One Equal World

A businessman dressed in a suit and tie rips open his shirt, revealing a rainbow shirt underneath.

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In all fifty states, same-sex marriage has been made legal. But in 28 of those states, mentioning your fiance’s name when asking for time off for your honeymoon can get you fired, because in more than half the country it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace. And in the midst of the current conservative backlash against gay rights, it’s important to take grassroots stands in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions for what you, your coworkers, and your boss can do to make acceptance one of your core values.

1. The big one: benefits. This is your employer putting their money where their mouth is. Make sure your coworkers with same-sex partners and non-traditional families have the same access to health care that you do, including gender-blind parental options, allowances for adoption and surrogacy, and gender-affirmation and transition-related care.

2. Help support resource groups for LGBT employees, particularly if you are in a state that still supports discrimination. They need a place where they can discuss the weight of those issues.

3. Ask what your company is doing to support LGBT people outside their walls. Do they give preference to relationships with other inclusive companies? Devote any resources to outreach? Does your leadership do any communicating on this issue, or is it just a line for show in the company’s values posters?

4. Track what’s actually happening. Does the data indicate that your goals for diversity are being met? This doesn’t mean hiring to a quota–if you’re truly inclusive, that should be entirely unnecessary. If you can’t have this data, ask your HR why.

5. Speak up when you hear ugly speech at work. It only takes one bigot to make LGBT employees feel unwelcome and under fire if everyone else lets their behavior go unremarked. Report what you hear, and hold your employer responsible for responding.

There are many, many more tactics to take to make your job a shelter for those who still need it. Most of these tactics can be applied to any under-served population, and will make you a role model for other employers in your community.

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A road sign that reads, "Silicon Valley."

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More than two thousand adults in the United States responded to the “Tech Leavers Study,” a survey issued and analyzed by the Kapor Center for Social Justice, an Oakland-based organization. Respondents were selected for having left a job in the tech sector since 2013.

One of the primary aims of the study was to research what kept LGBT workers in or out of tech industries. The results were depressingly predictable.

More than any other minority group, LGBT people are still likely to be bullied out of the tech sector.

“People may think of Silicon Valley as a generally progressive place, but unexamined bigotry can still be pervasive,” study lead author Allison Scott, Ph.D., the chief research officer at the Kapor Center, said in an email to the Bay Area Reporter.

The study found that bullying and hostile work environments were pervasive, but that LGBT employees were the most common target. One in four were the target of rude behavior, another quarter report being publicly humiliated. Nearly two thirds of the LGBT subjects of the survey reported that they had left their tech job because of bullying from coworkers or superiors. As many reported that they would have stayed, if the company had done anything to address the behavior.

Perhaps more broadly meaningful, the study’s results looked at average training and severance costs to estimate that this bully-driven turnover costs the industry around $16 billion every year, more when it’s taken into account how many victims leave the industry entirely, taking all of their lifelong potential for output with them.

“For many years, we were unable to get anyone’s attention to the issues of diversity. This report is incredibly timely and important because if we don’t accurately diagnose the problems, we won’t be able to craft effective solutions,” said Freada Kapor Klein, Ph.D., a co-chair of the Kapor Center for Social Justice. Companies can look to this study and others like it to provide focus to their own solutions.

The trans symbol painted on the palm of an unidentified individual.

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Zeke Smith, a contestant on Survivor, was recently outed as a trans by another contestant. The intent behind this was malicious, as it was intended to paint him as dishonest and therefore get him kicked off the show. But it didn’t go that way, as the rest of the cast and the majority of the audience saw this as the disgusting act it was: an act of violence against a trans person.

Many trans people choose to keep their gender history a secret because it can be dangerous to come out. It has nothing to do with deception. Trans people face a high risk of being assaulted or even murdered due to their identity. All things considered, it’s pretty understandable that many choose to keep their transition hidden.

But there’s another reason that trans people choose not to come out; it’s because their current identity is the one they see as their authentic identity. A trans man is not a woman pretending to be a man, but a man. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.

This is in sharp contrast to coming out as gay, since many gay men and women view coming out as an opportunity to live their authentic lives. Being in the closet as a gay person means pretending to be something that you are not, but there isn’t a cultural stigma attached to coming out like there is to being trans. The narrative is one of celebrating the authentic life of a gay person, as opposed to feeling deceived by a trans person.

Outing a trans person is an act of violence in that it sets them up for brutality at that hands of other people and strips them of their own agency. Nobody has any right to the knowledge of another person’s gender history, and they sure as hell don’t have the right to announce that history to anyone else, least of all on national television.

A bathroom with a gender sign on it that says, "who cares?"

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Trans bathrooms are a hot button issue right now. Conservative pundits argue that if trans people are permitted to use the women’s restroom, there will be a massive increase in rapes, child molestation cases, and peeping Tom incidents. Even though experts have already proven this notion to be false, this “predator myth” still stubbornly persists despite zero evidence to support it.

What the latest research does show is that not allowing trans people to use the restroom of the gender they identify is incredibly harmful to our children. In other words, the future of society is at stake and it’s up to us to ensure that we create a more inclusive environment for our youth.

