enough to ask these questions within this population who might be mislabeled as gay and denied equal opportunities?
Lastly, the LGBT were angered by political correctness enforced upon them within their borders. One such individual, Professor Steven Lance Stoll, spoke up and challenged the city council members on why they were following a book written back in the Bronze age. Did any city council members vote against the bill and the watered-down version because of their religious beliefs?
Currently, nine city council members were honored at First Baptist Church for heeding FBC advice to vote against the bill. Please visit YouTube for more information on FBC honoring the city council members. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJxO0D4d9Fo.
The Witherspoon Institute, on August 13, 2013, published an article on Dissecting Public Discourse written by Stella Morabito, who points out that the problem with political correctness, or PC, is that “we all perpetuate political correctness when we succumb to the fear of contradicting PC” truth.”
What happens in groups? Is it normal to witness self-assignments without any votes being cast? What makes some of these individuals privileged? Granted, some of the individuals now have experience from which to draw they did not have last year. Will they listen to those who raise concerns, or are they more concerned, once again, about behavior, personalizing the criticism received by those who do speak up or raise concerns?
I was one of these individuals who was told that I am half cocked because I called people to task and asked many questions. I removed myself from the committee after realizing that my voice would not count and was viewed as politically attacking and inappropriate, even though I raised concerns based on rumors circulating from last year and public comments made by the LGBT. My overall concern with the process is, will the floor communicate with the committee? Will those who question the process encounter repeated harassment with emails calling for private one on one meetings. Will they be accused of being half-cocked?
Morabito talks about psychological manipulation and its correlation to suppression. “If we think of PC as bacteria, suppression is like the darkroom and the culture required for the bacteria’s growth and replication.”
She refers to suppression as one of the twins, while the other is “saturation.” Morabito dissects the outcome and pointedly refers to this as producing an illusion that shifts public opinion by heavily saturating them with an impression, ‘opinion cascade’ as she calls it. The outcome? Regulating the opinions of others. Politicians understand twin processes well enough to know that it results in “shaping public opinion and the political process.” according to Morabito.
Morabito writes that in 1999, an article on ‘availability cascade’ was published on a ‘related concept’ in Stanford Law Review. The purpose is to prevent people from thinking freely and falling victim to practice survival mode for social acceptance.
We have some people within our community who have been successfully silenced in this manner through social isolation and vilified as the enemy by those who might have experienced the fear of going against PC.
Some of us watched and observed the toxic effect this had on our community and soon realized that some of the players classified themselves as our allies. A rhetorical question some of us had “Are some of our allies dispelling truth?”, And no pun intended here with the use of the label ‘all lies.’ Still, it seems even some of them are propagating the idea that censoring behavior, expression, and individual style must meet the standards of their plan for PC. Are they correct? Are they suppressing voices within our borders from the outside? Do they have the right to do so? Who grants them this privilege while we stand by and recognize that even among some of these allies, they do not understand the gay culture. It is even more disturbing that within our borders, even some of the LGBT want to compare LGBT rights to the black race issues. A black person will tell you that there isn’t any comparison because the race issue continues to exist in the present day. They cannot escape from being black. Why then is there this need to continue to focus on the religious argument and play the race card? Why are we not educating the public on the different types of sexual orientations since anyone of any color and creed can have sexual orientations? Is it because the religious evangelists have successfully managed to brainwash individuals from birth through tainted, hateful rhetoric? Isn’t this equally as damaging as any other addiction, or is it deliberate, and can we call this out as abuse? Isn’t it disturbing when we hear of people raised with fundamental religious views that take their own lives or those of others because of their sexual orientation?
Morabito points out Cass Sunstein in a chapter of his book titled “On Rumors” 2009, referring to “chilling effect” as a tactic and essentially did everything he could to discredit Obamacare. Could we say this is what FBC and the Family Policy Council attempted?
What is Morabito’s recommendation in all of this? She suggests avoiding isolation instead of doing the work by having conversations with others in the community to build a stronger voice. Morabito writes, “if enough people come out of isolation and shed the fear of speaking their minds, a genuine cascade of truth will ensue.”
