Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Calling In Gay

There’s a movement — along with a website, of course — for members of the gay community to boycott work tomorrow, Wednesday, December 10, to show how important and integral gays and lesbians are to the workforce.

Sean Hetherington, a West Hollywood comedian and personal trainer, dreamed up the idea with his boyfriend, Aaron Hartzler, after reading online that a few angry gay-rights activists were calling for a daylong strike to protest California voters’ passage last month of Proposition 8, which reversed this year’s state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.

The couple thought it would be more effective and less divisive if people were asked to perform community service instead of staying home with their wallets shut. Dozens of nonprofit agencies, from the National Women’s Law Center in Washington to a Methodist church in Fresno collecting food for the homeless, have posted opportunities for volunteers on the couple’s Web site.

“We are all for a boycott if that is what brings about a sense of community for people,” said Hetherington, 30, who plans to spend Wednesday volunteering at an inner-city school. “You can take away from the economy and give back in other ways.”

Hetherington said he’s been getting 100 e-mails an hour from people looking for volunteer opportunities, and that his “Day Without a Gay” Web site has gotten 100,000 hits since mid-November.

While I support the sentiment, I have never been a pro-active boycotter, if that’s a real term, and frankly, I think I do a lot more for the gay community and the perception of it by showing up at work and doing my job. Perhaps it’s because I work for an entity that is not just tolerant but supportive of their gay and lesbian employees that I have never felt the need to deprive them of my presence just because I’m gay. And I’m not sure that the lesson of “a day without a gay” might not be lost on less-tolerant or closed-minded employers who would perhaps skip over the teachable moment of appreciating the contribution of their gay and lesbian employees and grumble about the lost productivity…and bolster the impression that we’re looking for “special rights” as opposed to equal rights.

Frankly, I think it might make a bigger impression on the workforce if the gay and lesbian workforce showed up at work and in some way made our presence known by wearing a little Pride flag pin. That way we would get the job done and the rest of the office or school or worksite could see that we are everywhere and we contribute, too.