Posted by: outandequal | October 14, 2014

Trans & Thriving at Work: Beyond Survival!

By Clair Farley

2014_May_Trans_Fired_Map_v6

As a trans woman, I have faced discrimination in various settings:  college, work, the doctor’s office, public venues, events, and many other places that are important to our daily lives/survival. Today I see these challenges mirrored in my community while tirelessly working to find employment in a safe and equal workplace. Discrimination based on perceived or actual gender identity and expression is still an ongoing barrier in the workplace and beyond. Trans people continue to face harassment based on their clothing, self expression, and are constantly measured by the degree to which they are perceived as fitting into a masculine or feminine stereotype. Despite the efforts we have made towards equality, we still have work ahead of us to assure equal rights and economic opportunity for all.

Did you know that transgender job seekers face a high unemployment rate due to discrimination? Where I work, at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, we believe that employment is a basic right for everyone, including trans and LGBQ-identified individuals. This is why the Center offers a range of free and innovative LGBT Employment Programs to support success of diverse communities in the workplace. We hope to empower candidates to get back to work through our LGBT Career Fairs and one-on-one job coaching.

The Center’s employment initiatives—including the nation’s first Trans Employment Program (TEEI) —provides an array of services tailored to help LGBT people get back to work, transition on the job, connect to further training—such as Transcode, a computer programming series, one-on-one job search support, vocational case management, professional mentoring, HR training, and access to LGBT friendly jobs and employers.

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There are also ongoing events that will focus on the LGBTQ community. We invite you to be part of the LGBTQ Economic Justice Week: Beyond Survival during Oct. 19-25, 2014. It is an annual week-long set of programs focused on creating a thriving community that has access to stable and equal employment, housing, healthcare, businesses and beyond.

Today, I have the opportunity to help others go after their dreams and share my story of resiliency to provide hope because despite the fear, I believe we can overcome discrimination and build a supportive community that not only survives, but thrives. I found love—got married, reconciled and created a family, and developed my career.  I am no longer in awe of my own determination because as trans people, it is just in our nature. As LGBT people we keep going; every day I am honored to give back my community as they look for work, a place to live, as they reach for their goals and start to thrive – beyond survival.

I hope you share and join our upcoming LGBT Career Fair on Oct. 22nd and all our Economic Justice Week events.  Also, hope you join me for the upcoming Workplace Summit workshop – Transgender Employment 201: Strengthen your commitment to workforce inclusion!

Click to see more events


Clair FarleyClair Farley is the Associate Director of Economic Development, at the SF LGBT Center. She is an economic and social justice advocate spearheading the Center’s Economic Development programs at the Center. Check out her tips for jobseekers on U.S. News here!

By Dr. Lauren Beach, J.D.

Today marks the 15th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day. The day is also known as Bi Visibility Day or Bi Pride Day. To celebrate the last 15 years, GLAAD, BiNet USA and other bisexual organizations are launching Bisexual Awareness Week (#biweek www.bisexualweek.com). Some people may be wondering – why do bisexuals need a special day, let alone an entire week, to celebrate pride in their identity? Isn’t LGBT Pride Month enough? The truth is, bisexuals are often misunderstood and rejected not only by straight communities, but also all too often by our gay and lesbian allies. These misunderstandings stem from misconceptions that bisexuality is “just a phase,” or that because bisexuals are supposedly “half straight,” (actually, no, I’m 100% bisexual, thanks), they do not face as much stigma as gay or lesbian people for their sexual orientations.

bierasure

For more #bihealthmonth resources, please visit the Bisexual Resource Center’s website.

Bisexual people experience a lack of understanding and a rejection of bisexuality known as biphobia  – and it has costs, not only on the individual level, but also in the workplace. As someone who has lived and worked in locations with varied laws recognizing LGBT equality in the workplace, my own life experiences have taught me the importance of the ability to be out at work. I found it was incredibly stressful working in a state without workplace equality and with no anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The lack of out LGBT workplace role models made coming out at work unknown territory. Would I be fired? Harassed? Would people rally to my support or defense? Everything was an unknown. Every time my boss asked to meet with me and every time my co-workers paused their conversations as I walked by, I would wonder – “Did they find out? Will I be fired?” This inability to bring “my whole self” to work distracted from my ability to dedicate 100% of my mental abilities to my job – an outcome that surely lowered my maximum potential productivity.

As a bisexual who has dedicated countless hours to LGBT organizations, causes, and movements, I have also experienced ridicule and rejection from gay and lesbian people who do not believe that bisexuality is a valid sexual orientation. I feared that my gay and lesbian colleagues might not support my coming out as bisexual – and that this rejection, even from supposedly peer LGBT community members – could encourage further ridicule from straight colleagues.

bistigma

Even in states where LGBT employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity exist, there are still misunderstandings and harassment based on bisexual identity. Biphobic comments in the workplace made by straight or gay and lesbian colleagues can create a hostile work environment that decreases workplace productivity. When people say, “your bisexuality is none of my business… why are you making it my business (by coming out at work?),” nothing could be further from the truth. Not feeling comfortable being out at work – whether as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – decreases workplace productivity, hurting the bottom line. Creating a welcoming work environment for bisexuals – and all LGBT people – is literally everyone’s business.