Social media allows for this opportunity. However, some LGBT and allies have been verbally attacked on FB by those who viewed their remarks as negative. Who are these destiny children? Why are they so afraid? Do they believe that speaking the truth and raising concerns will result in adverse outcomes?
To read more about Stella Morabito, please refer to her article on Public Discourse. It is an excellent read. The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, and The Human Life Review feature some of Morabito’s articles.
The information pertaining outside of any references made to Morabito’s article does not in any way reflect her views. These are views gathered from various LGBT members in the community who over time, have expressed similar sentiments along with the author.
Organizational behavior is an interesting study among activists and volunteers who work together to improve the quality of life among oppressed groups. Members serving on committees, who are blind-sighted by hidden agendas, not privy to all information or proposed changes, are in danger of falling victim to the very facet which they vow to eliminate; oppression. Distrust sets in among members who now find themselves, victimized; triggering dysfunction and obstructing the fluidity of the process. When a proposal to restructure the organizational reportingis presented as something which was suggested in prior months, with self-assigned roles and activities, a heightened sense of awareness among the oppressed members ensues and without any words exchanged, the dynamics within the group change.
I am referring to the process of a Jacksonville’s committee whose members were intent on seeing to it that the HRO would pass at the local level without any assistance by outside groups, whose individuals are accustomed to working with political agendas but were asked to take a back seat. Rumors flew throughout the community, and tensions escalated. Questions from community members were “Why a large organization, such as Equality Florida, would not be invited to the table and take a position at the forefront of the process?” The consensus among the LGBT public was that the right hand did not know what the left was doing and could have benefitted from outside support. Others argued that the changes needed to be done at the local level without outside assistance. Who was in charge? No one knew, but some of the individuals in the LGBT community surmised that it was a selective group of individuals who were viewed as secretive and unwilling to freely disclose matters. While the new members are assured that any future process will be transparent, validation and accountability will be put through a Litmus test.
What strengthens freedom among members serving on committees is allowing the expression of all thoughts to flourish. Dysfunction occurs when the parties are not forthcoming and camouflage the truth. In establishing power over those whom they have deemed unworthy or less capable of serving as part of the inner circle, under the guise of recommending a change in structure, (not by majority vote nor not by any voting process transparent to the entire committee), left much doubt and dismay among some of the members.
One of the members expressed that they were just handed the kiss of death. Distrust could be pulsed throughout the room. The realization sat that they were not deemed, any longer, politically correct, or worthy of any contribution. The question which comes to mind among members is, “Who are the gatekeepers?”. Glances were swiftly swapped from one individual to another in a roundtable fashion, while the tension among the power players increased. Some of the members weren’t easily swayed by colorfully presented denials that they might have gone back to gatekeeping.
Reluctancy sets in among some persons, who financially and emotionally invested and contributed their time, energy, and trust to improve quality and performance within organizational structures.
When practices are in question and are overlooked or not challenged inside the borders, that is when the dysfunction sets in. To circumvent and implement a strategy by the members is one way to enforce corrective measures and ethical behavior. To reduce any chance of oppression; insisting on equality at this basic level among all of the members, who signed up to improve their communities, would ensure respect among the group and enhance their interests in working collaboratively to wipe out discrimination. The first course of action might result in a decision to challenge the process with the support of peers, advisers or financial backers before they remove themselves from the process. When committee members question professional conduct, it might be time to challenge the platform.
The Pope has recently made the statement “Who am I to Judge?” when asked about LGBT. Did he make this statement because the Vatican is in a financial crisis? A commentator for Timesunion.com, Leslie Hudson, published an article, February 20, 2013. Hudson wrote, Italian authorities placed the Vatican bank on the U.S. State Department’s list of countries for money laundering after seizing $29 million. J.P. Morgan tried to obtain information from the Vatican due to large deposits and withdrawals of money. When the Vatican failed to provide the information, J.P. Morgan closed one of the accounts. The Vatican hired outside financial advisers to address the Vatican bank’s compliance in meeting financial regulations. Who are they? How many other reports exist?
