June ‘Pride Month’ in government offices

Visitors to a major Washington State government agency during the month of June are bombarded by an array of flamboyant symbols.  The otherwise impressive rotunda of this key facility is festooned with flags and other paraphernalia invoking LTGB (or whatever) pride.

LTBGQ (or whatever) pride month is a nationwide occurrence, but Washington State celebrates especially enthusiastically. Ironically, one of the themes is supposedly equal rights, but customers and employees who’d rather go about their business in a welcoming environment with a friendly ambiance must strain their necks to avoid the prideful assault on their senses.   For a full month they’ve little choice but to succumb to the tyranny of the minority as they traverse the building’s central hub of hubris. 

The pervasive ethos reeks of wretched inequality as members of the protected group du jour are treated like special darlings free to impose their values on hapless interlopers.  With a captive workplace audience, and beholden customers, this preferential treatment seemingly violates the spirit of equal protection. 

I’m suspicious that many polite and humble employees are uncomfortable with the in-your-face glorification.  I’m even more convinced that a majority of our customers -- who hail from hardy industries like construction and logging -- are taken aback by the ostentatious exhibits.  Unless employees or customers are hyphenated Americans, they don’t get a heritage month, but are dismissed as privileged.  So much for the published goals of being an employer of choice -- for everyone -- and treating all customers with respect and dignity.

While there are no month-long celebrations of Western Civilization, or overt gratitude towards the brave founders who established the country to which the wretched masses continue to flock, there are heritage months for politically favored groups.   Fine -- we’re tolerant and benign compared to the rulers of their ancestral homelands, so in the spirit of magnanimity, let’s not dilute their contributions by consuming a whole month with events that potentially promote politics in the workplace.  Just as we are discouraged from preaching at work, and forbidden from political activities, neither should we promote a lifestyle inextricably linked to sexual orientation and tinged with political agendas.  If legal protections need expanding, that’s a debate for the public square, not neutral workplaces where employee attendance is mandatory, and customer service for all is paramount.

The lifestyles our coworkers embrace are their business -- let’s keep it so.   I want them to be happy, even thrive, but the workplace is not the place to tout personal proclivities.  This is not homophobia or a slippery-slope towards discrimination, it’s just that some workers (probably many) want to avoid exuberant exhibitionism.  Since most of us can’t take a whole month off to avoid the dubious decor at work, it’s important to keep celebrations about sexual preferences out of the workplace.  If they want to peacefully parade down High Street then obtain the required permit, but the pathos and angst riddling the prideful community may not be conducive to all employees’ morale, and doesn’t support being an “employer of choice” for all.

There are plenty of other venues to seek fellowship, and they must be safe and protected.  But if diversity in the workforce means anything, surely it is tolerating a range of values without imposing one group’s sensibilities upon less favored groups.  In practice, this could be implemented by enforcing zero tolerance for any form of workplace discrimination, and by encouraging pride meetings in set rooms, safe and undisturbed; but not by arranging frivolous festivities in common areas that intrude into other employee’s and customer’s safe spaces.

When our temporal being expires, perhaps the best epitaph one can wish for is a nod to humility and helping others, not promoting pride.  In fact, many luminaries whose insights have elevated human consciousness have disdained pride.  Shakespeare, unsurprisingly, captures the essence exquisitely:

“He that is proud eats up himself: pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle; and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise.”

It has been said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease; unfortunately, government workplaces in Washington State have become a cacophony of squeaks.  By all means, please be happy and content if you don’t step on others’ toes.  But an overbearing month of prickly pride -- at work -- elevates some groups over others, and can incite incivility towards those who aren’t special enough to dance under those gaudy flags.   Indeed, it devours deeds in the praise of equal rights.

Image credit: US Embassy in the Philippines

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