by Charles S. Garabedian
You Can Add “Fired from Your Job”
The LGBTQ community in the United States has deleted the “Q” from LGBTQ over the past couple of years. It is now just LGBT. Personally, I think that was a terrible mistake. I hope you will agree with me at the end of this blog article. Therefore, on the eve of the LGBTQ decision process within The United Methodist Church, let us delve deeper into this matter. As the introduction to the old Dragnet T.V. series used to say:
“The names have been changed to protect the innocent” In addition, the name and location of the specific organization involved is not disclosed to protect me and my child from rabid fundie persecutors.
Nearly all major cities in the United States have a large public sector and/or private sector organization charged with assisting and caring for homeless people. The causes of homelessness are numerous—sudden poverty, loss of a home to fire, renter eviction, medical bankruptcy, parents abandoning teenagers to the streets, teen runaways, chronic mental illness, alcoholism, illegal drug addiction. The list goes on and on.
However you shake it, the homeless are the down-and-out folks and social outcasts who can be lumped easily into the general category Jesus referred to as “the least of these” in the New Testament. One such private sector organization ministers to the needs of homeless people in one specific American city. One of my children sent out a resume and landed a summer job with this organization. This child of mine is Christian, kind, loving, thoughtful, and willing to seriously converse with dad about many things, including the all-time classic: “What happened at work today?” Man!!! Did I ever get an earful across that summer!!!
The organization in question was founded by and is still managed by a person, probably a Christian fundamentalist, who was once homeless. I do not pretend to know where this organization gets all of its funding to help the homeless, but a great deal of it comes from donations by many different denominational and nondenominational churches in this city and its surrounding small towns. Like many American cities, most of the churches in this city are Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches—primarily various stripes of baptist churches.
This relief organization for the homeless obtains additional funds from the numerous thrift stores it owns and operates in the area. These thrift stores depend on public donations of material goods—just like the famous Goodwill Industries stores—and the donated items are processed, adjusted, and sold for profit to thrift store customers. These thrift stores also function as, for lack of a better term, economic halfway houses for homeless people who are trying to get back on their feet again and become self-sufficient. For example, a store manager, assistant manager, and a few workers are usually homeless people on their way up and out—as long as they do not relapse into the behaviors or conditions that made them homeless to begin with. Other workers in these thrift stores are average people like you and me that are hired to do various kinds of work to keep store operations moving. My child was hired as one of those extra workers.
One of the first things my child noticed was the draconian rules applied to the thrift store employees—particularly the homeless employees. Circuit-riding regional supervisors watched over the homeless store managers and homeless employees like hawks, and the least little infraction of the rules could and did result in immediate firing of the homeless employee—and I always suspected some subsequent consignment to a unique Hell on Earth for a homeless person—like maybe being slung out on the streets again. In other words, from my child’s daily descriptions, it became more than clear to me that these thrift stores were run like highly restrictive Christian fundamentalist churches with iron-fisted preachers.
The other major thing my child noticed was this organization’s constant and never ending obsession with LGBTQ people. This organization disliked LGBTQ people with a passion and was dedicated to ensuring that no LGBTQ person managed to slip into employment at the organization.
Every employee was under constant suspicion—just like inmates living in a super-max security prison. Regional supervisors and managers were always incessantly observing and examining employees for any possible tell-tale sign of carefully hidden LGBTQ “behaviors.” A slightly betraying limp wrist here. A male employee too cozy with another male employee. Unusual clothing. Strange personal behaviors. Just the slightest flicker of employee movement away from the sexual or behavioral norms that one would be expected to abide by in the strictest fundie churches could and did result in immediate firing from one’s job.
This homeless relief organization is located in a state where a person can be fired legally for wearing navy blue socks to work instead of black ones—or preferring Pepsi over Coca-Cola. “One Milky Way bar—and you are outa here!!!” A number of our 50 states have such unfair labor laws.
Well, other than all of the draconian oddities in this organization, the regional supervisors, and their thrift stores, my child seemed to enjoy working there and making friends with fellow workers, who were described to me as very nice, kind, and friendly people. My child worked hard and did well in that store until one day late in the summer that broke my child’s heart.
My child had made friends with a very nice fellow worker. He was described to me as one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. He was a very hard worker, and my child enjoyed working with him on various tasks. Unknown to my child and this fellow worker, supervisors and management had him under close daily surveillance for queer behavior. Not LGBTQ behavior per se. Not gay behavior per se. Not transgender behavior per se. It was just plain old queer behavior in the long-time, traditional meaning of that word in a 19th century English dictionary.
Because some of the work was easy and boring, especially in the warehouse area of the thrift store, employees were allowed to listen to music on their IPods or other personal playback devices while they worked—even all day listening. My child’s favorite fellow worker had an old-fashioned, 1980s Sony Walkman that still worked, and he listened to just one casette tape for a big part of every day. This tape was a collection of songs from Walt Disney movies, such as the famous seven dwarves’ song Whistle While You Work from the movie Snowhite.
The rigid overlords, who had been closely monitoring this young and otherwise normal- looking and -behaving young man, closed in on him for the kill one day. They deemed his habit of listening to Walt Disney movie songs all day as queer behavior—possibly indicative of a closeted male homosexual who had somehow sneaked his way past Jesus and into employment at the thrift store. The young man was fired on the spot under suspicion of being a homosexual because only a homosexual would listen to one Walt Disney tape every day!!! That was the message my child brought home to me, and it broke my child’s heart. It broke my heart too—and I was very angry about it. My child told me that this young man was not LGBT.
The summer was soon over, and my child left the thrift store to resume her studies in college. My child never worked at that thrift store again because of that sad incident—and never wanted to do so.
This is why the “Q” should never be dropped from LGBTQ. A person who is not LGBT can be easily persecuted just like an LGBT person—simply because of some small behavioral quirk that looks LGBT to some mindless, stupid, draconian Christian fundamentalist nimwad. How would you like to be fired from your job for something so simple as eating Hostess Sno balls as a dessert in your brown bag lunch? No LGBT employees are allowed, and your manager thinks Hostess Sno balls “look like” something a closeted gay person might eat. “You are fired!!!”
This is LGBTQ persecution plain and simple—because LGBT issues are a factor in such persecution—even if the accused person is not LGBT. Please put the “Q” back into LGBT. No more persecution!!! No more!!!