The Daily Beast posted an article from World News by Barbie Latza Nadeau, July 2, 2013, and author of Angel Face, a book about Amanda Knox. Since 1997, Nadeau has reported from Italy for Newsweek and appears on some networks, such as CNN, BBC, and NPR. The article is a painful reminder of the underground activities at the Vatican. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, former Vatican finance official who became a priest at the age of 32, also known as Monsignor 500, because of his habit in carrying around cash, was arrested this year in an attempt to smuggle $26 million from Switzerland to an unidentified bank account in Italy. General Director, Paolo Cipriani and deputy, Massimo Tulli, both resigned on July 1 and are under criminal investigation by Italian authorities for assisting Msgr. Scarano. The former Vatican’s bank president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi provided his friends with a list of enemies after claiming, last year, that he was in fear for his life.
He should. After all, Nadeau referred to Roberto Calvi “Three decades ago, another of “God’s bankers,” Roberto Calvi, was found hanging from a noose under Blackfriars Bridge in London.
In an article published by Catholic News Agency, Andrea Gagiliarducci, July 15, 2013, reports that according to the authorities, Msgr. Scarano was the mastermind of the plot and included a former suspended agent of the Italian Domestic Intelligence agency, Giovanni Maria Zito, along with the financial broker, Giovanni Carenzio.
Lizzy Davies from Rome wrote a piece for The Guardian, June 26, 2013, on the Vatican’s image and Pope Francis vowing to uphold moral, financial reform. Ernst Von Freyberg, a German Financier for the institution, and a lawyer validated that the Vatican had some cleaning up to do while the seven possible incidents of money laundering are under investigation.
Religion News Service posted an article on February 15, 2013, written by Alessandro Speciale, concerning Freyberg, who took over from the former ousted president Tedeschi. His new position with the Vatican bank triggered an uproar. Freyberg served as the chairman of the executive board of German shipyard Blohm + Voss. Apparently, this enterprise was involved in the production of warships under Nazi Germany.
The Vatican defended selecting Freyberg and claimed that it has never in the previous history, hired an international headhunting agency to do the scouting. The question is how does an international headhunting agency decide Freyberg’s moral excellence when the Vatican Bank president is a descendant of one of the shipyard’s founders as confirmed by Blohm + Voss? Who recommended the international headhunting agency?
In an article, posted on February 16, 2013, News.com.au, Freyberg not only is a minority shareholder in Blohm + Voss, but he is also a treasurer of the German association of the Order of the Knights of Malta, founded during the Crusades in the Middle Ages. The religious lay order has approximately 13,500 members around the world.
Breaking News from NPR reported by Sylvia Poggioli, February 09, 2013, Knights of Malta’s 4,000 members, Pilgrims and tourists, celebrated the 900th Anniversary at the Vatican and marched to the tomb of St. Peter. Poggioli writes that the mission of the Order is humility and charity.
Not only is Freyburg treasurer for this Order, but he is also the Vatican’s Financier.
NDTV released an article by Associated Press, May 19, 2013, reporting that Pope Francis led a rally to encourage moral conscience, after having deliberated in talks at the Vatican with Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel. He expressed disappointment with the economic crisis. In his speech, he told the crowd that the true crises lie with moral values.
Clearly, the Vatican bank isn’t off the hook?
The Guardian posted an article by David Leigh, Jean François Tanda, and Jessica Benhamou, January 21, 2013, with the Headline “How the Vatican Built A Secret Property Empire Using Mussolini’s Millions.” The writer’s reported the lengths taken by the Vatican to keep matters undisclosed. Investigations reveal that at the height of the bubble in 2006, of the £15m the Vatican purchased 30 St. James Square where it housed the investment bank, Altium Capital, bought by the company, British Grolux Investments Ltd. The Vatican’s purchases also included properties, New Bond Street and in the City of Coventry plus properties in Paris and Switzerland.
