Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dear San Francisco...

It was three years ago this week that i accepted an invitation to a job interview, that along with a series of other events,  led to my finally leaving San Francisco that April, and moving here to London. 

(Now before the great city of London takes any umbrage at this post,  let me say that obviously moving here was one of  the greatest things ever to happen to me, on both a personal and professional level.) 

Yet there are nights like this one... where it is unseasonably warm for late January in London, and a slight fog hangs in air, when I do think of you, and you are missed.

Oh well...

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Ethics of "Outing"

The  progressive  blogosphere  has been  all a buzz over the past few days over the  potential "outing"  of a  Conservative Republican Congressman  as Gay.    The Young Turks  give us the  details...

The Congressman in question  is  Aaaron Schock of  Illinois,  who has faced  questions  about his sexuality in the past.   The initial posting by  Journalist Itay Hod, and  the  subsequent  coverage over on Americablog,  has  once again  put the issue  of  "outing"  on the front page of the LGBT blogs.    A number of people have asked me  what I thought about all this.    It's a complex question.

outing -ˈaʊtɪŋ  noun
  1. 1.
    the practice of revealing the homosexuality of a prominent person.
  2. "the outing of gays by the press" -
    synonyms:exposure, unmasking, uncovering, revelationexposé 

There are two schools of thought here, which can simplistically be described at the Privacy Argument and the Hypocrisy Argument.  The first is pretty simple to understand.   I don't know anyone  who  has come through the process of  Coming Out,  who couldn't tell you in vivid detail of the  terror, and yes that is the word for it;  The terror they felt at one time or another  that  they might be outed to  friends, family, employers or  anyone else for that matter,  before they were ready to  Come Out.   

It is a fear that  drives  many  LGBT people to  suicide.  The tragic case of  18 year old  Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after being outed by his roommate, is one of countless cases where  the result of either being outed, or  the fear of being outed has been a direct factor in the tragic death of  someone  who was Gay.

Consequently,  Outing is seen by many as a grotesque invasion of privacy, and something that  can never be justified.   I can appreciate that argument.  After all,  having faced that terror  for  years,  growing up, it  is something I would never want to intentionally  inflict on anyone,  even my worst enemy.    Which interestingly enough leads right into the counter argument for Outing.

It is the  argument  that outing people who are Gay,  but  who actively work against  LGBT rights, is justified.  people who live a double life of attacking LGBT people by day,  and sleeping with them by night.  People like George Rekers .  The prominent anti gay activist and proponent  of the discredited practice of   "Reparative Therapy".   (The idea you can change Sexual Orientation through religion-based counseling.)     A practice that has been directly responsible for the deaths of  uncounted  Gay and Lesbian youth, who in despair over being unable to change who there are, took their own lives. 

Rekers was outed by a reporter  when he returned from a European Vacation with a young gay male escort he had hired and taken with him on the trip.   So the argument goes  that the Outing of  people like Rekers, and  Congressman Schock,  is a justified response to their own hypocrisy, and the damage their actions have done to other LGBT people.  

Yet interestingly enough,  the  basic  issue  still remains the same.   Fear.    It is a fear of being outed  that  drives homophobia  in many  people.  Causing  some closeted  LGBT people to  act out in ways that  they feel will  help convince  others (and themselves),  that they are really straight.  They see their actions as the way to fight the feelings they are struggling with.  Feelings they desperately want to see as  just some sort of temporary  anomaly.  Research  has  shown that many of the  people who demonstrate the most pronounced  discomfort with  Homosexuality  are if fact  reacting to what  they fear most  in themselves.  

There are many who argue that  Congressman Schock's   100% record of voting against  LGBT rights, and his public pronouncements  against  equal rights  for  LGBT Americans  stands in such stark contrast to his personal conduct  behind  closed doors, that it warrants  public exposure.    I myself  blogged extensively  about  the Rekers scandal,   and at the time basically  said  that any public humiliation  and harm that  George Rekers suffered  as a result of being outed,  was not only justified but  far was probably far  less than what he deserved. 

So why I am feeling  squeamish about the outing of  Aaron Schock?      

 I don't really know exactly.   Part of me feels that   Schock is not  "important enough", to  warrant being outed.    One could argue that Schock has  never been the  deciding vote on any of the major issues we are talking about here.  His anti-gay actions, whatever the motivation,  have not prevented Illinois from becoming  a state where Marriage Equality is the law of the land.  

Yet, at the same time  I can understand why many people are opposed to giving Congressman Schock a pass,   if  he IS gay.  As  his  actions in Congress certainly reek of  hypocrisy.   I have known other  Republican politicians  who are Gay , or who I certainly believed were Gay,  and  often wondered how they  reconciled their public actions with who they truly  are.   It must be said,  Coming Out  is not easy.  It is a tumultuous and  at times terrifying  process of self acceptance and discovery.   

Looking back on my own  journey,  I can in partially empathize with  people like  Congressman Aaron Schock.  I was a College Republican until I finally left  the GOP in 1992.  When the anti-gay rhetoric and policies  became more than I could in my own deep dark closet, ignore.   Yet up to that point,   I had campaigned and voted for  Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush.  So  you could say, in my own small way, I helped enable the  massage damage  both those Presidencies  wreaked upon the LGBT community.    Yet  as with most things in life,  the issues we face, and  choices  we make when living in that state of constant fear,  otherwise known as,  "the closet",  are never as black and white as many would like to claim.

