July 8th, 2004

Great day...

I sat on the panel today for the GLBT Education Module to about thirty managers. I always walk away from these sessions feeling like "this is one of my best days at IBM." Even though I've done this several times now, it always gets your heart rate up when you're actually addressing a room full of IBM managers, trying to tell them what it's like being a gay employee in IBM at RTP today.

I answered the question, "Why do you feel that the people you work with need to know you're gay?"

My response: "People need to know I'm gay not to the extent that I walk into a room and make an announcement, or blurt it out right when I meet someone, but to the extent that I don't have to lie about or hide things that I do in my life.

When you're straight, you don't have to worry about the possibility of the simplest of conversations implicating you as, or confirmaing that you are, straight. First of all, 99% of, if not all, people are assuming that you are straight, and secondly, there's not really a group of people who think that being straight's not okay. But when you're gay, and especially if you're in the closet, you do have to worry, and again, about the simplest of conversations.

For instance, I'm an avid two-stepper and line-dancer, and if I'm asked on Monday morning, "What did you do this weekend," I have to stop and think about how the conversation could go.

If I say, "I went two-stepping and line-dancing," the next question might very well be, "Oh, yeah? You must have gone to The Longbranch."

Now, at this point, I have to stop and think, "If I say yes, this person might say, 'I go to The Longbranch, too! I don't ever see you there. When do you go?'"

Then I'd have to think, "Gee I hope I pick a night that this person's not there." Or, "I wonder what nights they have two-stepping and line-dancing at The Longbranch. What if I pick a night that they don't even have dancing."

Then I could go home and memorize The Longbranch's schedule to get better at the lie the next time. But then, even if I get the night right, it might turn out to be a night that that person goes, and still "doesn't see me there."

Or up front, I could say, "No, I don't go there."

But that might lead to, "You don't? Where else is there in Raleigh to two-step and line-dance?"

To which I could answer, "Well, another bar downtown."

Which would lead to, "Really, which one?"

"Oh over on West St."

"On West Street, really? What's it called?"

Now it becomes obvious I'm being evasive.

"Flex," I could finally say.

At this point, I could try and end the conversation, or I could come right out and say, "It's a gay bar," or I could let them go look up Flex on the Internet and find out in the privacy of their own office that's it's a gay bar, or worse yet, I could wait until they show up next Wednesday or Saturday at Flex and find out for themselves. Not a good way to win friends and influence team mates.

So, for me, it's a choice between being honest with my team mates and colleagues, which builds trust, which is critical in building high performance teams, or I can choose to spend a lot of energy trying to hide the fact that I'm gay, which is irrelevant in the workplace; and if we all agree that it is irrelevent, why would we spend so much time and energy hiding it.

I stopped at Triangle Visions after to work to pick up my new glasses. While trying them on, I noticed that they are not completely round like I thought they were going to be. I'm disappointed, but not enough to "send them back." I believe I will eventually need clip on sunglasses for these glasses, because I was not able to order them to be "transition" glasses like my last ones -- changing automatically into sunglasses when necessary. I will try them for a while, though.

I arrived at Francesca's just before 6:00, the first one. I warned the help behind the counter that we were having a group of about ten, and told them what we were doing there. They thought it was cool.

They have expanded the place, and it looks real nice. They also had The Urban Hiker magazine there, so I took several copies to hand out to those coming. :-)

We all ordered our ice cream and we took 5 or 6 pictures holding up signs containing messages to Joy and Pam, who are getting married this Saturday in Massachusetts, and having an ice cream buffet (only) for their reception. Friends of theirs around the globe, who can't be there, are meeting at various ice cream places, or in each other's homes, eating ice cream in their honor, and sending them pictures for their wedding album. Cool idea, and we were happy to participate, even though we've never met them. We only know them through IBM's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Network Diversity Group discussion database. Even cooler.

I met Mike M. for dinner at Irregardless. I had the Morgan St. Chicken, which was delicious, but disappointing in the fact that I couldn't explicitly taste the Lemon Tahini dressing used in the batter they cooked the chicken in. And I had skipped my standard salad with the dressing (GOTTA have it) because of it.

We had no problem keeping a conversation going, as we have a lot of similarities in our lives. We were both married for 16 or 17 years, and have similar "coming out" stories. We talked about men (of course!), love, religion, work, living in the closet for so many years, how we met gay people, how we came out to our wives, etc. Good conversation.

I went home for about an hour, and then headed out to Trailer Trash. When I arrived, Mike was there, and David, Steve's friend, was talking to him. I assumed they knew each other, but as the night progressed found out that David had just gone up to him and started talking to him, which isn't surprising.

The three of us "hung out" all night, with a little bit of flirting, and lots of drinking. Mary K Mart was emceeing the show, so I didn't mind staying even after it started. At a little after 1:00, though, I was ready to go. As was Mike. David had gone into the bathroom. We waited nearly 10 minutes to say goodnight to him, but I got tired of waiting. "I'm going," I said, "I'll tell him when I see him next that I waited to say goodnight, but that it was taking too long." Mike said, "I'm going, too."