Mail Online published an article by Mario Ledwith, January 22, 2013. Ledwith wrote that the Catholic Church owns many luxurious London properties and that it has been claimed that the property empire initially was funded by a fascist dictator, Mussolini. Ledwith goes on to write that the Vatican’s foreign company portfolio is worth around £560 million.
Could we arguably say that Pope Francis is recruiting LGBT and others to build the census, to recover from the financial crisis and to rebuild the Vatican’s reputation?
Is the message here that gays are being recruited because the Pope has had a change of heart, or are they being recruited merely because it makes economic sense? After all, he still claims what so many other Christian Fundamentalists have said, Love The Gays, Don’t Love The Sin.
I recently attended a workshop titled All In The Family: Gender Transitions Throughout The Lifecycle and purchased the speaker’s book titled Transgender Emergence Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families by Arlene Istar Lev, LCSW, CASAC. One of the essential facets I walked away with was gaining insight into the world of the intersex; I was pleasantly surprised to learn the number of variances in intersex and the facts I had not ever acquired throughout any part of my career as a nurse. I continue to do as much research as I can on any given subject that I cover in any work I do, even when it crosses over into the healthcare realm. I try to gain as much insight into the latest reports. I can never possibly know everything. Hence we have specialists working in fields that are not well understood or addressed by every practitioner.
I currently live in Jacksonville, FL, where the necessary protections for human rights continues to remain in the forefront of our brains and have left those of us who believe a human rights ordinance bill is needed for the LGBT community bewildered, at best. In trying to understand the fears of some who argue that introducing a bill for LGBT protections against discrimination would be granting the LGBT special privileges. Last year, one of the city council members mentioned it could lead to necrophilia. In contrast, others who attended the hearings and opposed the bill argued that we would see a rise in pedophilia and bestiality.
The resistance of those opposed to this bill is difficult to grasp. While it was overturned and did not pass the majority voting in its favor, some of us were relieved because we could see that if the watered-down version had passed, this would leave our brothers and sisters in the transgender community at risk. Even with the watered-down version introduced early on as an amendment to the bill, many transgender individuals were mad. They felt they had been thrown to the curb by the allies and LGB, who supported the amended portion to bill 2012-296, which left out Gender Identity and Expression. Those in support of the amended bill claimed they could return at a later time and introduce a bill for Gender Identity and Expression protecting the transgender community. Equality Florida’s Executive director, Nadine Smith, warned everyone that accepting the watered-down version of bill 296 could result in a backlash and would not necessarily guarantee that in the future, protections for Gender Identity and Expression would pass, as what happened to the city of Orlando, Florida where citizen tried and failed for a number of years. It wasn’t until the county of Orlando introduced the bill with full protections for LGBT that an all-inclusive bill finally passed. Who can blame the transgender community of Jacksonville for feeling the way they do?
Where does education begin? Does it start with language? Do we need to use the current definitions in the language and insist on a broader range of adjectives, which best describe individuals in the LGBT culture? What protections are there for individuals who are at risk for discrimination and hate crimes because of their gender variances? Does it only affect the homosexual community? Could we say that in learning what we have of gender variance within a human population that, the heterosexual community is also at risk for discrimination and hate crimes? What about gender variance in the heterosexual community? Some heterosexuals deviate from expressing their gender. Who are some of our transgender individuals? Have some undergone surgery? What defines someone as transgender? Why do some transgender individuals consider themselves born with a congential disability?
There are between 70 and 80 variances of intersex individuals. Some of these intersex individuals receive their sex assignment at birth, and most of them are assigned as female. The practice to perform sex assignments on intersex is changing, and the current practice is taking a shift. According to the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), it is better to wait and allow the child to determine which gender they fit more suitably; gender not determined by the parent, but determined by the child. ISNA sheds light on a paradigm that compares the way we should treat intersex as a patient-centered model as opposed to prior treatments, which encouraged concealing the identity and treated it as an abnormality. According to the CDC, 1 in 250 births results in intersex; the statistics still don’t include all the other variances. An internet site, Intersex Roadshow, maintained by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello,reports that the birth rate for intersex could be put on par with the number of births born with green eyes. If this is true, it is an interesting comparison. Interesting because we seem to accept green eyes shamelessly while we marginalize intersex.
