The Reality of Diversity

On November 30, 1988, at 11:30 in the morning, I learned what diversity truly meant. On that day and time, Major League Baseball fired me as a National League Umpire because of my sexual orientation. I never thought growing up that I could ever be discriminated against. I was a white male, somewhat middle class and longed for a career in professional baseball. When my dream came true at the age of nineteen, I was working as an umpire in professional baseball. My ultimate goal was achieved in 1979, when I became a major league umpire. It was hard to believe I wasn’t dreaming. I was walking on baseball fields all across America, from New York to California. Calling plays for such teams as the LA Dodgers, the NY Mets, the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. And calling plays for such future hall of famers, as Willie McCovey, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt and (I thought) Pete Rose. I had it all. My childhood dream had come true, I was part of America’s national pastime, and I was at the top of my profession. How could I ever know that my dream would be taken away just because of who I was? Yet at some level I must have imagined it because I had lived a secret life for 20 years.

My career was full of ups and downs. I was forced to live a double life, for all of those twenty years, just so that I could keep my childhood dream. The one I wanted since I was eleven years old. I had to fit into the box, that baseball and corporate america forces you to live in. If you don’t fit in, if you don’t conform, they snap it shut and you are not welcomed. That box becomes your closet, which is a very deep, dark and lonely one. So, if your desire is to fit in, you do whatever it takes. This is to live a double life. It forces you to lie to your family, friends, and co-workers and most importantly to yourself. It affects your job performance, and for me that was an important issue. I was never truly comfortable on or off the baseball field. I was always worried that someone would find out about my secret life, and my career would be over. Then that fateful day came, and my life, my world, was taken away. Baseball, my corporate america, caught up with my secret life and proceeded to throw me out of the box and into the world I live in today.

Over the last decade, corporate america, colleges and municipalities, have taken many positive steps on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered employee, student, and student athlete. They have embraced the importance of respect, and they have started to educate their workforce and student body about the realities of sexual orientation. However, there is still work to be done. The average employee, as well as student, and student athlete is still in the dark about these realities. Companies, colleges, and municipalities are trying their best to work on their diversity programs that deal with sexual orientation. At times, they are at a loss to know which direction they should follow. Should it be a mandatory program, or should it be voluntary? Should it be someone from within their organization, that helps to educate, or should he or she come from outside the organization? Should the person, who educates be gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gendered? Should they be heterosexual? What about those who have religious beliefs about this subject? How do we handle the backlash? These questions, at best, are difficult to answer. However, we must first answer some questions on our own, to fully appreciate the plight of the employee, student or student athlete who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gendered.

What Does Sexual Orientation Have To Do With Work/College?
Do You Really Know What Sexual Orientation Is?
What Are The Real Consequences Of Being Out…Of Being Who You Really Are?
How Does Discrimination Manifest Itself In The Workplace Or College And
What Can the Company, College Or Organization Do About It?
What Is The Best Way To Deal With Comments, Slanderous Or Otherwise?
The Difference Between Straight/Gay People…Are There Any?
Living A Secret Life…Think You Could?

After corporate america, colleges and coaches ask and answer these questions, we can begin to understand where we must go to make our workplace, campus and sports team equal for all. We must remember that diversity is not an exclusionary thing, but that it is all-inclusive.

Mark Mathabane, the author of KAFFIR BOY recently said “that one is not fully human until one acknowledges and affirms the humanity of others.” We are all better human beings when we respect the humanity of others.

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