So – how can recognizing events like Bisexual Awareness Week and Bi Visibility Day help? When an employer hosts a well-advertised, well-organized Bi Visibility Day event, they send a message it is okay to come out as a bisexual at work. Some employees will receive this message and choose to come out, creating the beginning of a Celebrating Bi Visibility Day. This will help bisexual employees to feel comfortable and accepted at work.

For more on Bisexual Awareness Week please visit www.bisexualweek.com

lauren beach

Lauren B. Beach, JD/PhD is a former Chairperson of Bisexual Organizing Project. She is a native of Michigan who fell in love with Minnesota, and who now lives in Lusaka, Zambia.


The topic for Out & Equal’s Town Call for the month of September will be Bisexuality in the Workplace. Members of our Bisexual Advisory Committee and our Bisexual Leadership Roundtable will be hosting the call. This call will be taking place during an international Bisexual Awareness Week.

Heidi Bruins Green, chair of our Bisexual Advisory Committee had this to say about the upcoming call, “This Town Call will give you an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing our ERGs will start being measured on: the experience of bisexuals in our companies.  What do you need to do to make sure your ERG doesn’t get behind others in creating an inclusive workplace? Join us and find out!”

Please join us on Thursday, September 25th, for an in-depth discussion with the experts to learn more about the diversity of this group and breaking down of myths surrounding this community. You can click here to register for the call.

For more information check out the resources listed below:

Out & Equal’s Bisexual Advisory Committee

BiNet USA

Bisexual Resource Center

Posted by: outandequal | September 9, 2014

Work Those #OESummit2014 Workshops!

By Pat Baillie: 

LGBT Workplace equality has been taking major strides over the last year. The status of marriage equality in the US changes almost daily and globally we are seeing more countries joining the dialogue about inclusion. How do you keep up with it all?

Got questions? We got answers!

Got questions? We got answers!

I am a believer in one-stop shopping and the 2014 Out & Equal Workplace Summit is definitely the best way to discover the most current trends and best practices to take back to your company. We have panel discussions featuring leaders in the field and workshops that specifically address global issues during each of our workshop sessions. But, to get down to the nuts and bolts of how to run effective programs and increase inclusion, there are also 16 tracks in the six workshop sessions for you to choose from. Here is a brief description of each track to help you select the workshops that fit your needs:

  • It's your forum!

    It’s your forum!

    Allies – Learn to advocate for and support members of a community other than your own, working across differences to achieve mutual goals.

  • Beyond Corporate Workplaces – Gain valuable insights and new perspectives on best practices in the government, non-profit and academic sectors.

  • Beyond LGBT Diversity – Learn about the many other civil rights and human rights issues in our workplaces and communities, such as those affecting women, people of color, people with disabilities and veterans.

  • Bisexual – Get current with the research and best practices regarding the inclusion of bisexual employees in the workplace.

  • Changing Workplace Climate – Get up-to-date with the latest trends and data beyond the foundation blocks of policies and benefits: everything from self-ID to moving D&I out of WHQ and across the whole company.

  • Employee Resource Group (ERG)/Business Resource Group (BRG) Basics – How to start, grow, lead and sustain your ERG, at home and around the world.

  • Employee Resource Group (ERG)/Business Resource Group (BRG) Advanced – How to develop your ERG to serve as a business resource in the areas of employee growth/development and recruitment/retention, meeting the needs of a more diverse customer base and employee workforce.

  • Executives/Management – How to support managers at all levels to enact D&I values and educate all employees.

  • There's so much to choose from!

    There’s so much to choose from!

    General – Learn the basics of skill development, personal/professional planning and address areas beyond the scope of LGBT Workplace Equality not covered in the other categories.

  • Law, Policy & Benefits – How to build a basic Equal Employment Opportunity Policy to include sexual orientation/gender identity/gender expression and corresponding benefit packages at home and around the world for your employees. Plus, get the latest on ENDA and DOMA in the US.

  • Professional Development – Hone your HR and leadership skills, as well as mull over trainer and career development topics to advance equality and career opportunities.

  • Transgender – Get the latest research and best practices regarding inclusion of transgender employees in the workplace.

Click here for the full schedule of workshops. The detailed descriptions will be posted shortly. Many companies organize their Summit attendance to ensure maximum coverage by using the schedule to assign attendees to the various workshops. Then at the end of the day or the week, teams meet and debrief their takeaways.

Get fresh perspectives

Get fresh perspectives

Apart from the Leadership Day seminars, we do not pre-register attendees for specific workshops and all are open on a first-come, first-seated basis.

Workshop presenters come from all sectors of business, government and the non-profit (NGO) world to represent different perspectives on how to address the issues you face in the workplace. Panelists will provide lessons learned from their experiences and provide space for attendees to gather knowledge and advance the work they are doing within their companies. Most of our presenters are more than willing to work with you beyond the workshop to extend the reach of equality. Our network of instructors is a ready source of expertise and provides that all-important takeaway from the session you attend.

