High Tech Gayzette
Newsletter for High Tech Gays and Their Associates of Silicon Valley
Words from the "Prez"
Recent events in my life have given me cause to reflect on gay pride in the workplace. ItÕs been a wonderful several years here in Silicon Valley. Despite ClintonÕs disastrous "donÕt ask, donÕt tell" policy, things have indeed changed for the better. IÕve been doing data systems contracting for a number of years. I was once fired from a well known aerospace defense company for being gay. Recently I had a chance to work for a refreshingly progressive company. There I was sitting in orientation, watching the overhead data projector view of the internal web page with all the corporate services. Up popped the list of employee groups and I recognized the link on the page leading to the gay employees group. I felt a form of pride as they explained issues as the same sex domestic partner benefits and the like. No one seemed uncomfortable. Probably the best scene yet was when we discovered that a division manager was the artist behind several shirts done for our group. The conference table in the room was huge. Someone asked if we needed to clear the conference table for runway model use and someone in my group did the infamous "snap" and shrieked "Work it girlfriend!". I thought back to the aforementioned aerospace firm and realized the same joke then would have gone over like the proverbial lead balloon. I note the decor of some of the offices and feel my "gayer" going off and I realize that in this environment no one worries about sexuality. Some people are unmistakably gay, but there is nothing blatant. We simply have no need to hide it. We are first and foremost colleagues in the same leading edge computer firm and if we happen to be gay, we just have no need to hide. We use closets to store spare parts. The gay group gathers every two weeks for lunch together and have a blast. No one gets upset if we get a little crazy sometimes.
Then I sadly remember that not all are as fortunate as I have been. Not all work in a tolerant, safe or supportive environment. I now ask this question; do you have a supportive employment environment?
I recall HTG involvement in the formation of several gay employee groups. Some of these groups still experience uphill battles. If your group is having problems, or if your employment environment needs to become more supportive and safer, perhaps HTG can help. In closing, IÕd like to remind everyone that safe, supportive and nurturing employment environments donÕt just happen, they are made.
Dinner at Fung Lum on South Bascom in Campbell just south of Hamilton. We can each select a dish and eat family style. Meet at 7 PM in the entry. No reservation is required.
HTG Board meeting at 8 PM at the Billy DeFrank Gay and Lesbian Community Center located at 175 Stockton Ave., San Jose.
Monthly meeting and potluck. Bring something tasty to share and ideas to express. Also at the Billy DeFrank Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
The EditorÕs Column
The communication that came to me this week and is published as a Special Editorial on the following pages seemed to cry out to be shared with the HTG membership. How many of us have tried to give blood and be embarrassed by being refused because we are gay? How many of us have donated blood and denied our true character by not admitting we are gay? Therein lies some of the absurdity of the FDA blood donor guidelines. Also, heterosexuals infected with HIV are not denied and, in some cases, support a drug habit by selling their blood.
What happens in the blood donor case is symptomatic of many other areas of life where gay and lesbian people are denied the most basic considerations of a civilized society. We are denied the rights of "traditional" family members like marriage, rights of inheritance, visitation rights at hospitals, child adoption, and even the right to raise ones own birth child. As we learned recently, we can be harassed by police for gathering outside a coffeehouse, walking to our cars after leaving a bar, even for working in a gay bar.
We like to think that conditions are getting better for gays, lesbians, bi- and transexuals. In some ways that is true but donÕt believe it so strongly that you let your guard down. There are people out there that hate you without even knowing you and hate you in the name of an eternal, loving God. Go figure! We need to be supportive of each other and truly be a community.
[The following article was submitted by a reader and publication permission was granted. The identity of his employer and himself are removed]
I work at XYZ Corporation where some lively discussion is going on regarding our companyÕs sponsoring of on-campus blood collections conducted by the Red Cross and local blood banks. The goal is noble: to assure an adequate blood supply. The problem: FDA guidelines disallow donations from any man who has had even one sexual experience with another man since 1977. The guidelines also prohibit bone marrow typing.
Some gay and bisexual men at XYZ object to the outdated and unscientific discrimination at work here. We, in this group, believe that this discrimination is invidious on its face and runs counter to XYZÕs excellent policies and track record opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.
Other members of the gay community at XYZ believe that weÕre making to big a deal out of this. They contend that we all benefit from a safe blood supply even if gay and bisexual men canÕt make donations and that on-site collections make it more convenient for donors and collectors to connect. Their positions are not invalid. We respond that we donÕt want to endanger the blood supply. We believe that our blood, as long as we are healthy and HIV-negative, should be welcome along with the healthy and HIV-negative heterosexual donors. We donÕt mind being excluded for scientific, lab-certifiable reasons. But for blood collection policies to say "no thanks" simply because we have not been celibate since 1977 seems more homophobic than constructive to us. We have initiated discussions with our HR staff who sponsors the on-site blood drives and representatives of the Red Cross and local blood banks. We have voiced our concerns and have had these responses:
+ The Red Cross representatives ac- knowledge that people have complained about the discriminatory blood donation guidelines. However, they declined to communicate those complaints to the parent organizations believing that to be "inappropriate".
+ Our corporate diversity manager has written to the FDA, which formulated the guidelines, to raise the issues that the guidelines cause at a company quaran-teeing non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. The FDA has not responded.
+ Our HR organization has allowed us to modify the wording for company-wide announcements of blood collections. The new wording voices support for efforts to convince the FDA to conduct a review of the current blood donation guidelines, while still encouraging employees to donate blood on site.
+ The on-site blood collections continue
Some of us believe the FDA has no incentive to change its guidelines. We wonder whether a decision by XYZ Corporation to suspend on-site blood-drives might provide an incentive. We believe this suspension can be justified by XYZÕs policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. We are concerned about the downside of such a move, but we are also frustrated and insulted that we are not permitted to join our co-workers in supporting our communities with blood donations. We believe that the guideline that disallows blood from any man who has had even one sexual encounter with another man since 1977 to be outdated, unscientific, and discriminatory. We believe it is unjust.
Has HTG ever taken a position on blood drives and their implicit discrimination against gay and bisexual men on the sites of companies that oppose such discrimination? Have any discussions or statements on the issue taken place in the HTG organization? Have any actions occurred at other companies? Do you know whether companies that support non-discrimination have addressed the discriminatory nature of on-site blood drives? Any anecdotes, pointers, or other help on this topic would be appreciated.
Many thanks in advance,
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