Shouldn’t a community maintain public decency towards intersex and come to recognize that there are individuals who received sex assignments at birth that misaligned them with their identities? After all, the statistics for infants born intersex are 2% of the population. What about individuals who feel disjointed from their biological sex without being intersex? We do not know who is intersex and cannot possibly identify those with anatomical differences because parents shamefully hid the treatment approach from family members, and sometimes even from the child. Many of these individuals grew up with their sex assignments are given at birth, and with most of them receiving female-assigned gender status at birth (FAAB), they didn’t necessarily feel female and, these cases, were wrongly assigned as such. While everyone thought they had done the right thing assigning these children a gender, they kept it a secret, from society and in many cases from the child. The reality is that not all these children grew up feeling quite the same as those of their biological sex, causing a host of psychological and as emotional struggles and shifting the anchored pillar within the family structure from its base.
The binary world only offers two options. Should there be more than two worlds from, which to choose, since it is now clear that we have birth rates of intersex 1 in 250? The question comes to mind whether or not we should continue with the old binary model of male/female or move to a gender variant model which would broaden the spectrum for many individuals.
We have a population of individuals who are transgender, transsexual, and who gender express. All deserve a place at the table with the same rights and equal opportunities as everyone else. Some of these individuals are intersex, while others just feel they were born with the wrong body parts, and frankly, some prefer to dress any way they please. Is it time that we should be kind and gentle towards a population of individuals who do not fit the Westernized nation’s binary world? Is the Westernized nation civil when it behaves antagonistically towards individuals who are different? Is it any wonder that some of these individuals feel they were born with a congenital disability? If the truth was hidden from them, doesn’t it stand to reason they would feel it was shameful to admit that they were born this way; especially if this is how their parents and the medical establishment behaved towards their anatomical parts? How is this any different for individuals who do not feel they connect to their biological sex when the world only offers the binary model?
What about sexual orientation? We know that transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation. We do know that transgender individuals have a sexual orientation just as anyone else does.
Here is an illustration that might help you understand the differences in sexual orientation and how transgender individuals aren’t any different from anyone else.
You can be a pilot and be either heterosexual, non-heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual. Insert attraction for the opposite sex; the pilot is heterosexual. Insert attraction for the same sex; the pilot is non-heterosexual. Insert an attraction for both genders; the pilot is bisexual. Remove the sexual attraction; the pilot is asexual.
A transgender pilot could be any one of these individuals. A transgender pilot could be intersex.
All four of the pilots share a common thread: they fly planes, must equally meet standards of practice and competency, standards of excellence, and maintain their licenses in meeting FAA standards of policies and procedures. They have nothing in common with each other’s sexual attractions or preferences other than they frequently fly in and out of airports. Again, their sexuality has nothing to do with what they do for a living or hobby.
My advice to those of you reading this is to learn this because if you want to have an intelligent conversation on this subject, this will help you understand that there is nothing more to these differences. It has nothing to do with lifestyle.
You might want to consider, when having a conversation with others who are walled off to anyone who does not fit the binary model, by asking these individuals why they insist non-heterosexual is a lifestyle? Ask them to explain to you how lifestyles between heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals differ? Should the topic of transgender individuals come up to remind individuals that 2% of the population is intersex? While not every transgender person is intersex, it remains a critical component and is categorized under the transgender umbrella of definitions.
If you have an opportunity to help reach one human being across the spectrum of many others, remind the individual that sexual attraction has nothing to do with lifestyle and transgender persons are those individuals whose identity differs from the social expectations of their biological sex. The more we dialogue, the more likely we are to close the gap on biases and prejudices derived from misunderstanding differences. Debunking rhetoric is far more heroic than continuing to allow it to stand in the way of truth. We fail at tolerance when we set up barriers, preach self righteously, and stop listening.
