When I was regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service in San Francisco, I was neither shocked nor alarmed that some of my employees were gay or lesbian. I was disappointed only by the fact that so much of their effort had to go into protecting themselves from others finding out they were different.
One day I received a memo from a gay employee that put it all in perspective for me. It read:
“When I began my career in 1978, I was totally occupied with nobody finding out that I was gay for fear that it would create not only a hostile work environment for me, but also discredit my professional worth to the organization.
“It was around 1989 when a gay friend invited me to church that I ‘came out.’ I assumed that I would not know anyone from the office at this particular church. In this church was clearly a wonderful mix of straights and gays and persons of color all worshipping together. I scanned the audience, and after a few minutes, I turned to my friend and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I know someone from the office here, and it’s the regional forester.’
“Yes indeed, Paul Barker was sitting just eight pews in front of me! I had a nice talk with Paul and his wife Nancy and basically, I was ‘out at the office.’ What a relief!! I’m really fortunate that being gay is no longer a handicap for me. I can now spend all of my efforts on my work instead of having to invest energies to maintain other images of myself to fellow employees. I wish I could have come out earlier.”
I read the letter and thought how unfortunate that as a society some are still insistent on putting hateful and hurtful words and pressure on fellow human beings. I am supportive of gay and lesbians, not because it is politically correct, but because it is humanely correct.
Employees expect their employers to “talk the talk” of human rights. What wonderful positive results could occur if employers also “walked the walk” and marched in the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday with their company banner, clearly showing their commitment to human rights. What a gift to the company and the individuals to know that their total effort can go into doing their job, rather that having to protect themselves from others finding out that the Creator made them different.
MEMO: Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.