By Adrienne Ione
“It is one thing to tolerate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It is another to celebrate.”
I find this way of looking at our world and corresponding speech exclusionary, hateful and disrespectful.
I am a local small business owner. After posting an event reminder for the Tacoma Pride’s inaugural 5K on my public business Facebook page, I received the following targeted personal text message on my business phone from a current participant:
Disappointed with your choice of sponsorship. It is one thing to tolerate. It is another to celebrate. I will not participate in your “Stride” event or further activities with Silver Linings.
Even though discrimination in the workplace is mostly illegal when the injured party is a member of a protected category (i.e., gender, age, disability, religion, race, sexual orientation, pregnancy and national origin), this is but one example of workplace discrimination occurring across the nation. This week also marks 10 years since Gross v. FBL Financial Group, a ruling that reversed the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), passed by Congress to protect workers ages 40 and greater.
Let us separate this speech from the person who spoke it and decipher why these words, when strung together in this way, are problematic. We will focus on three points: inclusion, use of quotations, and economic growth potential. If we believe that “there is no natural class of rulers among people, and everyone is born with the same unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then willy-nilly decisions on degree of variation acceptance is a moot point. Tolerance breeds hate. We are richer as a nation from the amalgamation of our ideas, perspectives and cultural backgrounds. And yet, according to the Human Rights Commission, 50 percent of LGBT workers in the U.S. say they are closeted at work. In the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, there are a total of 173,000 residents who identify as LGBT. If half are closeted at work, this is the equivalent of killing all residents in the following locals: Ruston, UP, Fircrest, Gig Harbor, Browns Point, Sumner, Wollochet, Steilacoom, Canterwood, Dash Point, North Puyallup and Purdy. We are eliminating you because you do not have anything to contribute. You are disgusting.
Grammatically, use of quotation marks around a word implies a person does not agree with an action. “Stride” implies that not only should we not celebrate, we should also simply not walk around. Get back in the closet. And you better not stride into work. We can turn to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) as an example of how damaging discriminatory policies can be. Prior to DADT, the effects of discrimination are just as damaging – 114,000 service members have been discharged between World War II and the repeal. Just think, this is one quarter of the total number of people employed in elected offices in the U.S. government. Receiving a less than honorable discharge further marginalizes people from society by denying benefits (e.g., college tuition aid). How many more injustices must we commit before we say: “Enough!”…?
We are stifling our economic growth potential by excluding some members of the eligible working population. Rather than creating a breeding ground for discrimination, injustice and hatred, when we respect diversity in the workplace, we are taking a step toward a more inclusive, productive and thriving America. We need responsible leadership, beginning with small business owners collaborating on causes vital to an economically strong city. Anything short of this is destructive, divisive and distractive.
I learned an important lesson recently while listening to a man on the radio. Patrick Haggerty, lead singer and songwriter of Lavender Country, who is now in his 70s, shared a lesson he learned, while in high school. His dad suggested that he should never sneak in life. Rather, he advised his son, you should always act in ways you are proud of.
I’m curious, “In what ways are you proud?”
If not, “What the hell are you so damn afraid of?”
Stride with Pride happens on Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tacoma Rainbow Center, 2215 Pacific Ave. The most fun and wacky event of the summer, it’s a great way to be involved with Tacoma Pride events – and you’ll be doing something good for Stride’s charity partners. Register at www.signmeup.com/site/online-event-registration/130233.