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You are currently browsing the Talking Cultural Diversity blog archives for May, 2011.

It Gets Better

By Kimberly Lord - 05.20.2011

While watching evening TV with my kids recently, I’ve come across a 90-second spot called It Gets Better sponsored by Google. It features a number of different pop culture celebrities and other not so well known people addressing the fact that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender gets better as you get older.  The call to action is stated on the project’s website . “Many LGBT youth can’t picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults.  They can’t imagine a future for themselves.  So let’s show them what our lives are like, let’s show them what the future may hold in store for them.”

The TV commercial spawned several conversations with my kids, niece and nephew about how being gay is in high school today is different than it was when I was in school twenty-plus years ago. Then I asked one of my dearest friends from high school, who has been with her partner for 17 years – “has it gotten better?”  Her response was so insightful I’m compelled to share it here:

I had no knowledge that living with a woman would be in my future when I was in high school, so I didn’t have the hard high school experience as many do.  I did struggle enormously with my new-found “identity” when I realized I might be gay.

It took me about ten years to come through that process and land where I am now, by which I mean, fully accepting of myself, happy, healthy and completely at ease with the world.  When I think of why it’s gotten better, there are two components: Society is more accepting and I am fully out.

Society is more accepting: While it’s certainly true that the fundamentalists continue to raise holy hell about the evils of homosexuality, for the most part it has gotten infinitely better in terms of people being more accepting of gay and lesbians than ever before. A defining moment for me was when Ellen came out publicly in 1997. I had just started my first corporate job and was out personally but very closeted professionally.  I couldn’t ever imagine being out at work.

Since then, we’ve seen infinitely more gay images (Will and Grace, Modern Family, every reality show has the requisite gay) and I think people are just more accepting that gay people exist and bring some value (even if you wouldn’t necessarily want to have your kid be one – we get that a lot) it’s just more accepted.

Additionally, a lot more people live “out” now than did in 1988 and I think as a result there is a whole generation of kids who’ve grown up with gay aunts and uncles (thinking of my own adult nieces/nephews) for whom being gay is really just not an issue.

My own neighborhood is a great testament to the tolerance and acceptance among many people. It’s not everywhere, but the parents in our neighborhood not only accept, but encourage interaction with their kids. I think those views are reflected in generational polls. So it really has gotten better since 1988 in terms of the acceptance among society at large. Read more »

No Questions Asked

By Sue Hoye - 05.16.2011

I’m on the wedding circuit these days, or maybe I should say I’m on the commitment ceremony circuit. For whatever reason, many of my LGBT friends have decide to publicly declare their unions this spring, despite the fact that most of the states they live in do not recognize same-sex marriage.

For the latest ceremony in late April I drove 12 hours south of DC to Atlanta, a city I lived in for 10 years and still consider one of my homes. I took my two sons, 12 and 8, on the long drive. We had hours and hours to fill and we managed just fine. We talked about their love of the Chicago Bulls and their adoration of the #1 Derrick Rose.

They peppered me with so many basketball facts I could call a game myself now. But the NBA wasn’t the only topic. We talked about school, the Waffle House (they love a place with waffle in the name), why they can sell fireworks in South Carolina (they love the idea of blowing things up), and a million other random subjects. The one thing we never discussed was the commitment ceremony they were about to attend. I can’t say why, it just never came up.

It is important to know here that while I’ve been attending these events, this was a first for my offspring. There we were sitting in a beautiful backyard in Atlanta on a warm spring afternoon, flowers surrounding us, old friends greeting me and marveling at how much the children had grown. We sat down, the music started, the flower girls entered and then it hit me. I hadn’t told the boys that two women were getting married. What would their reaction be? Could I quietly prepare them now in this confined space, surrounded by people? The answer was no, and I had to wait to see what would happen. Read more »

SIETAR

By Jean Mavrelis - 05.13.2011

Meeting with peers is sometimes all it’s cracked up to be.

When you’re in the diversity consulting business, the last thing you want to do is take another trip to a hotel.  I decided to go to this year’s SIETAR conference in Denver –SIETAR stands for Society for Intercultural Training and Research– since our colleague Gudy generously offered her home to us.  I am so glad I did, and I’ll try to make attending SIETAR a habit.

This is the second time this year I had an opportunity to spend time with colleagues in the intercultural field.  We’re kind of an unusual bunch — liminal types or global nomads– people with a foot in many social and cultural camps who often gain in perspective what we lose in the security that comes from thinking that there’s only one right way.

My most recent earlier experience at liminality was at a Bodhi in New Mexico where we had an opportunity to really slow down and be.   That recharged my battery for months.  Just as I was running down, along came SIETAR.  Once again my colleagues renewed my commitment to the work.

Some speakers were on the cutting edge of change around the world, often risking even their lives.  Others shared stories and methodologies for bringing understanding to those whose lives they touch.

Sometimes it was folks venturing out to “go global” who needed direction on how to manage the terrain. Other times they were helping students, or organizations, trying to manage diverse teams.

I’m not a religious sort –although I love ritual of any kind, and certainly am filled with “wonder”, but one line kept coming to me throughout the conference: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. Read more »

“Mothers, Role Models and More”

By Kimberly Lord - 05.05.2011

“Do you laugh like your mother?’  It’s one of the many questions posed to KMA learners to help them identify their earliest influencers – and the shapers of their own cultural identity.

Do I laugh like my mother?

Yes! And, I talk, entertain, smile, warble, and welcome strangers like her, too.  In fact, it was her laugh that helped me find my mother at a crowded party in a sea of kneecaps.

Mothers, grandmothers, aunties and women role models shape our lives and our outlook from our earliest days.  They play a foundational part in who we are and how we see the world.

Women and the investment in women create a unique opportunity to help change the world as inspirationally pointed out in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky, titled after the Chinese proverb: Women hold up half the sky.

Pulitzer Prize winning Kristof and WuDunn cite numerous sources and tell the personal tales of women across the world illustrating this point.  They note the potential resource of women and girls first recognized by the World Bank and the United Nations in the 1990s.  World Bank Chief Economist Lawrence Summers wrote, “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.  The question is not whether countries can afford this investment but whether countries can afford not to educate more girls.”

They also cite United Nations Development Programme research, “Women’s empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality.  It contributes to improved health and nutrition.  It increases the chances of education for the next generation.”

The goal of the book as stated by the authors is to recruit readers “to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts.”

The book was introduced to me by my friend, Pam Bell, one year ago after a group of us had finished the Mother’s Day Y-ME race.  Pam was inspired after reading the book to create a group of international activists for the empowerment of women and girls.  She shared her vision and asked our girlfriends to take 5 simple steps to join her quest called,  “Arms Wide Open.” One year and more than 100 activists later, you can read about how her project has taken off at her website. Read more »