Diverse, informed panels of subject matter experts

Diverse, informed panels of subject matter experts

In addition to the workshops, we have created two other educational opportunities during each of the six workshop sessions:

  • Case studies – a deeper dive into innovative programs at specific companies. Sharing the way the programs are designed and inviting the audience to engage in-depth, allows attendees to gain a deeper understanding of leading-edge practices at these benchmark companies.
  • Roundtable discussions – moderated forums that stimulate focused discussions around questions, issues and solutions, driven by the attendees. Each roundtable will either be based on a topic e.g., transgender, bisexual, faith etc., or around a sector e.g., agricultural, government, retail etc. The key points and recommendations will be captured and compiled by the facilitator. These notes will help shape future programming by Out & Equal during our Summit, Town Calls and Out & Equal University – classrooms and online training. The work you are doing helps to build the concept of best practices so, be sure to share your viewpoints during these roundtable sessions.

Engage with other participants

Engage with other participants

Thank you to each of our presenters for their willingness to share their expertise and insights and the Out & Equal staff and board is looking forward to hosting everyone here in San Francisco. If you have any questions on the workshops be sure to reach out to us via twitter @OutandEqual using the hashtag #OESummit2014.

Pat-Baillie

Pat Baillie, Director of Training and Professional Development, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

 

By Elyse Lopez, Communications Intern, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

Yes, you can be the star of the 2014 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in San Francisco!

All you have to do is make a video selfie and we’ve made it really easy for you to participate. You can make the video on your iPhone or other device and upload it directly to YouTube with just a few key strokes.

We will select several videos to feature on the big screen for thousands to enjoy during the 2014 Out & Equal Workplace Summit general sessions. Then we’ll post a compilation video online for the world to see.

All you have to do is look into your iPhone and respond to one of these prompts:

“Being out at work is important to me because…”
“I attend Summit because…”
“Workplace equality matters because…”
“At Summit, I’m looking forward to learning…”
“Out & Equal matters because…”

Be creative, but keep it short and snappy and submit your video by October 1st.
Don’t forget to say your name and where you are from, so we can identify the many diverse locations your videos come from!

The video below shows how easy it is to make and send a video selfie.

Here are the written instructions:

1. Make the video on your iPhone
2. Send the video by pressing the YouTube icon
3. Sign-in: 2014selfieproject@gmail.com
4. Password: out&equal
5. Title the video (put your name and city)
6. Press “publish”
7. Congrats, you’re done

If your device doesn’t allow you to send direct to YouTube then you can upload your video in H.264, .mov and .wmv formats this way:

http://www.TransferBigFiles.com
username: jsavguest@gmail.com
password: sendfiles
instructions: log in, drag file into box indicated, put the following address into the “Recipients” field – SidC@jsav.com – Please type your name and location into the “Custom Message” field and hit SEND TRANSFER

So, how do you make the best looking video?

Here are some tips:

  1. Position your iPhone or other device SIDEWAYS, not up and down! A video made with the device held horiztonally always looks better than when you hold it vertically. This is really important. Remember, be sure to hold your device the long way — on its side. Don’t hold it up the tall way. How else can we say this? It’s that important!
  2. Rest your device on something solid. The video will look better and more steady than if you hold your device.
  3. The room must be QUIET.
  4. Do not make the video outside. There will be too much background noise and you won’t be heard clearly. The best quality sound will come from the quietest room possible.
  5. Use a room with a neutral, while or light-colored wall behind you.
  6. Position yourself at least 3 feet away from the wall behind you. This creates depth and you look better with it!
  7. Make sure the camera is no more than 3 feet away from your face. The camera needs to be close to get the best quality sound.
  8. Frame the shot with your head and shoulders.
  9. How to address the camera:
    1. Speak loudly and proudly.
    2. Short sound bites work best in video. We don’t want any Shakespearean monologs.
    3. Did we say “short?” It is important that you keep it short. If you have a lot to say, give us a series of sound bites that only contain one idea or thought. Keep each point to 10 seconds. Pause and take a breath between each point so we can pluck out the one we want.
    4. We will be editing this so take your time and don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time. Don’t worry if you do multiple takes, we will choose the best one, or parts of several.

Yes, it’s that simple. Just be yourself, be creative and have fun and we’ll see you at Summit. You have registered, right?

If you have any questions ask them in the comments box below or tweet us @OutandEqual

Elyse Lopez

Elyse Lopez

Posted by: outandequal | August 22, 2014

To Win, We Need To Give

By Roger Doughty, Executive Director – Horizons Foundation

UnknownThe first definition of “incredible” in Merriam Webster’s dictionary is “too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.” And that pretty well describes the kind of progress that the LGBT movement has been making lately. Simply incredible. So rapid that few of us would have predicted it even a few years ago. The stunning momentum of marriage equality. Sea changes in public opinion about LGBT people. President Obama’s signing of the Executive Order protecting LGBT employees of government contractors. Trans rights on the cover of TIME magazine.

