I work in a large European multinational. One day last year I opened an email from the employee advocacy department. Attached was a PDF with a page dedicated to “my gender, my pride”. It explained “the road to LGBT normalization” and advertised the organizational “pride activities”.
This propaganda was not my cup of tea. I emailed a protest to the author and I posted a critique on a private Facebook group for 450 colleagues. I began with a disclaimer. I said that I esteemed all of my colleagues and that I was criticising the ideas inspiring the PDF.
My first point was that celebrating “pride” is problematic. Celebrations are quasi-religious. Don’t we celebrate Christmas and Easter, for instance? Framing unbridled sexuality as holy is dangerous. And pride, in classical religions, is always treated with caution. Remember Achilles or Oedipus or Icarus or Xerxes? The Greeks and Romans knew that pride can be arrogance; pride can lead to disaster. It needed to be balanced by a humble recognition of one’s own fallibility. There is little of that on display in celebrations of “pride” nowadays.
Second, I objected to labels like “gay” or “straight”. These say little about the whole person. In any case, my organization promotes the Rainbow flag and the Progress flag to communally guarantee that everyone is safe and free to express their sexual preference.
Certainly individual safety is important, but I have the feeling that this “Pride” is really about power, power over the consensus. The organization is open to a broad range of gender expressions, but at the same time it will not tolerate traditional views on sexuality. Paradoxically, under the flag, individual safety to freely express one’s view on sexuality is at risk.
Third, the LGBT movement presents the rainbow lifestyle as rosier than it is in reality. What about drugs, sexual extremes, pornography, and sex parties? Some people suffer trauma from sex experiences and transgender operations which they deeply regret.
Some colleagues replied to my post. Some were reasonable; others called it homophobic and transphobic. The Diversity and Inclusion Manager informed me that someone had filed a complaint; the colleague was reluctant to work with me.
My guideline for tense situations like this is to always go for interpersonal dialogue, preferably one on one (possibly with an independent observer). “Let me talk to him,” I told my manager. Unfortunately, this never happened.
The Diversity and Inclusion Manager told me that his department had filed a complaint about the content of my post, although not about me personally. I responded that I should have been supported, as I actually represented a minority view in the organization. But diversity and inclusivity only move in one direction. Inclusion has become exclusion.
I asked if “diversity” and “inclusivity” could ever mean using different symbols than the rainbow flag or the progress flag. The answer was No.
Then my manager stepped in to follow up on the complaint. He patiently explained that I was not allowed to question the “progress flag” at work. The reason was that people would feel unsafe to be whoever they wanted to be, thereby conflating ideology and individual safety. Outside work-related domains, however, I could say and post whatever I liked. He also rebuked the Diversity and Inclusion Department for their rigidity in handling my case.
And then the incident faded away. I was more cautious; my colleagues were more respectful.
This clash with the corporate culture and my conversation with my manager was very educational for me.
There is a vast difference in perspective between individuals and management. Normally people care about each other’s welfare, but corporates limit themselves to affirming choices. Healthy or unhealthy, sad or happy, confused or structured — just let people be who they are or think they are.
But — without wanting to read too much into this encounter — “be whoever you are” carries a lot of philosophical baggage. The way people act is constantly changing, while their being is unchangeable. What does it mean “to be yourself”?
Insisting that you can be anything you want to be – that can be scary. When I pointed out to my manager that the suicide rate of transgender people is 19 times higher than normal, his answer was astonishing. That’s not necessarily bad, he said. That’s just how things go and it’s their choice. Whether or not that statistic is correct, his response was terrifying. Do we just have to accept that some people are doomed to unhappiness? Is this what corporate diversity and inclusion means?
The positive feature is that management does want people to feel safe at work. The negative feature is that it sanctions a life of limitless experimentation with completely unknown results. The goal is not happiness but a bogus authenticity.
So here is what I learned from my experience in questioning the corporate consensus. First, candid posts on Facebook are imprudent. Second, many of my colleagues supported my position — but they stayed quiet about it. Third, my openness and respectful dialogue was interpreted very positively. The higher-ups saw that I was acting with good will. Fourth, everyone realised that the notion of a cheery consensus on the LGBT narrative is an illusion. Within the organisation there was a loyal opposition.
Would I risk posting another challenge on Facebook? After all this pain, perhaps not. As they say, the process is the punishment.
The author works for a European multinational. He has launched an on-line discussion and support group for people who feel threatened by an LGBTQ consensus in their professional environment. Contact him for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.