I Haven’t Been Fired For Being Gay, Yet

Being who you are, for most, doesn’t come with a cost. Everyday folks talk about their spouses, or boyfriends or girlfriends, without fear of retribution, especially in the workplace. But for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, you could be fired, for just being gay. 
Years ago, while I was working for the Chandler Public Library, I was out to a few coworkers, but not out system-wide. I was approached by a coworker who knew I was gay, and asked if I would speak at the first annual Teen Leadership Conference about being homosexual. The theme that year was “Talking about Tolerance” – and they wanted speakers to speak on their panel from all sorts of walks of life. They were looking for diversity, and despite being a white man, from a middle-to-upper class family, I fit the bill. 
When my coworker asked me to speak at the conference that year, I was hesitant. The law, as it stood then and as it stands now, was that being gay could get you fired; and not just gay, but even perceived to be gay. But I knew how important it was to be there for the teens. They needed a speaker from the LGBT community, and after some thought, I agreed.
I asked my coworker to give me 24-hours before she told anyone that I would be speaking as an openly gay person. I then took that time to do what I could do to protect myself. I joined the Union (which, up until then I wasn’t a part of) and updated my resume. I did these two things because though I knew the law, as it still stands today, says I could be fired for being gay, I at least hoped that the union would protect me should it come to that. And updating my resume was my plan B, as I would most certainly need a new job if I got fired for discussing gay.
When I spoke that year at the conference, I was nervous at first. There were over a hundred teens staring at me, as well as many of my coworkers and my boss. My nervousness gave way, though, as I got into my prepared speech. When I was finished, I took questions from the teens, and even one of my coworkers.
I talked about how I have always used gender ambiguous pronouns when discussing guys I was seeing. For instance, if a coworker asked what I was doing that weekend, I would say, I was going on a date with a great person. Not a great guy. I would let them assume that it was a girl, all because it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. 
The Monday following the conference, I was received an internal “star” award from my boss. She said it took guts to talk about being gay, and she was proud of me.
 And I was proud of myself.
I wasn’t fired then, and made that decision from that point forward, regardless of where I worked; I would openly gay in the workplace. When I interviewing for a bar tending job in Virginia, I said I was gay in my interview. I did the same thing when I was interviewing to be a columnist for Arizona State University’s newspaper, the State Press. I haven’t been fired for being gay, but I could be. It’s a fear I constantly face.
For over thirty years now, the United States Congress has had on their back-burner, a bill called the Employee Non-Discrimination Act; also known as ENDA. It has been dated, and voted on several times over the past several decades, but still has not passed. 
Frankly, I should be. And that is why I am very proud that this legislative session, my Congresswoman, Ms. Kyrsten Sinema, is sponsoring the bill. The bill needs to be passed. Congresswoman Sinema just sent out an email to her supports asking them to sign a petition so they can get this bill passed. I signed it. You should too.
The law, as it stands now, says that you can be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The bill, as it stands now, would protect folks from various sexual orientations and gender identities. It’s fully inclusive of the LGBT community, and needs to be passed.
Because in this economy, folks should not fear being who they are in their workplace – being open and comfortable about whom you are, makes you a more productive worker, and everyone’s workplace should be a safe place.
I have been lucky that I haven’t been fired yet for being gay, but this post, or me putting up a picture of me with someone I am dating, or talking about an ex-boyfriend or current boyfriend, could get me fired. All for being who I am.
_____________
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