We have a lot to be proud of and many reasons to feel optimistic about the future. But we’d be deluding ourselves to start thinking “we’re done.” For starters, we haven’t even won full legal equality and, in at least some places both in the U.S. and around the world, that day doesn’t look like it’s coming soon. In the majority of states, you can still be fired for being LGBT . Seventy-six countries still criminalize same-sex relations.

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In short, we’re not finished yet.

Even if we do round out our legal victories in the U.S. over the next few years, that won’t be enough. After all, Brown v. Board of Education didn’t end racial injustice. Roe v. Wade didn’t end attempts to restrict reproductive freedom. Many in our community – including transgender people and LGBT people of color – continue to experience unconscionable levels of discrimination, poverty, and poor health. Thousands of workplaces remain unsafe for us. Many thousands of LGBT youth still find their schools and homes places of fear and danger, just as many thousands of our elders lack the support they need.

A Broken Bargain-2

To win legal equality and create the kind of accepting, affirming world that LGBT people have worked toward for so long, we have to do more than just keep up our commitments: we have to step them up. That means volunteering, voting, advocating in our workplaces – and money. Money isn’t everything in a movement (of course) but it’s absolutely necessary.

A problem

But here’s a problem: research shows that less than five per cent of LGBT people in the U.S. contribute to LGBT organizations, which drive almost all our progress. This is documented in Horizons Foundation’s report, Building a New Tradition of Philanthropy. Think what we could accomplish if even two or three more per cent of us were donating. Think how many more youth could be helped; how many more court cases could be brought; how many more families could be supported; how many more schools could be made safe; how much more we could do to educate non-LGBT people about our lives.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 11.18.14 AM

Give OUT Day is a great way to make a modest donation via social media

We know that some people simply can’t afford to give. But an awful lot of us who don’t give really can give, or we can afford to give more. What many of us don’t realize is how simple – and how deeply rewarding – it is to give to our community. Many of our workplaces offer matching gift programs, allowing us to double or triple the impact of our gifts. Many of us also can – and many Out & Equal members already do – advocate within our companies for corporate support of LGBT organizations and causes. Even though many corporations aren’t likely to fund the most cutting-edge, high profile litigation or advocacy on their own, they will support LGBT issues closer to home, especially those their employees care about.

Giving for the long term

There’s another way to give that can have a big impact – and have essentially zero effect on your current finances. That’s by including an LGBT organization (or an LGBT community foundation such as Horizons Foundation) as a beneficiary of your 401(k) or your IRA or the life insurance policy that your company may provide. More information on how to go about this can be found in Horizons’ Guide to Planned Giving for LGBT PeopleYou don’t have to designate it all for LGBT charitable causes either. You can simply give a percentage to a favorite organization, and leave the majority to loved ones and/or other causes. If enough of us did that – even if we put down only 10% for LGBT causes – the impact would be enormous, especially on future generations of LGBT people.

One more thing. Giving is about more than providing fuel for LGBT organizations. It’s not only a matter of doing our share. It’s more than that. It’s about building connections and community, something that most people – and most LGBT people – value highly. And it’s equality, justice, and community that the LGBT movement has always been about.

Roger Doughty

Roger Doughty

 

To find our more about LGBT Philanthropy visit Horizons Foundation

To advance workplace equality and create a world where people are evaluated on their work and are not judged according to sexual orientation or gender identity, click here to make a tax-deductible gift to Out & Equal

By David Landis, founder/CEO of Landis Communications and president of Public Relations Global Network.  Twitter_logo_blue@david_landis. This blog is a repost of an article that first appeared at The Holmes Report on June 18, 2013.

There’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to the progress that has been made for human rights over the past few years. The momentum of marriage equality, sports personalities coming out, and heads of state expressing their support has led to a sea-change in public attitudes, but how is the LGBT community faring in the business world, and more particularly, in my chosen field of communications? Depending on whom you ask and where you live, the answer appears to be better. . .or maybe not.

David Landis

David Landis

Full disclosure here. I’ve been an out gay man in the communications field since my early days at both KPIX TV (the CBS affiliate in San Francisco) and the San Francisco Symphony. I’ve been running my own PR agency, Landis Communications Inc., in our fair city since 1990. Here, it’s a badge of honor to be part of the LGBT community. 

Yet early on in my career at KPIX TV in the 80s, I took my then boyfriend (now husband) to our company’s holiday party and danced with him. For about two seconds I worried, “Would this impact my career?” Then I decided, it’s television and folks just need to get used to it. Turns out, it actually helped connect me with my co-workers because it was a great icebreaker – although my disco moves are still a fright to see! Still, I know full well that San Francisco doesn’t reflect the rest of the world.

In April 2013, when I was elected president of our agency’s international PR network, the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), I got to thinking: how many out LGBT communications professionals are there in the field? Why aren’t people talking about this more? And more importantly, is there a glass ceiling?

According to Pew Research, “An overwhelming share of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults (92%) say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead.” 