This essay is written from my point of view, and none of which I have written holds any bearing on Lev other than mentioning and making the reference to the intersex variances from her book.
To learn more about Gender-Variant People and Their Families, please consider purchasing Lev’s book titled Transgender Emergence. It is very informative, written for therapists who are working with gender-variant people and their families. It will help some of you understand the world of gender variances. To contact Lev, please visit
The internet sites below were used for this essay and are very helpful to anyone who might be interested in learning more about gender variances.
When businesses and large corporations lose opportunities in hiring the best of the most qualified and skilled labor force, cities are equally and adversely affected.
Discrimination drives away the skilled and qualified labor force. Companies compromise their fiscal stability and experience a decline in profit margins with net losses.
Centers for American Progress reports that the price of discrimination cases is a hefty one for businesses. The annual estimated cost of losing and replacing workers who leave their jobs because of discrimination amounts to $64 billion.
In fact, according to the Centers for American Progress, a Transgendered employee at IBM filed a discrimination suit against the organization. It cost IBM millions in unrealized profits. The cost of employee replacement occurs at a national rate of $5,000 – $10,000 for hourly employees and $75,000 to $211,000 for executives. In one aggregate study, employees who work in a hostile work environment will cost companies an annual $1.4 billion.
Shareholders recognize that companies with inclusive hiring policies improve their profit margins dramatically because the pool of applicants is comprised of the top performers. Shouldn’t we expect cities to adopt all-inclusive policies if cities rely on organizations’ financial earning power? Successful organizations contribute to cities in many ways. When businesses can no longer remain fiscally sound this affects the financial markets.
According to Scott Quehl of Brookings Research, it took Philadelphia and New Haven financial planning to recover their millions of dollars deficit. The cities were either at Junk Bond status or just above Junk Bond status. Investments were deferred, and short fix-it methodologies were running out. Their deficits prevented them from borrowing from capital markets at percentage rates that they could manage. By 1999, both cities recovered with a budget well exceeding their expectations. They improved by cutting costs and expenses among some strategies, one of which was to open their doors to a broader market. http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2000/06/summer-transportation-quehl
But, when corporations cannot attract well qualified, and skilled employees and cities cannot attract tourists, then the market shifts and results in lost earnings and fiscal instability.
The cost of relocating organizations to gay-friendly cities, where legal protections do exist for LGBT, might initially be a costly endeavor, but in recognizing a link between shifts in profit margins and a decline in employee retention rates, organizations realize that where they position their headquarters matters. If a company has inclusive policies which raise the bar, both regarding employee morale and regarding recruitment but have to risk losing opportunities in recruiting the best candidates for the job, isn’t it best that their shareholders, civic and corporate leaders speak out? Why when a city relies on the success of organizations, would it not offer protections and adopt inclusive policies as a matter of Best Practices when its’ leaders step up and speak out?
Are shareholders willing to ride the waves and if so, for how long of a period of time? After all, the bottom line is what matters, and when shareholders cannot see a return on their dollars, the risks in gaining opportunities by relocating to other parts of the State or country might outweigh the risks of losing investors. These concerns do concern those who are running the organizations.
According to authors, Dr. Robert Brown and Ms. Ruth Washton, of Packaged Facts, a division of Market Research which conducts research of the Gay and Lesbian Market in collaboration with another Marketing firm, WiteckCombs Communications, LGBT consumers spent 660 billion dollars in goods and services. The projections for 2011 were set at $835 billion, a rounded 21% increase in four years. LGBT have spent a trillion in consumer spending. Their spending across the globe accounts for 6%.http://www.witeckcombs.com/research_insights/harris_interactive.html
In fact, this number would be exponentially so many times more than this, if businesses global-wide were gay-friendly. Could we venture to guesstimate? The researchers report that Sixty-six percent of LGBT consumers indicated that they would purchase from a gay-friendly business even if the unfriendly companies offered lower prices and were convenient.
