Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Celebrating Diversity

I'm all for diversity. Really, I am. I feel I'm not racist or sexist, in spite of the fact that I personally live a very "traditional" lifestyle with a wife who stays home with the kids, with myself being the primary bread winner. These two "-ists" are the ones, I believe, that really count in this world, because at the time of a person's birth, one can not choose one's own skin color or gender.

I even feel pretty confident in my ability to appreciate other ethnic cultures. While I don't quite understand why the Chinese New Year or Cinqo de Mayo are such big affairs, I respect people's rights to celebrate and to enjoy themselves on these days. In addition, even though I am not a drinker of alcoholic beverages, I would not dream of denying the Irish their right to imbibe (extensively) on St. Patrick's Day. It's their culture, it's their thing, it's their celebration. Fine. This form of diversity is more about cultural tradition, and this I get. As I respect others rights in this regard, I expect others to allow me to celebrate my own observances as I desire (Pioneer Day anyone?).

When things get a little out of hand, I believe, is when people begin to celebrate "diversity" in the guise of behaviors. To me, the lengths that some people go to in order to find an excuse to celebrate often border on ridiculous. Even so, most of the time, it doesn't bother me when I hear about months or days being set apart to recognize specific things related to stuff that people do. Just in the month of June, for example, we have Black Music Month, Go Skateboarding Day (June 21st), International Surfing Day (near the summer solstice), even Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 25th). These are days that are "quietly" celebrated by people who are interested in these things.

Today, however, I received an email via my work encouraging me to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. As I have extensively said before in this space, I do not feel that I am homophobic; in fact, I have many co-workers whom I see every day that live that lifestyle, and I have a respectful and courteous relationship with them.

Even so, I believe it is very inappropriate for my place of work to advertise this particular observance in an email that is sent to every employee. Again, I'm cool with diversity, but this is not one of the "-ists" or a cultural observance, and can't even be classified under an "American Heritage Event", which is coming up in a few days. This is a celebration of behavior that I do not appreciate, support, or agree with. To me, it's like celebrating alcoholism or adultery -- people are free to engage in said behaviors, but you can't reasonably ask me to support or celebrate it.

The message I received begins:

Message from the Acting Administrator -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

During the month of June, NASA is joining other organizations throughout the United States to observe Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.

LGBT Pride Month commemorates the events of June 1969, when patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that was all too common for members of the LGBT community during that era. Celebrating LGBT Pride each June commemorates this act of rejecting discrimination and standing up for the American values of fairness and equality.


(Okay, I get this, and I believe in people's right to be free from harassment. Nevertheless, the reasons for the harassment were the result of elected behavior as practiced by those who were harassed, not due to some innate feature of their persons. This doesn't excuse the harassment in the least, but the scenario is hardly akin to those who were forced to drink from a different drinking fountain because of their skin color, something about which people have no choice. The email continues:)

This month-long observance gives all of us an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of LGBT Americans and celebrate the many contributions members of the LGBT community make daily to the fabric of American life.

Members of the LGBT community contribute to the richness of our diversity as a country, playing vital roles in all aspects of our nation, including here at NASA today and throughout the history of the space program. LGBT people like Todd Hawley, co-founder of the International Space University, and atmospheric scientist James Pollack have made important contributions that we all have benefitted from.


(Okay, but is this saying that these people were able to serve in these vital roles because they are gay? Or in spite of them being gay? When you get right down to it, does it really matter that they are gay when it comes to performing their work duties? Do I really need to know? To me, the very fact that they are calling out these people's sexual orientation is somewhat demeaning and lessens the importance of their contributions. It's like, "Hey, look, they're gay, and see what they can do! Isn't that special!")

LGBT Pride Month is a reflection of NASA's commitment to inclusiveness across the broad spectrum of our workforce. NASA strives to be a model employer by ensuring it adheres to the principles of inclusion. These principles include fairness and respect for the many different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences of our employees. We are committed to practicing these principles in all facets of our work.

(So are we talking quotas here? And what about my perspective as one who doesn't approve of the gay and lesbian lifestyle?)

At NASA, we value and acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in working toward the success of our agency. I encourage you to participate in the programs and activities planned at your NASA center in your community for LGBT Pride Month. If there aren't yet planned events at your center, I encourage you to organize one. Take time to learn about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, and celebrate the diversity that has helped shape and strengthen NASA and our nation.

Christopher J. Scolese
Acting Administrator


Yeah, like that's going to happen. There's no way I'm going to throw a party to celebrate a behavior that I feel is morally wrong. Absolutely no way. And I'm expected to go identify people who are gay or lesbian just so I can celebrate their accomplishments? Am I really being encouraged to nose around and find out about people's sex life? Sure sounds like it ...

The whole announcement just seems so ... off. Let's try this. Let's replace "gay" with "married white heterosexual male", and the historical entry with a different one and see how the announcement reads:

Message from Me -- Heterosexual, Married, White Male Pride Month

During the month of November, NASA is joining other organizations throughout the United States to observe Heterosexual, Married, White Male Pride Month.

HMWM Pride Month commemorates the events of November 2008, when married, white male members of the heterosexual community resisted public harassment that was all too common for members of the HMWM community during that era. Celebrating HMWM Pride each November commemorates this act of rejecting discrimination and standing up for the American values of fairness and equality.

This month-long observance gives all of us an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of HMWM Americans and celebrate the many contributions members of the HMWM community make daily to the fabric of American life.

Members of the HMWM community contribute to the richness of our diversity as a country, playing vital roles in all aspects of our nation, including here at NASA today and throughout the history of the space program. HMWM people like John Glenn, the first American man to orbit the Earth, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, have made important contributions that we all have benefitted from.

HMWM Pride Month is a reflection of NASA's commitment to inclusiveness across the broad spectrum of our workforce. NASA strives to be a model employer by ensuring it adheres to the principles of inclusion. These principles include fairness and respect for the many different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences of our employees. We are committed to practicing these principles in all facets of our work.

At NASA, we value and acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of our heterosexual, married, white male employees in working toward the success of our agency. I encourage you to participate in the programs and activities planned at your NASA center in your community for HMWM Pride Month. If there aren't yet planned events at your center, I encourage you to organize one. Take time to learn about the contributions of heterosexual, married, white male Americans, and celebrate the diversity that has helped shape and strengthen NASA and our nation.

Christopher J. Scolese
Acting Administrator


Hmm, sounds so innocuous, doesn't it? Yet you can bet that if there were even such a thing as Heterosexual, Married, White Male Pride Month, there would be all sorts of public debate about it.

Diversity is good; I wholeheartedly agree. Just don't expect me to celebrate behaviors that I find to be morally reprehensible.

2 comments:

Melissa said...

I SO have something to say about this when I get time to update my blog. I totally agree with you. I am so sick of having whether or not somebody is gay be such a big deal. I don't care! Why does it matter? I don't need to know! A guy was just on Oprah and said he was gay and then went on to talk about his addiction to debt. What the heck does being gay have to do with that? Adam Lambert just announced he was gay, but said he doesn't want to be a crusader for gay rights, but just wants to make his music. I say right on. He probably wouldn't have said anything if people wouldn't have hounded him about it.

Kirk Sorensen said...

Roy you are absolutely right.

You wrote almost word-for-word what I had composed in my mind and thought about sending up the "food chain" to my NASA superiors.

Whatever your opinion about homosexuality might be, the fundamental fact is that it is UNPROFESSIONAL to discuss people's sexual lives in the workplace.

Fundamentally unprofessional.

Scolese is out of line for sending us this email and should retract it and apologize for bringing up private, personal behavior and lifestyle choices in the workplace environment.

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