February 15, 2009

Talk About It

One of the best things GLBT can do to gain acceptance is to tell their stories. Some of the best people to do that with are ones we see every day. Don't take my word for it, though. In conjunction with Freedom to Marry Week, here are two essays written by GLBT activists which support that view.

First, here is an excerpt from Scott Davenport, the managing director for Freedom to Marry:

.....every time I met with someone new, I had to establish a relationship – and ideally an open and authentic one at that. What better way than to share what we have in common, and more often than not that was having kids.

However, as soon as I talked to a new team-mate about my children’s latest escapade, he or she would ask about my wife. The first time this happened, I was flummoxed. Somehow it had slipped my mind that the other person didn’t know I was gay. What to do? Well, I think the first time I just hemmed and hawed and adroitly shifted the subject.

I knew, though, that wasn’t what I wanted to do. Instead I developed a patter if asked about my “wife”: “Oh no, I’m not married. I’m gay. My partner and I have been together 17 years and we have two kids – a daughter who’s now in 2nd grade and a son who’s in Kindergarten.”

The first time I tried this, it came out a little shaky. My colleague stopped for a second (while the mental wheels turned in her head!), and then gave me a big smile and said, “Oh that’s great. Wow 17 years – when did you meet?” And then we went on and got to know each other some more. Somehow, that flood of information – and the fact she could make sense of it all – defused what could be a difficult situation. More importantly, she felt pride in her reaction, and I felt good about being authentic.

After a while, it got easier and easier, which also mattered for me, as these situations always seemed to come up when you least expected them. The honesty also meant a new colleague could trust me, and maybe most importantly, by putting a human face on being gay and being a gay parent, I had chipped away at homophobia.

Ultimately that’s the lesson here. Being honest about who we are and telling our stories – even when we least expect to and even in the workplace – builds a connection in people. That connection tears down walls and builds support. It’s also how I know we will ultimately win the freedom to marry.

Here is an excerpt from James Hipps, editor of Gay Agenda:

It is the responsibility of LGBT employees to help their straight colleagues create a more supportive work environment for everyone. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. For one, don’t conceal your personal life. If you speak in a matter- of- fact manor about your life, then others will take that cue and be more comfortable discussing it as well. You don’t have to be overbearing about it, simply repeating the same name during conversation helps people catch on. You can also help break the ice by placing a picture of your partner on your desk. Seeing a photo of someone gives your co-workers permission to talk. Also initiate conversations that will open up to you answering questions about your partner. Ask your co-worker what they and their significant other did over the weekend. When asked in return, take the opportunity to answer openly and honestly. Opening up dialogue always helps to put people at ease.

It’s important for you to remember, what other’s say about you is really none of your business. If a co-worker wants to speak poorly of you, especially because of your sexuality, they will. The best remedy for this is to lead your life so no one will believe them.

If at all possible however, do be out at work. It will ultimately make your life easier and help the LGBT community as a whole gain acceptance and inclusion. Until we are a nation that sees all people as equal, it is up to us to help everyone learn and understand.

As I've written here before, I don't believe anyone can be all that God wants them to if they do not live honestly. Jesus is real and wants His children to be real. I hope these two essays help show GLBT people how to go about that and why it is so important, not just for the indivdual but for the GLBT communtiy as a whole.


  1. I agree. I live in Utah -- where most would say that the LDS (Mormon) church and homosexuals collide. However, the people I figured would shun me as I came out have been quite alright with it. Even the one's who talked negatively. A lot has to do with putting the name to the face. Seeing other's be honest about it also helps me be more honest. So thanks for the encouragement.

  2. I agree as well. I never hide or flaunt the fact that I am gay. I simply use my spouse's name in normal conversation and we move on from there.

    I think is is also important that I am open and not easlily offended if someone ask a wierd question or makes an asumption. Most people I work with would never intentionally be rude, so it is important that I give them the benift of the doubt and be a safe person that they can ask questions and help them to see all glbt people as just that.. People just like them.