#beOUT Detroit Professionals

By James Felton Keith

James Felton Keith is the President of the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and an Appointee at the City of Detroit. He specializes in the ethnography of technology and how economic value is distributed.

After the recent news coverage during last month’s pride celebrations and related stories to discrimination like Crystal Moore a small town police chief or Baron John Browne the former BP CEO being forced out of work for being associated with a gay lifestyle, we need to consider the culture of our professional society and the value proposition of being OUT as an individual at work, if there are any to identify at all. Chief Moore was hire then fired then hired and fired again for her alleged sexual orientation. She was eventually reinstated as a rally of political support. Baron Browne recently published a book called Glass Closet that identifies being transparent about one’s orientation as “good business”. The publication came after a scandal of his previous relationship with a hired escort. Browne comments that the book is written for heterosexual professionals to hopefully make it more accommodating for LGBT colleagues to #beOUT.

The ultimate test of being out is trying it in the work place. Neither of these scenarios makes a case for the value in being transparent about one’s personal life. I can confess on behalf of multiple minority groups (ethnic, orientation, generation) to suppressing my cultural affiliation even while I haven’t been in a proverbial closet. The modern ethnographic literature specific to corporate environments affirms that I am not alone. Work places need policy infrastructure to protect individuals who acknowledging cultural associations, with the exception of being crass. Still good business can and should only respect that which is valuable to its ability to supply the goods and services its market demands.

Per institutions like corporations and governments or places within municipalities, culture has to be identifiable and acknowledged in order to be planned for.  The greatest problem facing the Lesbian, gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Queer (LGBTQ) community is not that the abstraction of hate or political conservatism or even a more grand tug-of-war with feminism and perceived feminine identities. It is the lack of ability to identify LGBTQ as a minority community on its own. Every other minority community specific to gender, ethnicity, age, and disability have been able to corral themselves around an undeniable affiliation per individual members. Being transparent about one’s rare gender and orientation, even as it might be bisexual (attracted to two gender identities) or pansexual (attracted to multiple gender identities), are paramount in advocating for protection of the group in products services and policies.

The value proposition in being out resides in the construction of an ecosystem or place for individuals to thrive. Every place depends on safety first. As Detroit attempts its turn around, the socio-cultural fabric of its resurgence will be as important as its technological resurgence. There is a quantifiable economic value proposition in compelling all minority groups to be transparent. From a broader urban planning standpoint value is the difference between a cosmopolitan and a metropolitan place. The international LGBTQ community is recognizing a unique opportunity in driving its many types of diversity to Detroit’s place.

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