What a Straight Ally Looks Like

Any excuse to talk about pop chanteuse Belinda Carlisle, whose memoir Lips Unsealed is due out in June. How do you know when someone at work is an ally, or sympathetic to you as a queer person? Hearing them support pro-gay legislation is one example, as Belinda does in the video:

Hi, I’m Belinda Carlisle, and I’m recording this message not as a musician or public figure, but as a mom. My son James is gay, and I want him and every other gay person out there to have the same opportunities and rights that I’ve had in life.
Next month the State of Maine will be voting to decide whether or not to preserve the equal marriage law signed by the governor earlier this year. After the devastating setback that was Proposition 8, it is absolutely vital that we win this battle in the “Pine Tree” State. By doing so, we will send a strong message to President Obama and our representatives in Washington that public opinion is with us, and it is time for federal action.
Please join the effort by going to protectmaineequality.org and donating now. Together let’s affirm equal rights for all Americans and give hope to young gay people, like my son, for a better future.

It’s really touching to hear the love in her voice and see her smile at the end when she says “give hope to young people, like my son…”

So let’s imagine that Ms. Carlisle is your office mate. Ha! If you overheard Belinda while walking past her workstation, you might chime in–and come out if you haven’t already–or at least remember that she’s someone who’s friendly. You take care of yourself by the comfort you feel in knowing that should you need support, she might be there.

Incidentally, after this video was produced, Maine became the 31st state to reject same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Boo! Hiss!

West coast conference on being out at work

You live near Southern California? Then you should know that Out for Work is hosting the next LGBTQA College Student Career Conference at UCLA on April 10 & 11, 2010.  The two-day agenda includes workshops on building your personal brand and one called “Manners, meals and interviews.”

College students may benefit from exploring the dimensions of being queer and looking for work post-graduation.  Some parents, teachers–and yes, career counselors–talk about what it means to be “professional” at work, which can fly in the face of your desire to be out at work. If you plan to go to the conference, bring your toughest questions about what your sexual identity has to do with your career! Of course, for more insight, keep reading this blog…

Out for Work lists a national conference to be held in Washington DC in September 2010. More info

360-degree look at AC

This post was originally published by me on 11/3/09 at comingout925.wordpress.com. It’s reprinted here with minor copy edits.

Our friends at Gawker can’t. stop. talking. about Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend, Benjamin Maisani. They’re flabbergasted that AC is associating with such a handsome fellow when he’s yet to make an official statement that he’s gay as Neil Patrick Harris and Wanda Sykes have.

Once upon a time, saying you were “a friend of Dorothy,” a reference to the Wizard of Oz, was code for “I’m a big homosexual.” The CNN anchor has been seen with Kathy Griffin, perhaps today’s equivalent of Dorothy. Does this mean he’s out? Not so fast.

Since this is a blog about what it means to be gay at work, let’s look at two sides of the dilemma. Staying in the closet can ensure that you keep people guessing, and thus, talking about you. That’s good PR. Coming out, however, could mean losing segments of your audience. That’s bad PR. It’s PR nonetheless, and we know the adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity.

I think mostly, it’s scary as hell to come out on the job, even when you’re not the high-profile, good-looking son of Gloria Vanderbilt. Sounds like The Coop may fear the unknown in not publicly acknowledging what his relationship with Mr. Maisani means. (Note to Anderson: Certainty is overrated.) That his show’s ratings were down earlier this year is not unrelated.

What would be the benefits of revealing to his audience his true identity? For one, a huge dollop of relief. He would spend no more energy dodging questions or playing with pronouns, and would focus solely on researching news and hosting his show. His newfound openness would influence the nature of his news reporting, and his style on-air may likely become more relaxed, and more watchable. If he made a big declaration in coming out, he’d make headline news, grab the top spots on blogs and land the covers of magazines. How would that be for generating ratings for AC 360?

In an interesting precedent, on the cover of the November 2009 edition of Details, openly gay American Idol Adam Lambert describes how women throw their panties at him during his concerts. The fantasy of bedding him lives on, even after he shared the truth about his sexuality to the world.

While the folks at Gawker behave like your colleagues who won’t shut up about your sexual orientation because you don’t say a word about it, quieting their chatter by coming out with the truth can help all of us think a little more clearly.