Nashville's LGBT Chamber, Metro Human Relations Commission put their heads together and came up with a poor idea

Let me begin with a disclaimer.

Pretty much upon leaving college and obtaining my first real job, I could pass for straight. I was never in danger of being clocked for playing for the other team. I have looked and dressed like the stereotypical wasp-ish male that Ms. Sulam wrote about a couple months ago until quite recently. Soulmate and I met while attending a college known for emphasizing academic prowess and the more pleasant aspects of Anglo-centric cultural conformity. I still take my tea at 4pm, relax to the works of P.G. Wodehouse and stay up very late to listen to test cricket from Australia on many a winter night.

No one knew I was really “Julie” on the inside, save for Soulmate and very close college friends. We were both brought up in an environment that emphasized keeping private matters private and not unnecessarily rocking a boat. We both supported the tribe from behind a curtain and, if asked, we told the truth about ourselves...but getting asked was a rare event. I thought the methods of many activists of the late 80’s and early 90’s were way too radical to win the fight.

I was wrong. They knew what they were doing, and I had a lot to learn about openly accepting my unrequested blessing. I am now a very open trans lesbian who has yet to understand the appeal of softball.

I freely admit to obtaining my first gig through the local “lesbigay mafia” back in early 90’s. I didn't look the part, but my fixer knew that Soulmate and I were family in need, and I repaid a brother in kind later on. It pains me to criticize anything or anyone advocating full and equal recognition of LGBTQ people in the workplace, but occasionally an idea comes around that just does not seem right.

The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Human Relations Commission jointly published a policy paper over the summer recommending a process to allow local government employees “to self-identify by sexual orientation and gender identity through an employee satisfaction survey,” according to the report.

The paper suggests the proposed survey will be conducted by a non-partial third party and would measure “subjective employee experiences” while allowing “other socio-demographic groups” an opportunity to also self-identify themselves. Citing input from the Centre for American Progress institute and the AFSCME public services union, the report advocates the need for a “voluntary” survey to address reported inequities in pay for LGBT employees compared to their peers and an allegation of “widespread discrimination” in the public-sector workplace.

“Allowing LGBT employees to self-identify will provide the information necessary to guide local government toward effective inclusionary policies,” the report says. “As the ‘It’ city, Nashville should strive for more than protection for its LGBT constituents and employees - it should aspire to equal recognition.”

Ok, that is all well and good at face value. But I remember being forced to read George Orwell’s “1984”...back in 1984...and a study of this policy paper brought to mind some disconcerting recollections of that cruelly imposed endeavour.

For example:

“Why measure? Quite simply, what gets measured gets done...The ability to quantify the number of LGBT employees allow organizations to track their progress over time, particularly as it concerns diversity benchmarks and ongoing self-assessments...It makes good sense to innovate existing data collection methods (or add new ones) to also track and gain a more complete picture of LGBT employees to significantly enhance diversity/inclusion initiatives.”

Ok, so is there some sort of plan to hire more LGBTQ people for local government jobs? If so, would that be the right move for the city to make?

“Moreover, the inclusion of an LGBT option for self-identification improves workplace climate and fosters a sense of inclusion.”

Umm...No. I believe that overplaying our hand tends to cheese folks off. I do not care much for boiler-plate bigotry in the workplace either and do subscribe to the “safety in numbers” philosophy, but too much LGBTQ flag-waving inside the workplace environment often leads to resentment and unnecessary accusations of special treatment.

Under the “Strategies for Measurement” section, the report suggests the use of “anonymous engagement surveys” and optional amendments to “confidential employee records” as a way to “identify and quantify the experiences of LGBT employees” such as the Federal government and a nationally recognized bank are currently doing.

That sounds a wee bit creepy at the very least...

“Access to this data must be restricted to specified personnel for defined workforce management and development purposes.”

Right. Good luck with that…

"These strategies for collecting LGBT self-identification also allow employers to solicit other sorts of employee information - for example, that related to physical and mental disability, veteran status or religious affiliation. In fact, companies that allow LGBT self-identification often include these other demographic options...capitalizing on the opportunities to learn more about their employees.”

Paging Mr. Orwell…

“A commitment to deep inclusion requires widening the definition of workforce diversity beyond the usual metrics...and necessitates the option for employees to self-define in a variety of ways…”

Deep inclusion? Necessitates the option? Danger, Will Robinson! DANGER!!!

“Veterans make up an estimated 7.3% of the adult population in Nashville...Additionally, the 2014 Religious Landscape Survey found that 71% of Tennesseans say that religion is ‘very important’ in their lives...For these reasons, both veteran status and religious affiliation should be included as other identification options for Metro employees.”

Veterans to the front of the government jobs and promotion queues? Agreed. But you do not need a special programme for that. Self-identifying religious people? Please…

“Allowing LGBT employees to self-identify will provide the information to guide local government toward effective inclusionary policies.”

Perhaps, but…

“Moreover, it would prove a useful tool for Nashville’s own LGBT Chamber of Commerce…”

Yes, I'm sure it would. Points for honesty here...

Legal protections and court decisions are sad necessities for us that should not be flaunted. We should recognize the need for such mechanisms in the same manner as recognizing the need for this country to retain a strategic nuclear deterrent to keep hostile forces at bay. We recognize the need, but would rather do without...thank you.

All persons should be able to gain and retain employment in the American workplace without compromising who they are, but is the proposed idea the way to go? It feels intrusive and does not pass the smell test at the very least. We do not have to potentially alienate the non-LGBTQ crowd by recognizing our community’s needs. We need a better idea from the Chamber and Commission. An idea that does not reek of techniques used by the former East German government.

The intention of both parties is correct, but the idea is quite poor. Please go back to the spiffy super-hetrodyne white board and try again.


Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. A graduate of The University of the South at Sewanee, she loves butterflies, strong women and the Austrian School of Economics. The views expressed by O&AN columnists are those of the writer and may not reflect the views of the editors or the publisher. Graphic via TNW.



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