If Aaron Schock is Gay, I can only  hope he  realizes  what people like former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, and other people  who once  were driven by their own internalized homophobia  to work against  the rights of people just like them,  have discovered.   Coming Out is not only liberating,  but  you find a community that is first and foremost,  accepting and yes... forgiving.    

After all,  most of us  have been there too,  and can honestly say that  life  truly is better on the other side of that closet door.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Tempus Fugit... Time Flies- Farewell 2013, Welcome 2014!

We begin with a bit of trivia courtesy of Wikipedia...
"Auld Lang Syne" (Scots pronunciation: [ˈɔːl(d) lɑŋˈsəin]: note "s" rather than "z")   is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788   and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294).  The song's Scots title may be translated into English literally as "old long since", or more idiomatically, "long long ago",  or  "days gone by" or "old times". Consequently "For auld lang syne", as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as "for (the sake of) old times".
This year we actually managed to avoid the crowds in Central London and instead opted for a quiet New Year's at home watching the various celebrations unfold both here in London and around the world.

Reading  posts  on  the various social media   platforms,  it  seems there are lots of  people  around the world who are not  sad to see 2013 depart.   It has been a difficult  year for many.   Economic pressures  around the world, while  easing  somewhat  in places, remain  an issue for  vast  majority of people.  We have seen   a  largely  jobless recovery that  seems to be  benefiting a the top 1% far more  than  it has helped anyone else yet.   

For us,   2013  was not a bad year but  it was challenging.   My travel schedule  was  insane  having  started the year with a trip to Hong Kong,  then  hitting  the Middle East,  Central Europe,  North America,  then back to  Germany and Poland,  and finishing up the year last month  back in Hong Kong.   Thankfully   2014  promises to be  a year  of  considerably  less  business travel.

One bright spot this year were  dramatic  changes in the US  around the issue of Same Sex Marriage,   along with our own  American wedding, in  San Francisco  last July. (We were already legal spouses here in the UK through our Civil Partnership)   Consequently, a question  we have been asked regularly this year, is  will be  be moving back to the United States?    

That is  a complex issue and frankly, there isn't a simply yes or no answer to that.     Yes,  we would like at some point,  to move back to the  U.S.,  but  No,  we don't  know  exactly  when that will be. 

Also,  we look across the pond  and see the state of  affairs back  in the United States,  and frankly it doesn't  inspire an overwhelming  rush to pack up and move back.   The end of 2013 saw the  Republican Party  double down on the  Obama Derangement  Syndrome  that has defined  them  for the last 5 years.  A move that   has accomplished nothing,  other than critically damaging the GOP's  chances of  ever again being a national governing party.

Yet stupidity cloaked in political ideology is not solely an American prerogative.  Here in the United Kingdom,  Britain's own  version of the  "tea party"  are  the  folks over  at  the United Kingdom Independence Party or  "UKIP".    Like their  Duck Dynasty loving cousins  across the pond,  UKIP has  decided that  trying to make voters scared of  people who are not  white anglo-saxons  is the best way  to  take votes  away from  Britain's  Conservative Party.    The effort  however, rather  like a Sarah Palin Book tour, has not been going well.


We are optimistic  about  2014 though.   It  will be a year  of  big changes for  Eric and myself.   Later this month  I will  leave my current  role with  Buro Happold  after a wonderful 3 years as their head of  Learning and Development,  and move on  to an exciting  new role  leading global L&D efforts back in the  Financial Services sector.  It is in many ways  coming full circle  for me.  Having had my first senior role  in Corporate  Learning years ago, with  the global  Dutch bank  ABN  AMRO.   

In wishing a Happy New Year to all our  friends and family around the world,  we  are so  grateful  for  your love and  friendship.  To our  families  in  the United States in  New Jersey,  Wisconsin and California, in Malaysia,  in  Kuala Lumpur and  Malacca and  here in  the UK in North London.  We  love you all and hope to see  more of  you  in  2014.

To our incredible "extended family", our  friends  scattered  all over  the globe.   We think of and miss you all.    From folks back in LA and San Francisco, CA  to  Dallas, Houston and  San Antonio TX,  Omaha NE,  Chicago, IL,   Madison and Milwaukee WI, New York, NY,    Knoxville, TN,  Seattle, WA,  Portland, OR,   Latrobe, PA., Winchendon  and Wilmington, MA.  Columbus and Dahlonega GA.  Sydney and Melbourne  Australia,  Osan, South Korea, Hong Kong,  Toronto, Brussels, Kuala Lumpur , Amsterdam,  Lisbon and Sao Paulo , and of course here in London.   To name only a few of  the corners of the world where  we are blessed to have  amazing  friends.  

 To all of you  we  can only say how much we hope to see you  at some point in 2014, and remind you  that  we do have a rather nice guest room here.... just  sayin'...

Happy New Year  Everyone.   Here's  to  2014!  May it bring  all that  you hope for, and more.


David & Eric