Friday, January 27, 2012

The times, they are a-changing

Last week, a co-worker and friend celebrated a milestone, 25 years of employment at our company! While my own 21.5 years is nothing to sneeze at, 25 is particularly fun because not only does the employee receive a beautiful gift, but so does his or her spouse. A wonderful celebration ensues, speeches are given, and there are usually more than a few tears shed. (Hey, it's just what we do.)

Well, my friend and I had been talking about this upcoming event for months because only recently have the spouses been invited into the building to join in the celebration at 10+ years. His dilemma: he's gay, and our company leaders and board are very conservative. We do live in Utah, after all.

While I love this article claiming Salt Lake City to be the gayest city in America, the authors clearly don't live here. Maybe they were just talking about SLC proper and not its outlying suburbs? I dunno.

So, back to work. My friend was not the only one to be worried about what would happen if he invited his adorable husband to attend the event. Other coworkers whispered things like "that's just not going to fly," and "what's the CEO going to say," and "people are just not ready for that here" while other coworkers responded with "oh, nobody gives a shit anymore."

Like my friend being honored, I was a bit nervous.

Long ago (it has been 21 years, remember), I would walk through the cafeteria and hear people talking as I passed. "Dyke" was a favored word to use just loudly enough that I could hear and just quietly enough that I wouldn't know where it came from. A few folks unfamiliar with the appropriate usage would use the word "fag," generally reserved for gay men. Although it was used improperly, it still had the same stinging effect. There were other phrases, too, of course.

I am happy to say that those days are behind us, at least at my workplace. I don't wear a sign around my neck proclaiming my sexuality, nor do any of my gay coworkers, because it's not important; it doesn't affect the way that we perform our jobs. However, it is apparent when someone is uncomfortable dealing with me. Thankfully, it happens less and less.

BUT, back to my coworker and his big day! It couldn't have gone better. The two of three ultra-conservative corporate executives who spoke handled the "situation" with poise and class. (There was one little flub that may have only been obvious to those of us who have to watch hetero-America from a second-class citizen seat on the proverbial bus.) My friend and his spouse of 15 years were met with celebration and treated with well-deserved dignity. It was a wonderful affair. So, I extend a Thank You to everyone who made it a special day for him.

It seems like such a small thing, this little shin-dig, but when you consider that he has been working at our company for more than half of his life, you can start to understand the significance to him.

But, it's the small things, the little steps, that are adding up to make our comminities better and that help people be more understanding of each other. Just this week, Harrisville (a small-ish town north of SLC) passed non-discrimination ordinances in housing and employment - the first town in our state of the new year to do so. (Last year, there were 11.). As more people hear this kind of stuff, the more they are amazed that discrimination is even allowed - legally allowed! It's a surprise to so many of our straight friends and families. (Sadly, the same referendum was defeated in the city of American Fork late last year.)

I'm proud of the progress that has occurred at my workplace. Oh, there are still those who hate me for something that I can't control or change, those who would hate another person for wanting to love and be loved in return, but I can't let myself be saddened by them. (I must say that it's hard when they are screaming horrible words at me and my family as we meet for Pride celebrations or to lobby our elected officials.) I will keep my eyes on the long, but hopeful, road ahead. I will thank those who are demanding equal treatment on my behalf, and I will try to educate those who refuse to recognize us as families built on love and happiness - just like our hetero counterparts.

Yes. Even in Utah, the times, they are a-changing.

1 comment:

Bee Girl said...

Slowly but surly, times ARE changing :-) Thank you for sharing this!