May 8, 2012

LGBT in Corporate America: From the Bedroom to the Boardroom?


This Is My Story

It’s been almost a year since I first started blogging, and a lot has happened in that year. I have learned so much about blogging, activism, people, politics, religion, technology, web design, and so much more, that it’s impossible to articulate in a single blog post.

Much to my amazement, I’ve learned the most about myself during this process, and it’s been incredibly cathartic. To write and publish, how I feel about a wide range of issues, personally and professionally, in a very public forum, has been rewarding.


I’m still finding my voice, and in the rare instances when I know that I’ve hit one out of the park, and my sentiments are neatly captured and artfully written, my heart sings. I know it’s a rarity, but I try to do that every day - and I’m going to keep trying.

I’ve been writing for years in my professional capacity as a financial analyst. I’ve written extensive treatises about forward looking statements, cash flow projections, capital expenditures, revenue recognition, and balance sheet anomalies, that wallow in cardboard boxes, carefully stored within nondescript office parks in Ronkonkoma, King of Prussia, and Milpitas. Once in awhile my prose would make it into the annual report, often in the form of a footnote, but hey I was published, Sarbanes-Oxley be damned. (Make note to blog about Sarbanes-Oxley, law is ineffective and compliance is costly, no appreciable benefit to investors, regulators, or corporations. It’s another dumb CYA GOP law).

When I think of the time, energy, effort, and madness, that consumed my early career in the bowels of Manhattan, I can only look back and laugh. If the words “someone on the board said/asked/remarked/fill in the blank.....the finance committee” and the answer wasn’t readily available to the CFO, widespread panic would grip each finance department and chaos would ensue. An army of finance professionals would embark on a mission that was more important than walking on the moon.

Sometimes during the chaos - I’d be summoned to executive row, or the hushed world of the court of Versailles, with thick pile carpets, oriental rugs, oil paintings, antique furniture and crystal chandeliers. This long row of venerable offices is where each Senior Vice President had a seemingly "rent-controlled suite" that was only given up upon their death. Executive row had one female SVP, and all of the other offices were occupied by men.

If you were granted an audience with these titans of industry, one’s first thought was usually “what have I done now.”

The SVP of my area would sit perched on his throne behind an enormous desk, and he’d glance over the top of his half-moon reading glasses, with his face twisted this way or that, looking like  he just had a whiff of the biggest piece of shit he’d ever smelled.

After being summoned to his office, I’d quietly enter the inner sanctum, and would always surprise the faint of heart tenant, perched on his throne, who would never hear me walk into his office. The carpeting was so thick, that you could do anything except shout or clap, to announce your arrival, and he wouldn’t hear you. Despite the fact that I was summoned by his royal highness, for an audience, just a mere 90 seconds earlier, he’d act as though he had no idea whatsoever, why I was standing in front of him.

It was in his office that I first heard the word minion used in a sentence. I was with a few people, in a meeting, in the inner sanctum, when the minion moment occurred. When the meeting was over and we’d received our marching orders, I remember walking down the long hallway, through the grand glass double doors, and then turned a corner for a walk up the flight of stairs to the trailer court, where my office was. I sat down at my desk in the windowless space, feeling really dumb. I reached for the dusty and tattered paperback dictionary, and located the “m’s” and found minion.

min·ion noun the underling of a powerful person, esp. a servile or unimportant one.

I was in my early twenties, and very healthy. It was one of the few times in my life when I felt fear, anger, disgust, and shock, and every other emotion you’d expect, all at once. I’ve never had the feeling again since, but I felt awful and like I was going to die. And it was brought on by minion! I was overwhelmed, and I was pissed, and while “minion” wasn’t used in reference to me or my colleagues, I still felt as though I was the injured party.

Luckily -  I had an amazing boss, who taught me many valuable lessons. I remember her telling me not to ever let his royal highness see me sweat. Keep things professional, fulfill his expectations, do things on time, and remember that he is so insecure that he has to find a way to remind everyone who the boss is, and re-establish that he’s the smartest guy in the room, whether it’s true or not. And that’s exactly what I did.

It was a couple years before the man with the twisted face, would say hello to me, if I spied him outside of his inner sanctum.

One day he saw me chatting in the hall with the CFO, who was an older man with a younger boyfriend. This CFO was very well regarded on Wall Street, in our business sector, and was second only to God (the Chairman and CEO), in this venerable corporation. 

As his royal highness silently walked past us, the CFO called out and asked him when he would receive that monthly report that he was waiting for. He replied that he would have said report in the CFO’s office by the end of the day. He ambled away more slowly than usual, hoping that he could hear the conversation I was having with the CFO.

Coincidentally, this report had been thoroughly combed over, the numbers were sifted through a colander, while being simultaneously dusted for fingerprints, over a 3 day period by yours truly. The final published report, had been in the finely polished hands of his royal highness, for three days. This report was a monthly ritual, that involved large capital expenditures and future business plans, so it was important to the company, and highly confidential.

The axis of the earth shifted slightly that day, and that chance hallway encounter changed the way his royal highness addressed me. From that day forward I would get a hello if he was alone, or a nod at the very least, if he was with a colleague. After a few years of working together, he didn’t look as if he’d just had a whiff of a piece of shit every day, it was every other day, and that was an improvement.

His royal highness with the twisted face never asked me, or anyone else (to my knowledge), how I knew the CFO, or what we discussed. While he looked at me differently, and treated me more respectfully, I could tell that there was a million dollar question, that flashed in his brain, that he pondered way too often.

I was young, and after a month on the job, the CFO saw me walking down the hall, and he stopped me and introduced himself. Within a few weeks I had figured out that the CFO was a big horn dog, and a big old queen, and that’s why he noticed me in our office hallways. We always had brief chats about life, living in Manhattan, restaurants, vacations, holidays and European travel. I ran into him once when he was chatting with Dr. Henry Kissinger, and he said hello unabashedly, and introduced me.

What I didn’t realize initially, but came to know, was that the LGBT employees in the executive offices all got to know each other. We chatted, we gossiped, we laughed, and occasionally had drinks together after work. This small group of people in different departments stuck together. We were loyal, worked hard, played hard, and accomplished a great deal. This “gang of gays” actually made this company tick. Being in this gang tipped the balance of power with his royal highness a little my way, and that made it a little easier to breathe and function in my role.

Up until the day I left the company, I never let his royal highness see me sweat, and I kept him guessing. To date, I have never had another job, or a work environment that was as gay friendly, as that company was. You could be yourself without any fear of reprisals, and it was great.

I worked at a company in San Francisco, that was almost hostile to LGBT employees, so I’ve seen it from very different perspectives.

I started writing this blog post with the full intention of writing about something else, and just went where my writing took me, and ended up with something entirely different.

If you could see my face right now, you might get the impression that I just had a whiff of the biggest piece of shit that I’d ever smelled in my life.

Realistically - I think it’s just a little bit of middle aged gas.



straight talk in a queer world.





 

© 2012 JIVEINTHE415.COM

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