So why do cities refuse to adopt bills which otherwise would provide legal protections against discrimination for LGBT, if this would improve their economy social standards? How do we get venture capital to flow from booming industries to industries in need of capital?
When we cannot recruit the level of performers corporations to need due to the lack of protections, cities miss out on valuing cultures. Cities which have added value have in turn boosted their economy and their scores on a national level go up.
Folio FLOG Weekly reported in their online August 28th publication Activist and frequent City Commission critic Ed Slavin asked commissioners to amend the city’s Fair Housing Act during public comments.“It sends the message that St. Augustine is open for business, and our hearts are open,” Slavin told Folio Weekly after the vote.http://www.flogfolioweekly.com/?tag=st-augustine
Some of the business owners in Jacksonville, argue that they have the right to select to whom they will open their doors. But, if they are a public entity serving the public, can they? ACLU won a case in Vermont on behalf of a Lesbian couple, who were turned away after the Wildflower Inn learned that they were Lesbian and argued that they turned them away because of their religious beliefs. ACLU won the case based on the federal laws which prohibit discrimination. The message is an important one for business owners that clearly says to everyone – “Open your doors to the general public, you have to follow the same rules that apply to everyone else, and you can’t use your own personal religious beliefs to pick and choose who you want to serve. This is not a new idea.”
According to the Corporate Equality Index of 2004 firms such as some of these referenced moving forward have stepped up their Best Practices by incorporating diversity training, building diversity teams and ensuring that policies include the necessary language for training and protections of LGBT, along with providing sensitivity awareness training in recruitment practices.
If corporations cannot retain their top-performing employees because their city doesn’t offer protections for LGBT against discrimination, they are settling on a mediocre employee while long-term vested employees relocate to gay-friendly places in exchange for a better lifestyle.
Lifting the glass ceiling to people of color and the spectrum of gender matters a great deal if it means hiring or promoting someone who is qualified for the job. Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are not what drive business away. What drives business into the ground is the lack of Best Practices and the focus on personal features that hold very little weight in regards to skills sets and performance.
The Williams Institute of Law at UCLA in October of 2011 – Economic Motives for Adopting LGBT-Related Workplace Policies – lists statements made by top 50 federal contractors. The following organizations made these statements.
Diversity and inclusion are part of Boeing’s values at the highest level. Having diverse employees, business partners and community relationships is vital to creating advanced aerospace products and services for our diverse customers around the world. The company’s commitment to diversity means providing a work environment for all employees that is welcoming, respectful and engaging, with opportunities for personal and professional development. This, in turn, increases productivity, quality and creativity and innovation.”
As HP has grown and expanded throughout the world, its workforce has become more diverse. HP believes that this diverse workforce helps the company realize its full potential. Recognizing and developing the talents of each individual brings new ideas to HP. The company benefits from the creativity and innovation that results when HP people who have different experiences, perspectives, and cultures work together. This is what drives invention and high performance at HP. We believe a well managed, diverse workforce expands HP’s base of knowledge, skills and cross-cultural understanding, which in turn, enables us to understand, relate and respond to our diverse and changing customers throughout the world, connecting them to the power of technology. Our overall commitment is reflected in our diversity and inclusion philosophy.http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Mallory-Sears-Corp-Statements-Tables-Oct2011.pdf
Centers for American Progress lists some of the corporations with these Best Practices. In looking at the corporations cited in the article by Crosby Burns, Research Associate for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., the corporations are mostly positioned in markets where diversity is welcoming, and some protections exist.
Morgan Stanley and Bank of America along with J.P. Morgan, Pepsico, and IBM all have their headquarters in NY. While Microsoft has it’s’ in both Redmond, WA, and NY.
NYC has legal protections for LGBT. In fact, recently NYC’s mayor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
Let’s look at corporate conglomerates such as Lockheed Martin whose headquarters is in Bethesda, Maryland and Dell’s in Austin, TX, all organizations along with Johnson & Johnson’s in Brunswick, NJ exist in cities where diversity is welcome. GM’s are in Detroit, MI which does not have legal protections for GLBT. Yet, Detroit benefits from the hiring policies GM has in place.
