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ExxonMobil Says No Gay Rights Without Legislative Intervention.

May 22, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Featured

Boycott ExxonMobilBefore 1999, Exxon and Mobil were two different companies. Mobil was generally progressive on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employment rights and had a fully inclusive employment non-discrimination policy. By that, I mean their policy prohibited discrimination in employment matters based upon sexual orientation AND gender identity.

Unfortunately, progress took a hit with Exxon Corp’s purchase of Mobile Corp 11 years ago. Exxon’s employment policies were not inclusive of sexual orientation or gender identity. Essentially, without such a policy, LGBT employees of ExxonMobil could be fired simply because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  This sparked a boycott of the newly created company, ExxonMobil. Unfortunately, time took its toll on the memories of LGBT people and our allies. Not only did we fail to relay this tidbit of gay history to our youth, but we altogether stopped talking about it – kind of like the Exxon Valdez oil spill for which the company still hasn’t paid.

Recently, GetEQUAL has offered a reminder of gays gone by and launched protests outside of ExxonMobil stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After the first protest, organizers for GetEQUAL contacted ExxonMobil to request a policy change. The response from the Vice President of Investor Relations was telling. In a few more words, which I’ll quote shortly, he essentially said that ExxonMobil will only change the policy if they are forced to do so by law, or to put it another way, “go ahead faggots, make us.”

Here’s what ExxonMobil had to say, in their own words:

Where we [ExxonMobil] operate in countries in which the national laws require specific language regarding nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity be included in policies, we have amended our policies as appropriate.

Seems where there’s no law, they aren’t going to bother.  The battle line has been drawn and it is obvious that a full scale, vocal boycott of ExxonMobil is in order. This time, may we not forget.

I implore you, dear reader, grab your friends and your signs and head to the nearest ExxonMobil station. Make fliers to hand out at local events encouraging others to do the same. While we fight for full equality legislatively, we must also do so with the power and force of the free market. Together, we are millions of dollars lost.

Glee Creator Calls for Newsweek Boycott: Gay Actors Can’t Pass in Straight Roles

May 12, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay

Newsweek Boycott?Before the world knew that Neil Patrick Harris was gay, we graciously accepted his heterosexual role as Doogie Hauser and his brilliantly hyper-masculine performance in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.  However, according to a recent Newsweek article, gays just can’t play the role of straight people and pull it off.

The Newsweek article, written by a gay man, Ramin Setoodeh, claims:

…the truth is, openly gay actors still have reason to be scared. While it’s OK for straight actors to play gay (as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain), it’s rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse.

In a recent letter to Newsweek, Glee creator, Ryan Murphy, called for a boycott of the magazine and demanding an apology stating:

This article is as misguided as it is shocking and hurtful. It shocks me because Mr. Setoodeh is himself gay. But what is the most shocking of all is that Newsweek went ahead and published such a blatantly homophobic article in the first place…and has remained silent in the face of ongoing (and justified) criticism. Would the magazine have published an article where the author makes a thesis statement that minority actors should only be allowed and encouraged to play domestics? I think not.

In response to the call for a boycott, one misguided commenter had this to say:

No matter what the gay will always bring that fact in front.  They have all this media dedicated to them, awards that they only award to them and many other things.  So when a gay dude do something he is no longer doing the part, he is also promoting homosexuality, all the gays appreciate him. [sic throughout]

The seeds of homophobia were planted eons ago and ring clear in this commenter’s remarks.  To the heterosexists, every action a gay person takes is simply to promote being gay.  In last night’s Glee, Kurt summed this up nicely, “I am not a box. There are more than four sides to me.”  This complexity of the human condition has been summarized over and over again, including in my favorite quote of Walt Whitman that I invoke far too often:

Do I contradict myself, very well then, I contradict myself.  I am large. I contain multitudes.

But to the heterosexist, gays are nothing more than gays.  We are not complex humans, but merely sexually deprived persons seeking to push our agenda on the rest of the world.  If we were to sit quietly reading a newspaper in the park, heterosexists would run a T.V. special on “Perverts in the Park” – a show which was handled by KENS-TV Channel 11, San Antonio, in 1996.  In fact, shortly after the airing of the “Perverts in the Park” segment, a male friend and I decided to spend the afternoon at the park walking the hiking trials.  As we entered the park by car, a group of people took note of two men, came running toward the car screaming “perverts,” and wielded signs with further derogatory comments.  Our day of hiking was spoiled because we were no more than one-side of a box – the homosexual side.

