Saturday, May 05, 2007

Meritocracy rules

Today's Guardian article Outed in the City was an interesting read, and not just because there's a small quote from me about being with heterosexual colleagues in lap-dancing clubs!

I disagree strongly with Ivan Massow because he's quoted recommending that people stay closeted. On the other hand I agree strongly with the sentiments of Lee Marshall, an openly gay senior manager at Ernst & Young, where he says that "insecurities prevent [people] being open about their sexuality at work."

This is exactly the point I was making in yesterday's posting "The gay lifestyle black belt". This has got everything to do with the people's own personalities and their own confidence levels, and much less to do with the way other people treat them. Some people behave as though they're victims, and because that's what they expect, that the end result they get. In the language of yesterday's posting, the gay people at the highest levels of gay lifestyle competence have the opposite approach, and this genuinely makes them immune to homophobic behaviour so they're free to achieve their full potential.

It's true that some gay guys may leave the City because they're tired of homophobic comments and abuse. They've let themselves be victims, they've allowed any insults to hit their mark, so they're lacking one of the skills needed to succeed in that job. But to succeed in any modern job a huge number of skills are needed, and trying to pretend that everyone is able to do every job is plainly ridiculous. Meritocracy rules, and although most of the time everyone gets the same chance, the fact that everybody's skills set is different means that some jobs are not suitable for some people.

I also don't believe that gay people have an extra burden to carry. Everyone these days has to juggle a huge number of commitments. A gay guy who's not yet fully comfortable with being gay has one burden to carry, but then a straight guy who's got young children will have a lot of family pressures.

Being gay is just one aspect of our lives, but there are other aspects to the lives of people who're not gay. Everyone has lots of stuff on their plate. Just deal with it and stop whinging!


Anonymous said...

I think in an ideal world, everyone would be unfettered by homophobia, sexism, racism, etc. In this world, everyone, in the metaphors employed by the last two postings, would have returned to the white belt category.

But the world is not yet ideal. I don't know the statistics offhand, but I wonder if the rate of gay teenage suicides are comparable to, I dunno, suicides by young dads due to the stress of early fatherhood? (Motherhood is another thing and linked to sexism, I think, and gender roles.)

My point is that, taking the example of homophobic remarks in the office, pointing out homophobia to supervisors is not whinging, or 'less advanced' than the impermeable self confidence you described. There is collateral damage around homophobic remarks, so that even if the intended target is already immune by virtue of a transcendental self confidence ("sticks and stones..."), others around may not be similarly strong. Homophobic remarks perpetuate homophobia. Homophobia in turn creates hostile environments that could be potentially deadly for those who are not yet strong. Surely one would not send a babe into a battle? In the same way, those of us who are 'out there' and in positions of power might want to extend their aegis to 'protect' others, instead of adopting a libertarian "if I could do it so could you" stance.


Anonymous said...

I'm about to leave quite a senior city job, albeit in Sydney rather than the square mile. I'm not "out" but only because I don't make a big song and dance about my gayness - friends at work know I'm gay and others know or have guessed. On the one hand it would be easy to say I've hit some sort of pink plateau. On the other, and if I was more truthful, I've hit my own plateau and am on the verge of burning out... something which would have happened regardless of whether I'm gay or straight.


GB said...

I admit that the guy called Stephen, who left the first anonymous comment above, has made a good point. Homophobia has collateral damage to in relation to gay people who are not yet strong. But I still think that some people have a tendency to blame homophobia for things which are actually their responsibility. Certainly once people have reached what I called the gay lifestyle black belt level in the previous posting, I reckon it's all down to the individual.

GB xxx

close encounters said...

interesting issues ... but being flippant, how come your blog didn't get a link at the end of the guardian story ? you should demand your rights !

GB said...

Well spotted close encounters :-). The nice guys at The Guardian were very surprised when I stipulated that I DIDN'T want a link. I reckoned that since they were able to find me, my profile is probably high enough. I have lots of friends who read the Guardian, but I want this to remain an anonymous blog for as long as possible.

GB xoxox

close encounters said...

interesting tactic ... i guess you are relying on your friends being slightly lazy ??!