Looking around, there are numerous examples of success stories: Kevin Brockman, EVP of global communications at Disney/ABC Television; Ben Finzel, SVP of public affairs and GM of Waggener Edstrom Washington DC; communications consultant Mary Cheney; my husband, Sean Dowdall, former CMO at Rabobank, North America; Stephan Roth president of OutThink Partners; and Ryan Peal, GM at FleishmanHillard Los Angeles. If we broaden the field to include journalists, of course we can add the likes of Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper, Jonathan Capehart, Robin Roberts and many more.

Maddow, Robbins, Capehart, and Cooper-7

But is this a positive trend – or are these errant examples?

Bob Witeck

Bob Witeck

Bob Witeck, openly gay president/founder of Washington, DC-based Witeck Communications (a prominent agency working with Fortune 100 corporations and the LGBT community) says, “It still can be an issue in the top, multi-national agencies. You don’t always see LGBT professionals at the senior level of running these agencies. Perhaps this is through self-selection: often, LGBTs may go to other, smaller agencies where they can be themselves. If the group of decision makers at the big agencies deciding who to promote are straight white men, they tend to select straight white men.”

Jesse Melgar, former communications director for Equality California, the state’s LGBT advocacy organization, thinks, “Acceptance and advancement depends on where you are located. A lot of LGBT communications pros move to San Francisco or LA for professional work because it’s more progressive and there’s more professional development. But it’s different in rural areas such as Fresno – or smaller communities such as Riverside.”

There’s also the question of whether lesbians have a more or less difficult path than gay men. Some in the industry say that like other women in business, it’s still an uphill struggle. But others think lesbians have fared as well as gay men.  

Barbara French

Barbara French

Barbara French, vice chancellor/university relations at the University of California San Francisco surmises, “To be honest, I have not encountered or witnessed a ‘glass ceiling’ for members of our community who are excellent in the field of communications. I believe that is due to the fact that my professional career has been primarily based in San Francisco. Here, members of the LGBT community are visible at the highest levels of private, public and not-for-profit organizations. My experience is that being out and proud is a benefit from the standpoint of professional growth and development. It means we bring our whole selves to the workplace. That means we are fully present and ready to do our best work.” 

San Francisco-based communications consultant Linda Gebroe, who has written for the San Francisco Giants Magazine, quips, “With respect to the glass ceiling, I don’t know what I would say on account of I’m not sure I’ve ever bumped my head on it. I have felt it as a woman, but not as a lesbian.”

Eric Latzky

Eric Latzky

Out communications professionals appear to be more prominent in the fields of entertainment, less so in industries such as financial services. But that is changing. Former VP of communications for the New York Philharmonic Eric Latzky adds, “Glass ceilings for out communications professionals remain in conservative business arenas. However, ceilings are getting higher constantly. Discrimination of any kind is bad for business and that is becoming more a part of the American vernacular. I’ve watched those ceilings yield to the need to retain talent.”

Echoing the legacy of visionary activist Harvey Milk, Mr. Melgar concludes, “The more out that people are in the profession, the more people know it’s OK and it should be celebrated.”

In reference to his now acclaimed anti-bullying video series, journalist/author Dan Savage would say, “It gets better.” I do believe nowadays that there are fewer obstacles for gays and lesbians to be promoted in the communications field – and hundreds of success stories – but we still have a significant way to go.

David Landis

David Landis

Posted by: outandequal | August 13, 2014

No Going Back – Indian and Out at Work

Editor’s Note: August 15 is India National Day. Last December, an Indian Supreme Court decision re-criminalized homosexuality. BJP (conservative) Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected in May this year, is due to visit President Obama next month. Modi’s business-friendly message runs counter to business diversity and inclusion objectives and as the US and India explore their economic attraction, the future happiness of millions of Indian LGBTs hangs in the balance.

By Poonam Kapoor, Product Manager, Kaiser Permanente

Duty, honor, and sacrifice. That sounds like a slogan someone in the military would chant. Rather, it was the cultural anthem of the many Indian women I grew up with in Houston, Texas. My parents immigrated to the US over 40 years ago. Like many other Indians looking for the American dream, they wanted the job, the house, and the car, but not the culture. They felt more comfortable preserving the Indian culture they grew up with, so they lived and brought us up within that bubble. While we were frozen in time, India and America were changing.

Poonam Kapoor at the NCLR gala

Poonam Kapoor at the NCLR gala

Our middle class bubble was safe, and we felt protected as long as we maintained the cultural values and norms that were expected across the community. The idea of leaving the bubble was highly discouraged; therefore, watchguards were in place if any of us stepped out of line. I, along with my other female Indian friends, was not allowed to date. Spending time with boys was “bad,” unless it was with our brothers or cousins. Forget about the thought of dating or sex before marriage.

Duty. Doing our duty meant studying, helping with chores, the family business, temple work, etc. I pretty much did as I was told. Controversial opinions or saying anything that challenged our elders’ positions were not encouraged.