Joann Muller, Forbes Detroit bureau of the chief writer, reports that Tim Bryan, chairman, and chief executive of GalaxE Solutions, says “If you don’t capitalize on opportunities, you get left behind.”
Muller writes that the entrepreneurs and business leaders are capitalizing on opportunities to turn a city on the brink of bankruptcy, is to gain on realized profits. By bridging with Detroit’s police force in addressing solutions to a rapidly growing crime rate and offering protections to the citizens and collaborating with the city’s existing smaller businesses, funding programs which provide for green, sustainable agriculture in urban food. Whole Foods contributed $10 million to local companies to help them grow and become financially independent as business operations.
Jacksonville, FL continues to coexist despite the massive debt it carries. Civic leaders and CEO’s who run corporate conglomerates and small businesses have come to city hall in the recent year and months to encourage the city council members to pass legal protections for LGBT. Among these bigwigs were ex-mayors who reported seeing the backlash of a city which refuses to recognize gay rights. Some of them said a decline in employee retention rates and lost opportunities in hiring the most qualified and skilled individuals in the labor force. City council members in Jacksonville, however, were more concerned over their own small business operations despite expert witnesses such as educators and leaders from programs well versed in LGBT matters.
None of the arguments in favor of passing the human rights bill mattered. Some of the city council members in interviews with the press argued that LGBT would result in turning away their loyal clients who would live in fear that their rights would be placed at risk. They argued that Transgendered persons would pose a threat to their children and clientele, while others claimed it would be against their religion to accept the lifestyles of the LGBT and one city council member went as far as filing a bill 2012-377, pledging religious freedom. She also runs a congregation and has published books which address homosexuality as a sin. Sentiments shared by some of the citizens ran parallel with attorneys from the Family Research Council making a case against voting in favor of bill 2012-296 for fear that this would be damaging to families.
The data presented by some of the leaders shed light on what happens when inefficient hiring and firing decisions result in costly and harmful business practices. None of which seem to sway this group of city council members. What persuaded 17 city council members were the arguments from Family Research Council which were based on misaligned data while the caveat came from First Baptist Church whose leader, on YouTube, announced that they were pleased the city council heeded their advice and voted against protections of LGBT.
Shouldn’t legal protections against LGBT discrimination weigh considerably more when it affects the city’s economic downturn? Doesn’t a city have fiscal as well as social responsibility? Is Jacksonville caught in a gridlock of religious warfare? The arguments during the council hearings were mostly centered on religion. When the federal government has federal protections in place against housing discrimination, and small independent entities can discriminate, aren’t they in essence in violation of the federal laws if they are operating as public entities? Which does raise a red flag on the rental housing industry since they are managing public properties for rental income?
Is Jacksonville hedging towards a fiscal cliff? The answer is yes. Many cities are facing fiscal cliffs by year end 2012. With the amount of debt Jacksonville is in can it afford a zero tolerance policy? COJ reported in their Quarterly Summary of August 2012 that the city has over 3 billion in outstanding debt. The short end of the story? When a city has to declare bankruptcy then who will provide and pay for public services? Who pays the garbage company for collecting garbage? Who pays the utility company? Who does or doesn’t receive their pension? Is this city in need of city council members who can serve its’ best interests without serving their own first and at the city’s welfare?
What are Jacksonville’s Best Practices? Are Jacksonville’s city council members operating in the city’s best interest when they avoid legalizing protections against discrimination for LGBT? What in the end will this cost the city?
Is Jacksonville placing itself at a competitive disadvantage compared to cities such as Orlando and Miami?
Will Jacksonville, along with these corporations, be adversely affected?
Will large corporations relocate?
Prosperous cities have recognized that narrowing their diversity pool ranging from tourists to employees are some of the reasons for economic shifts and the best way to avoid fiscal cliffs is to adopt Best Practices in providing policies that protect LGBT from discrimination. The best message a city can send is in opening her doors to a diverse market.