Thursday, April 9, 2015

Some things really do never change...

I took a big leap out of the broom closet at work.  We have this newsletter that comes out once a month, and the editor asked everyone in the agency to submit a statement about what diversity means to them or why diversity is important to them.  Since we are a government agency they are always touting how important diversity is to them and how proud they are of their sensitivity to diversity and their diverse being my ever ornery self I had to push the button.

I submitted my statement as "Diversity is important to me because I am Wiccan, which is still not always widely accepted.  I feel by being more open about my spiritual beliefs, and allowing others to ask respectful questions, I am opening a door to allow them the opportunity to see Wicca as another thread in society’s web of diversity".  I thought it was good, the editor really liked it, and it got printed in the latest newsletter.  I wasn't really sure what kind of responses I would get.  I figured on a bit of stupidity, but I mean come on we are all adults here, right?

Oh dear gods it's like junior high all over again!  Between the ones who are whispering behind my back, to the ones who are now flat out scared of me it is freaking ridiculous.  Grow up people, I didn't just announce I sacrifice babies or something!  The worst though are the ones who claimed to have known it because they "sensed" it...but they aren't Pagan or Wiccan...Or the ones who have a friend who is Wiccan, and do I know them?  You know because we all must know each other...because there aren't like hundreds of thousands of us out there or anything /sarcasm.  Or even better..."I know this girl and she wears lots of flowery jewelry and stuff, do you think she's Wiccan?  I asked her and she said no, but I don't believe her."  Really?  How dense can you people really be?

The difference between junior high and now is I can totally laugh at the ignorance of people.  I think what makes it even more humorous though is with as much information is available at our fingertips it would take almost no effort for these individuals to become just a tiny bit informed before opening their mouths and sounding like complete dumb asses.  At least when a topic comes up that I am not informed enough to discuss I either research first or politely decline to comment.  Especially when it concerns something as important as someone's religion. 

The thing is not one person has asked me an intelligent question about my beliefs, and I would be more than happy to answer those.  So much for promoting a culture of diversity.  I think somebody has blinders on to what's really going on around here.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

If a tree falls in a forest...

Does it make a sound if there's nobody around to hear it?  That's always been an interesting question to me.  The answer to me has always been obvious, of course it does.  The same holds true for bullying and discrimination.  Just because the person it is directed at isn't around to hear it doesn't mean it doesn't matter or that it doesn't hurt.  There is always the possibility of the ripple effect, and words and attitude have a tendency to leak out into actions.

The reason I bring this up is I deal with a lot of people in my workplace, both internally and externally.  Externally the people I work with come from very diverse backgrounds.  This includes many people from the LGBTQ community.  The people I work with internally tend to be pretty conservative.  As you can imagine this makes for an interesting mix.  Now I understand that there are some people out there who still have very narrow-minded opinions on the LGBTQ community.  Some may eventually change their minds and some may not.  However, in a professional environment where the organization has made it clear that diversity is a priority it doesn't matter.  Everyone is to be treated with respect.

The issue comes in when it is learned one of our external customers is part of the LGBTQ community and my coworkers make inappropriate comments.  Now the comments are never made to the person in questions, but that doesn't matter.  Some examples of comments made are:

In reference to a person who is transgender and has transitioned from male to female: "what am I supposed to call them? he, she, it?"

In reference to a person who was in a heterosexual marriage and had children then divorced and entered a same sex marriage: "Wow! I bet those family gatherings are awkward" or "I feel sorry for those kids!"

I don't believe these comments are made maliciously, but rather out of ignorance.  The problem becomes whether they realize it or not it then can affect their interaction with them.  They may be more awkward on the phone, or more reluctant to provide the same level of customer service they provide to other people.  Again, it's not intentional, it's a subconscious thing based on the comments made.

And yes, this has been brought to the attention of management and human resources and additional sensitivity training is being designed as I type this up.  But I wanted to call this out in case you are seeing this in your own work environment and ask you to take the stand as well and bring it to the attention of your management and human resources.  Just because the discrimination and insults aren't said to the face of the person they are against doesn't mean it doesn't cause harm.