Honor. I couldn’t do anything to shame my family’s good name so as to maintain our honor. No lying, stealing, intoxicants, no bad grade, and no sex with a woman- that’s for sure. As a rebellious teen, every time I got caught dabbling in a vice I was immediately put back in line. Shame for me grew deeper the older I got. Shame was there for my parents too, as they chose to live double lives. For example; changing their names at work to sound more American, not bringing Indian food to work, and never wearing Indian clothes outside of Indian functions. I adopted these practices too.

Sacrifice. I was destined to marry a good Indian boy whether it be pre-arranged or of my choosing (which of course had to meet the same criteria as pre-arranged; good family, good education, good money, same religion, etc). As I began to realize my feelings for other women in college, I knew I was in big trouble. Despite going to a liberal undergrad, I knew my bubble in Texas, and family in India, would give me the scarlet “H” (for homosexual). As I was entering marriage age I knew time was running out and that I needed to explore my feelings for women and “get them out of my system.” I remember having to get drunk in order to muster enough courage to go into a lesbian bar. After falling for a few women, I knew I was definitely gay. I remember telling my Mom I was depressed, but never explaining why. She told me it was because I wasn’t married to a man. I was at a loss.

After college I worked for a conservative multi-national company in Texas. At work, when my all American co-workers would ask me about dating, I would always change pronouns so they thought I was straight. My boss would chuckle when someone brought up the token gay guy and his partner at work. I didn’t want to be ridiculed. More importantly, I didn’t want to be fired. Back then, a decade ago, (and even today) the state of Texas does not have non-discrimination policies in place in every city. Granted there are a few cities that have them today, but the majority of Texans are still at risk of being fired for being LGBTQ or expressing their gender identity.  My work culture was like my Indian culture. If you weren’t following the group norms then you risked being banished.

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The same company moved me to San Francisco for a job assignment. In California, I was exposed to a world where diversity was more prevalent at work, in people’s lifestyles, in their thinking. It was a bit overwhelming for me to see how comfortable people were taking about politics, religion and occasionally even about sexuality. I still didn’t feel safe sharing my truth and didn’t even think to investigate whether California had non discrimination protections in place. I just assumed it didn’t and that because my company was conservative I should keep closeted in order to keep my job. Although California is well known as a blue state, I ended up switching jobs and working for another conservative company in Salinas, the central valley. What a shocker it was to go from right to left to somewhere in between. I was in my mid twenties and decided to slowly come out. My boss at the time was friendly and seemed progressive. When I came out to her she laughed at me. I felt humiliated by someone I respected and admired. After that I told very few people and only if they were LGBTQ or trustworthy.

In my next and current occupation which is for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, I was initially discouraged by a co-worker from coming out to everyone because of our conservative boss. By befriending other LGBTQ colleagues and after learning that I had legal rights, I felt more comfortable sharing. It was scary and liberating at the same time. People I worked with wanted to know about my life, supported equal rights for LGBTQ people and embraced diversity. I was in a different kind of bubble, but I liked this one. People were so respectful and inclusive when sharing their own lives. Straight and LGBTQ people would say things like “my partner”. They made me feel normal. To bring all parts of myself to work or any environment was a gift and fundamental right I’m not giving up.

377NoGoingBack_sq

After I burned my cloak of shame to ashes, I’ve been sharing my story to bring visibility to the plight of South Asian LGBTQ people. While the US government has made amazing strides which benefits South Asians here, it’s been disheartening to see India turn the clock back by reinstating Section 377, a 150 year old British Colonial law that criminalizes homosexuality.

The world’s largest democracy has deprived its minority citizens of their dignity and equal rights. The old Colonial law opposes the Indian constitution’s fundamental tenant of inclusiveness for all its’ citizens. The United Nations understands and made this video, which has accumulated over two millions views on YouTube:

In September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting President Obama at the White House. I call on all LGBTQ people and our allies to ask President Obama to stand for equal rights for LGBTQ people in India and encourage the Prime Minister’s government to remove 377 once and for all. To learn more and get involved please visit the campaign website.

We need to stand together and proud for all people, here in California, the US, and in countries like India. LTBTQ people do not need to sacrifice who we love in order to do our duty as outstanding citizens and workers. We can lead honorable lives, ones that are true to ourselves.

Poonam Kapoor

Poonam Kapoor

Poonam believes LGBTQ rights are human rights and is an active volunteer with Trikone, the oldest South Asian LGBT organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can email her here.

Posted by: outandequal | August 11, 2014

Workplace Equality Down Under

Editor’s Note: Several companies that partner with Out & Equal are among the top places to work in Australia for LGBT employees, proving that good diversity and inclusion practices know no borders..

By Dawn Hough, Director – Pride in Diversity

While LGBTI is an assumed agenda item on most progressive diversity strategies in the US and UK, it is still (by comparison) relatively new to Australia. This week, Pride in Diversity released the annual Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), first published in 2011.

PID-AWEI-General

Pride in Diversity is Australia’s not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion and the AWEI is the annual index that employers complete to not only assess their current practice in LGBTI workplace equality, but to benchmark themselves against top employers, their sector and (in some cases) industry.