The study found that ensuring the safety of trans students in high school bathrooms is essential to providing them with educational equality. Based on surveys of five schools in Michigan conducted in 2014, researchers found that trans students who didn’t feel safe in the bathroom generally didn’t feel safe at school, which could impact their grades and self-esteem.

High school is already a notoriously difficult time, but for trans students trying to figure out their gender identity, it can be even more difficult. What’s more is that high school students have considerably less agency and mobility than adults, which means that when they’re subjected to unsafe conditions, it’s a lot harder for them to do anything about them.

This research comes at an important time, as several U.S. courts are currently dealing with cases related to bathroom access for trans students. This research suggest that even the relatively simple solution of including gender-neutral bathrooms in schools can go a long way towards making these students’ lives a lot easier. That may not address the underlying social problems that make trans students feel unsafe in school bathrooms, but it can help those students get by as we continue to fight for trans inclusion.

A photo of a mosque in Chechnya.

A mosque in Chechnya.
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Russia is known for having regressive views towards homosexuality, but the republic of Chechnya (which is part of the Russian Federation) is taking things to another level.

Police there are suspected of having rounded up over 100 men “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” At least three have been killed, though specific details remain unclear.

The round-up began after a gay rights group in Russia applied for permits to march in a different part of the country. Although authorities aren’t releasing much information on the case yet, it’s very clear that Chechnya is not LGBT-friendly.

To give you a little background, Chechnya is a small region in Russia that has long been a thorn in the side to Russian leadership ever since Stalin. The region’s current leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is known for human rights violations, although until now, gay men were not targeted in large numbers.

Kadyrov’s spokesman, Ali Karimov, denied reports of the action, stating that there are no gay men in Chechnya, and that “it’s impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic.” But he went on to say that if there were gay men in Chechnya, “law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

It’s clear that the government of Chechnya is hiding something, and certainly has no love for its gay citizens. Outright denying these claims, which have been substantiated by several sources (including Russian federal law enforcement) is a weak smokescreen at best.

But claiming that there aren’t even any gay people to oppress, while dismissing them as some kind of pests who would have been killed by their own families, shows a complete lack of conscience on the part of Kadyrov. Unfortunately, the only thing that this proves is that it is still very, very dangerous to be gay in certain part of the world.

The YouTube logo.

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In its constant push to make YouTube into a mainstream, profit-generating machine, Google has (hopefully inadvertently) started blocking content by LGBTQ+ creators. The introduction of a “restricted mode” for the service is designed to make it more “family friendly,” allowing parents to feel better about their kids poking around YouTube, which can contain a lot of profanity, hate speech, and nudity.

The problem is that somehow or another, the system used to define what is restricted has flagged some videos from LGBTQ+ content creators. The implication seems to be that content by and for LGBTQ+ people isn’t “family friendly,” an outmoded way of thinking for sure.

According to Tyler Oakley, a gay content creator, YouTube is “often the first place many LGBTQ+ youth around the world see themselves and their stories shared and celebrated.” Representation, whether of the LGBTQ+ community or other marginalized groups, is hard to come by in mainstream media.

For the most part, YouTube has, until some recent changes, been a place where anyone can post content and be seen. And while it’s still true that anyone can post content, it appears that not everyone is being seen. This comes at a time when LGBTQ+ visibility is more important than ever before.

For the record, Google has never taken an outward stance against diversity or the LGBTQ+ crowd, so it’s unlikely that the system is flagging such videos intentionally. The system uses “community flagging” and other signals to filter out content. There are literally millions of videos on the platform, so Google uses a software system to streamline the process.

But YouTube is also a place where bigots gather, so it’s entirely possible that somebody figured out that those videos could be blocked by flagging them as inappropriate. It wouldn’t be the first time that trolls abused a system to punish people they don’t like.

Two protesters holding a rainbow flag that reads, "not my president."

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The day after Trump was elected, there were people protesting in cities across the country. People were protesting the day after that as well. You’ll also recall the protests that took place in airports across the country after Trump introduced his immigration ban.

It’s likely that this is going to be a mainstay for a while, as people, scared and angry about his winning the election, take to the streets to vent those frustrations. Trump has called it unfair. Giuliani has called the protesters cry-babies. They’re both wrong.

Protesting is a right that we all share as Americans, and when you build your campaign on hate and violence to the degree that Trump has, you have to expect that people are going to protest you. Trump lost the popular vote, yet won the presidency, just like George W. Bush did in 2000.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work. If Clinton had won the electoral college but lost the popular vote, Giuliani and his cohorts would be complaining about it for the next four years and then some.

But despite what anyone thinks, these protests are legal and constitutionally protected. It’s an effective way to show displeasure with the new president, who many Americans have reason to fear. Trump’s campaign, and his supporters, want to deny other Americans a whole slew of civil rights. Fortunately, activists and protesters will never let that happen.

The protests will likely continue for a while, but eventually they’ll come less and less often, as people become accustomed to the “new normal” of whatever Trump’s presidency will entail. That’s when we should start to worry, not now.

Protesting is a sign that people are socially and politically engaged. It is a sign that people are paying attention and that they care about what is happening in the world. How on earth is that a bad thing?