Living in fear

Monday night my mother called me, having just watched Brokeback Mountain for the first time, and was very concerned… I’m going to New Orleans for Labor Day Weekend, and she was worried that someone might beat me up or kill me for being gay. 

We’d been in New Orleans before, staying at the same place I’m staying this trip in fact, and she’s never forgotten the way I refused to let her walk anywhere by herself, etc. (My chivalry and protectiveness apparently made quite an impression… that was six years ago, and she still talks about it anytime someone says words that even RHYME with “New Orleans”)

My mother… felt the need to call me… and tell me to be careful not to get beaten up or killed. 

Sweet gesture, and of course I was touched by her concern. But c’mon now, really, that’s fucked up that she had to do that! Really, I can’t walk down the street living my life, not bothering anyone, without being worried about violence from strangers? That sucks.

Well, hell with that.  I’m going to live my life anyway I damn well please.

This brings to another semi-related point… I’m doing a lot of work with the Bank of America employee group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender associates. And one thing I keep running into is group members who are very afraid of being visibly/publicly associated with the group. Like they’re going to get fired if their boss or coworkers found out that they (gasp!) have a PERSONAL LIFE outside of the office. 

I understand, to a degree… I wasn’t as comfortable being openly gay at points in my career. But that was when I was like TWENTY. And let’s be frank — a decade ago (god that makes me sound OLD) things were noticeably different. The “Will & Grace” effect hadn’t fully kicked in, knowwhatI’msaying? Besides, I wasn’t working for a huge company like Bank of America then.

This company GENUINELY has an amazing focus on diversity, on promoting a workplace where people of different backgrounds can succeed based on the work they produce. And if I really worked on a team where I felt I couldn’t be myself with my manager and my teammates, I WOULD FIND ANOTHER JOB. I’m not saying you have to be able to waive a rainbow flag around your desk at the top of every hour, but you shouldn’t live in fear of your coworkers finding out something like that. I guess I’m just lucky to have an amazing manager and a couple of fantastic people as teammates.

Hopefully I can help alleviate some of that concern… I’ve been working very hard to get more GLBT associates involved with the group events. Last Friday, for instance, we had our monthly luncheon. I wasn’t able to attend, because I was frantically finishing up everything I could before flying to NYC, but I’d been working on getting people to come for weeks… and we had over twenty people show up, which HAS to be a record for our group. People are starting to come out of hiding and get involved, which makes me happy.

Tonight, in fact, we’re having our monthly “social” event over happy hour. I’ve been doing well getting more and more people to attend, and I’m hoping tonight will be the pay-off I’m looking for — if we can get a dozen or so people to attend who don’t normally get involved, I think we’ll be making good progress.

Here’s to progress!

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