While the main focus of the index is to gauge and shift Australian practice to ensure that it competes internationally with other aligned tools, one of the highlights of the AWEI is the announcement of the country’s Top 20 Employers along with a range of other awards recognising excellence in leadership, small business, country/rural areas in addition to the work and contribution of individual CEO’s, business leaders and champions.

The No.1 spot this year went to Goldman Sachs who have consistently maintained a high Top 10 position over the four year life of the Australian Index. Other Out & Equal partners that made the Top 20 list include IBM (Ranked Joint 6th), Chevron (ranked 13) and EY (Ranked 18).

Representatives of Goldman Sachs receive the 2014 Employer of the Year Award

Representatives of Goldman Sachs receive the 2014 Employer of the Year Award

The index is a comprehensive 200-point index that assesses work for the previous year in the areas of

  • Inclusive Policy and Practice (30 Points)
  • Inclusive Culture and Visibility (60 points)
  • Staff Awareness ,Training & Development (30 Points)
  • Monitoring (Data Collection & Analysis) – 10 points
  • Supplier Diversity (15 points)
  • Community Engagement (30 Points)
  • Inclusion Beyond (10 points)
  • Additional Work (10 points); and
  • Optional participation in an employer survey (5 points).

The optional employee survey this year attracted responses from 5,663 employees of participating organisations and gave insights into the perceptions and awareness of LGBTI employee initiatives in addition to the lived experiences of LGBTI employees within those organisations.

Key findings of the survey showed that lived experiences amongst LGBTI respondents differed across the age groups and across gender. Younger respondents were more likely to have personally experienced negative commentary during the previous year and a startling 13% of 18-24 year old would not report being bullied or harassed at work as it would mean outing themselves to other employees. Other findings show that an LGBTI inclusive culture was an influencing factor for 80.3% of gay men when deciding whether or not to join an organisation while only 74.9% of gay women. Gay men’s perceptions on several indicators were much more positive than those of lesbian/gay women. Gay men were more aware of diversity initiatives and more likely to say that these initiatives had a positive influence on how they felt about their orientation. Bisexual employees on the other hand were far less likely to be out at work (27% as opposed to 81% of gay men and 76% of gay / lesbian women) and that while they believed that an LGBTI inclusive culture was important, only 57% were likely to use it as an influencing factor on whether or not to join an organisation.

Overall, responses from LGBTI employees in the Top 10 organisations were markedly different than from LGBTI employees in non-Top 10 organisations, indicating the positive impact of inclusion initiatives. LGBTI employees within Top 10 organisations reported:

  • Lower levels of negative homophobic/transphobic commentary
  • Lower levels of awareness of homophobic/transphobic bullying
  • More confidence in managers addressing homophobic/transphobic harassment

Inclusion initiatives also had a much more positive impact on how LGB employees felt about their orientation at Top 10 organisations.

Top 20 organisations in Australia for LGBTI workplace equality 2014 are (in order of ranking):

  • 1 – Goldman Sachs
  • 2 – Curtin University
  • 3 – Westpac Banking Corporation
  • 4 – Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • 5 – ANZ
  • 6 – Tie: Australian Federal Police | IBM
    7 – Forfeited (Tie 6th Place)
  • 8 – The University of Western Australia
  • 9 – Lend Lease
  • 10 – Tie: KPMG | Accenture
    11 – Forfeited (Tie 10th place)
  • 12 – Herbert Smith Freehills
  • 13 – Chevron
  • 14 – Tie: National Australia Bank and Macquarie Banking & Financial Services
    15 – Forfeited (Tie 14th place)
  • 16 – Children & Young People’s Mental Health
  • 17 – American Express
  • 18 – EY
  • 19 – Macquarie University
  • 20 – Tie: Gilbert + Tobin and Australian Red Cross Blood Service

In 2011 we started with our Top 10 and the momentum is clearly with us. We salute the growing number of diversity champions and thank them for working tirelessly to create workplaces that are safe and inclusive.

Dawn Hough

Dawn Hough

To connect your Australian Office with Pride in Diversity or participate in the AWEI, please contact Pride in Diversity Director Dawn Hough at +612 9206.2136 or via email.

Visit Pride in Diversity at www.prideindiversity.com.au

To find out more about the AWEI or to download the full benchmarking publication go to: www.prideindiversity.com.au/awei

Follow Pride in Diversity on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PrideInDiversity or Twitter: @PrideDiversity

Posted by: outandequal | August 7, 2014

At-Will Employment, Not Illegal Discrimination

By Out & Equal staff: Pat Baillie, Director of Training and Professional Development and Teddy Basham-Witherington, Director of Institutional Partnerships

Most people are unaware that in 29 U.S. states you can be fired simply on account of being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Although some cities have LGBT protections, you would have no recourse at the state level to appeal being fired. Not only that, you can be discriminated against in those same states at all phases of the employment process, from application all the way through to termination.

2014_May_Fired_Map_v8

If you happen to be transgender, those same 29 states, plus four more have no legislative protections in employment on the basis of gender identity. A first step has been made with the landmark Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision in the Macy case of 2012. The EEOC extended the Federal Civil Rights Act, Title VII prohibition against sex discrimination to include discrimination against transgender employees. However, this finding does not carry the weight of law so there is still a need for explicit state inclusion that discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression is illegal. Until laws are in place, both employers and transgender employees will be in doubt as to their responsibilities and their rights.