What we seem to be complaining about with the Newsweek article is that it perpetuates this idea that gays have no depth outside of our sexual orientation. We are simply faggots, queers, perverts and sinners – a class of person which deserves no respect.  The article’s point, simply put, is that an out gay actor cannot be accepted in a straight role.  In that respect, it is true. The majority cannot perceive “gay” people as much more than just “gay” people (just look to votes on same-sex marriage rights, the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell if you won’t take my word for it).

While an out gay actor may have the range and ability to play it straight, heterosexists cannot see past sexual orientation.  This is not the fault of the character playing gay, it’s the fault of the social stigma associated with being gay.  Once a person is out, they are all too often exclusively defined by their sexual orientation.

In fact, sexual orientation is such a defining matter when it is anything but “heterosexual” that there is no need for confirmation from the queerly-accused before society starts scoffing.  Take Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, as an example.  While we’ve heard a bit about her judicial experience, pro-international law viewpoint and go-go executive branch policies, we’ve mostly heard accusations or denials about her sexual orientation.  Even the White House has intervened, stating that Kagan is not gay.  So, why the big uproar?  Because, as politicians know too well, if Kagan is gay, she is nothing more to the majority of Americans.  Her talents, education and abilities cease to matter and her sexual orientation is the only defining factor needed to deny her a position on the highest court of the United States.

Ancestry.com Evolves with the Definition of Family

December 10, 2008 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, LGBT News

Murmurs of an ancestry.com boycott have been breezing through the LGBT blogosphere and community since late last week when an ancestry.com user, James Helms, attempted to add his same-sex partner, Devon, to his family tree using the online version of ancestry.com’s Family Tree Maker.  After unsuccessfully attempting to add Devon to his family tree without labeling Devon as his “wife”, James emailed ancestry.com’s member support department.  The response from Spencer at Member Services added fuel to the already raging fire in the LGBT community:

Please note that same-gender relationships are unable to be entered in our genealogy software (either the Online Family Tree of [sic] the Ancestry Family Tree). This is because genealogy trees are intended to trace biological relationships or bloodlines. As two persons of the same gender are unable to have biological children, they cannot be entered as spouses or partners.

James later posted the text of the emails on the forum at gaywallet.com and the blogosphere responded noting, accurately, that adoptive children are not biological relatives and can be added to the family tree and spouses with no children can be added in spite of a lack of biological relationships.

Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network (the parent company of ancestry.com) stepped forward in a telephone conference with jaysays.com to clarify the company’s position on representing same-sex relationships in the family unit.  When asked whether the company intends to release an update to ancestry.com so that same-sex relationships can be recognized, Mr. Sullivan stated,

Our desktop software application called Family Tree Maker, which [in addition] to ancestry is one of our key businesses, is built in a way that permits this, and we’ve recognized for some time that we absolutely want the service to reflect how anyone defines spousal relationship or how anyone defines a family.

He added that they expect ancestry.com to support same-gender relationships and all family stories by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Mr. Sullivan acknowledged that there has been a healthy debate within the genealogical community as to whether a family tree should be representative of the biological lineage of a family, or the family’s story and attributed the response from member support to this debate.  He further stated that ancestry.com is attempting to “evolve” their service to allow people to build their family story online.

Mr. Sullivan wanted the record to be clear with respect to the ownership of ancestry.com,

We [The Generations Network] have absolutely no ownership affiliation with the LDS Church.  We have a very diverse management team.  We are owned primarily by a private equity investment group in the bay area called Spectrum Equity Investors and they, sort of partnering with the management team about a year ago, did a buy-out of the company.

He went on to state,

[This company and I] are absolutely committed, absolutely committed, to having our service be a welcoming and appropriate venue for anyone to define their family the way they choose to define it without bias.  I would view any call to boycott ancestry as based in misunderstanding, miscommunication and misinformation.  And we are absolutely committed to supporting same-gender relationships full stop, period.

The San Francisco Chronicle has provided a searchable database of all contributors to the Proposition 8 campaign.  A search of the top executives for The Generations Network revealed that no executive individually made contributions to the Yes on 8 Campaign.

Author’s Note and Commentary:

There are many lessons to be learned from the call to arms against ancestry.com.  The most pressing of which is that Customer Service Representative’s personal ideology and not necessarily corporate policy may influence their response to questions involving the LGBT community.  Like most, I was infuriated by the response from the member services department and was ready with my figurative pen to fight the battle for equal recognition.  I almost allowed my fury to negate my reason.

In doing research for this story, I expected that I would be writing a piece about the evil corporation who defines the family unit as a biological unit with no consideration for same-gender relationships.  I expected another notch to be placed in the column for “hate institution.”  Instead, I found a company that is evolving in such a way that we can all share our family story.