No day without this gay

by John Michael Weatherly

Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day, and an organization called Join the Impact is encouraging supporters of gay rights to “call in gay” to work.  According to, the idea is to “take a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes.” 

My initial reaction was positive, and I looked into it a bit further.  After some research and contemplation I decided that this day would do more harm than good.

I am fortunate enough to work for a Tennessee-based company that appreciates me for who I am and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.  But even if they didn’t, would I be accomplishing anything by ‘calling in gay?’ 

Here’s how we, the gays, see this: I’m taking off work to show my employer and co-workers that I’m a valuable asset to the company even though I’m gay.   Are your employer and co-workers going to see it the same way?

Equality is just as much my concern as it is the next guy’s, so don’t think I oppose gay rights. I just don’t think we’re going about it in the right way.  We want people to see that we are the same as everyone else, right? If that’s the case, then why are we constantly separating ourselves?  Wouldn’t we be better displaying our normalcy by showing up and doing our jobs as usual? 

It seems as though our attempts at acceptance often have the opposite effect, and I refuse to shoot myself in the foot.

As you may imagine, I hear a lot of criticism for what others perceive as my lack of support for gay rights.  “John Michael, you don’t support any of these events. Do you just not support gay rights?”

Of course I support gay rights.  I just don’t need to wait for a ‘day’ to be active in seeking equality.  Nor do I need to “lead with my gay foot” to do so.  How do I fight?  I go to work, I do my job, I go to church; I basically do the same thing every other “typical” American does.  If we want to be accepted and treated the same as others, then we shouldn’t accentuate our differences so much.

Most people at my company don’t even know I’m gay.  No, I don’t hide the fact that I’m gay (uhm, I’m writing in the gay newspaper); It just hasn’t come up.  I go to work to do my job.  My job can be done by a straight person just as well as it can be done by a gay person.  It can be done by a woman just as well as by a man.  That doesn’t mean I’m not alert. 

There have been many occasions when someone has made an inappropriate comment or told a gay joke.  I simply, and calmly, say something like “that’s probably not appropriate,” because a) it isn’t appropriate, and b) the workplace is not the proper environment for political debates.

Were someone to ask me “are you gay?” I would reply “yes,” and move on.  If a co-worker is interested in learning more about that, he or she is more than welcome to contact me outside of business hours. 

Here’s the bottom line: I have a responsibility to do my job regardless of my employer’s political platform.  I’m fortunate enough to work for a supportive company that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, but even if they weren’t supportive, I would still have a responsibility to them.  My company, in this troubled economic time, needs all the work that I can give them right now.  If I take the day off, the chances are good that some very important work won’t get done.  What will I say?  “Sorry, Mr. Bossman, I was out gay that day?”

I understand that many of you believe in a Day Without a Gay and that many of you will be participating by missing work on Dec. 10.   In keeping with the intention of the event I hope that you will donate your time to a deserving charity.  But if you haven’t yet decided what to do next Wednesday, take a moment to contemplate: will ‘calling in gay’ really have a positive influence on my employer and co-workers? 

If you truly believe it will, then I applaud you for participating. But I’ll put my money where my mouth is.  If you need to contact me next Wednesday just call my office.   I’ll be fighting for equality just like every other day.

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