In the U.S., most employment (unless you have a specific contract of employment) is “at-will” – meaning that both employer and employee can end the employment relationship at any time without reason or warning. This means an employer can dismiss an employee without cause. There are, however, exceptions to this general statement, such as an employee cannot be fired due to an illegal reason, if they are covered under public policy (expressed in state constitutions and statutes) or they have contracts that modify the “at-will” relationships. These exceptions vary from state to state, creating challenges for LGBT employees living in states without explicit protections.

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Looking at these exemptions, the most significant and in our case, relevant, exception to the at-will rule is in the area of statutory exceptions. Federal protection examples of this would be Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin), the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. There are no federal statutory protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression included in this list. At the state level, the 21 states that offer statutory protections on the basis of sexual orientation and the 17 on the basis of gender identity create the basis to challenge “at will” firings for LGBT employees, if there is evidence that the firing occurred as a result of discrimination based on those characteristics.

So, the next time someone tells you that you can be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender because employment is at-will, they are right, but if you have the time, connections, and money to pursue a case, in some states at least, you can take the employer to court, and win. In the others? Well, sadly, without the legislative protections, there is no established basis to take an employer to court, excepting of course the EEOC Macy ruling.

President Obama's Executive Order banning Federal Contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination is a step in the right direction, but we need to finish the job

President Obama’s Executive Order banning federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination is a step in the right direction, but we need to finish the job

An interesting twist on this discussion has been created by the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the expansion of marriage equality around the U.S. You may now live in a state where marriage equality is a reality, but work in another where you can be fired for putting your wedding photo on your desk. This absurd state of affairs is not only morally wrong, it’s also bad for business. Worrying about these factors keeps both employees and employers from being fully engaged in their business!

The solution? We need a single national standard so that every LGBT employee can feel safe at work and not face a patchwork of discrimination. It’s time to engrave the terms “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” into Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Pat Baillie and Teddy Basham-Witherington

Pat Baillie and Teddy Basham-Witherington

Posted by: outandequal | August 5, 2014

Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Rebuffs Repeal Attempt

By Mike Craig, Chair Emeritus – Out & Equal Houston

Last month, in Houston Sees Red and Passes Equal Rights Ordinance, I wrote about the passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – #HERO – and the coalition that was prepared to fight the repeal petition effort.

On July 3rd, the petition organizers claimed (initially) to have turned in over 50,000 signatures. Never ones to be completely forthright, they also claimed to have already pre-verified more than 31,000 signatures prior to turning in the seven (7!) boxes to the City Secretary.

For the record, they turned in 5,199 petition pages – all of which would have fit in a single box.

Seven boxes, but full of what?

Seven boxes, but ‘full’ of what?

During the past three weeks, over 100 community volunteers – gay, straight, trans, allies – from all walks of life, came together to independently review what had been turned in. Our goal was simple: keep the #HERO opposition honest.

It was a painstaking process – but one that could only be done with today’s social media, crowd-sourcing technology and our volunteers’ tenacity. I’d like to thank everyone involved in the independent petition review – organizers Kris Banks, Kristen Capps, Dane Cook, Noel Freeman, Brad Pritchett, Mike Pomeroy – and to Januari Leo and Mark Eggleston for helping to secure space (with WIFI) for volunteers to work at Legacy Community Health and Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church. To our volunteers who poured hundreds of long hours into this effort – I can’t say thank you enough.

Last Wednesday, based on the results of the independent reviews, Noel Freeman (Houston GLBT Caucus) and I testified before City Council and turned in our preliminary analyses showing that there were serious – potentially fatal – flaws with the petitions. A final report was turned in to the City Secretary, City Attorney and Mayor on Friday.

View The Testimony Here

View The Testimony Here

Our hope was that the City would – as part of their normal review process – find what we had found: that the petitioners had failed to qualify enough signatures to meet the 17,269 threshold.

From Friday evening to Monday afternoon, we held our collective breath.

Then at 5:00 PM on Monday, August 4th – the City Attorney and Mayor affirmed the news. To quote City Attorney Feldman: “There are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion.”

Houston City Attorney David Feldman and Mayor Annise Parker who said: "Clearly, the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process."

Houston City Attorney David Feldman and Mayor Annise Parker who said: “Clearly, the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process.”

Predictably, the #HERO opponents were unhappy and lost no time in vowing to take the battle to court. We’ll see what happens, but even if by some legal maneuver this ends up on the ballot, we agree with Mayor Parker’s assessment that “clearly, the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process” and that equality will win the day. Whether in court, at the ballot box or at the water cooler, we’re ready for the next round in the quest to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to be Out AND Equal!

Mike Craig

Mike Craig

 

For UPDATES and more information:

  1. Out & Equal Houston Website
  2. Out & Equal Houston Facebook Page
  3. Equal Rights Houston

 

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