Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brody's Scribbles... Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto. Have We Made Progress Since 1971? (Part 7)

By Tim Trent (Dartmouth, England) MAR 10 | Continuing the series of articles analysing the 1971 Gay Liberation Front Manifesto and the progress we may have made in the 40 years since it was first released, today we look at the world of work. What has happened in the workplace to embrace simple human rights? First the segment of the manifesto, verbatim:
If our upbringing so often produces guilt and shame, the experience of an adult gay person is oppressive in every aspect. In their work situation, gay people face the ordeal of spending up to fifty years of their lives confronted with the anti-homosexual hostility of their fellow employees.
A direct consequence of the fact that virtually all employers are highly privileged heterosexual men, is that there are some fields of work which are closed to gay people, and others which they feel some compulsion to enter. A result of this control for gay women is that they are perceived as a threat in the man's world. They have none of the sexual ties of dependence to men which make most women accept men as their 'superiors'. They are less likely to have the bind of children, and so there is nothing to stop them showing that they are as capable as any man, and thus deflating the man's ego, and exposing the myth that only men can cope with important jobs.
We are excluded from many jobs in high places where being married is the respectable guarantee, but being homosexual apparently makes us unstable, unreliable security risks. Neither, for example, are we allowed the job of teaching children, because we are all reckoned to be compulsive, child molesting maniacs.
There are thousands of examples of people having lost their jobs due to it becoming known that they were gay, though employers usually contrive all manner of spurious reasons.
There occurs, on the other hand, in certain jobs, such a concentration of gay people as to make an occupational ghetto. This happens, for women, in the forces, ambulance driving, and other uniformed occupations: and for men, in the fashion, entertainment and theatrical professions, all cases where the roles of 'man' and 'woman' can perhaps be undermined or overlooked [here the original text is illegible so one may only guess the rest of the sentence].
A shame the final sentence of this segment was illegible. We could spend a load of time surmising about what was written there. Yet it is not important.
Employment, work, is something almost all of us are compelled to do if we want to survive in the world. It provides the wherewithal to continue to exist past the days when we were supported by parents or by other care systems if parents are not on the scene.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is both self evident and important:
Above the red layer comes employment, more importantly security of employment. I could have introduced Maslow into any of these articles. I simply choose to refer to his hierarchy of needs for the first time when discussing employment.
Looking back to 1971 the manifesto points out that the majority of employers are "highly privileged heterosexual men" and I would say that it is right about their being mostly male. I was nobbut a stripling of 19 back then, but I don't recall any significant female employers. Work was not outsourced to Asia, the UK and USA were manufacturing economies, more or less, with the drive for manufacturing supplied by the arms race of the cold war.
Were they all heterosexual, or at least the majority?
We have no idea. Homosexuality was societally inappropriate then, even after the UK's legalisation in 1967 of homosexual acts in private between consenting adults. We were, to quote Monty Python, in a world of "No Poofters".
The part about privilege is excusable because of the fashion conscious nature of protest in that era. Unless a movement was seen to be left wing it could not be a reputable protest movement at all. Although most employers, then and now, will tell us that they've worked damned hard to get to positions where they are employers and it is by no means a privilege, arguing for or against the word is a distraction. Bosses were, in general, male and, at least outwardly, heterosexual.
In the climate of the cold war, of espionage and counter espionage, being proof against blackmail was considered very important. Homosexual men were easy targets for blackmail, initially because it was unlawful, and, even when lawful, because it carried a social stigma. Homosexual men were thus a security risk to government departments. I knew when I joined the UK's Home Office in 1975 that being homosexual was going to disqualify me from employment. I worked in a medium secure area. I stayed silent on the matter
For all that the third paragraph is a rant about being excluded from teaching because of the hysterical fear that homosexual men are child molesters, something that has been disproven by the facts so often as to be risible, it disregards the facts which show many quasi-closeted LGBT men and women have served for years before and years after 1971 as teachers. There is a difference, of course, between those and the people who chose back then to be out and proud. Hysteria encourages discrimination.
In the short period between World War Two and the start of the 1970s witch hunts were common at work:
  • 1952 Sir John Nott-Bower, commissioner of Scotland Yard began to weed out homosexuals from the British Government at the same time as McCarthy was conducting a federal homosexual witch hunt in the US.
  • 1954 Alan Turing, an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist influential in the development of computer science committed suicide. He had been given a course of female hormones (chemical castration) by doctors as an alternative to prison after being prosecuted by the police because of his homosexuality.
So how have we moved, if we have moved?
In the European Community we may not discriminate on the basis, among other things, of sexual orientation. Each member nation has enshrined this in national law. Certain areas where a criminal record is a challenge may refuse to employ people with certain types of criminal offences. Sex offenders may not work with children (a generalisation which will suffice for this article). Homosexuals are not discouraged from applying for any roles. We conduct surveys to ensure that people are not discriminated against when seeking employment. I'm working at present on the UK 2011 Census. When I applied I self identified as a gay man on the application form. It made precisely no difference. That is as it should be.
This is one of the marks of a civilised culture. While Europe has not always led the way in civilisation, while there are far older civilisations with India, Greece, Egypt, Ancient Rome giving us a good few hints on how to be civilised, and how not to be, Europe makes sure that its citizens, not just its citizens, but those living within its many borders may not be discriminated against, may not lose their jobs for being homosexual, or being disabled, or being black, or being a woman. This is civilisation. This is civilised.
In the USA one may be dismissed for being homosexual.
Still, thats better than Saudi Arabia. There you can be executed.