Many years ago, when I was a naive college student, I got a job in an institution where the head of my department was a lesbian. She was a very nice woman, but I made sure I was never alone in a room with her. She never crossed a line, but she came awfully, awfully close to doing so by pushing physical proximity to the point of discomfort. Other female friends of mine have also complained that lesbian bosses and colleagues, while subtle, put out definite feelers that were inappropriate for the workplace.
I’ve also for the last several years had the opportunity to observe an organization where the gay former department head consistently chose as his seconds in command the gay and lesbian members of his team. I don’t think this was a deliberate policy. I think his choices reflected the fact that the people he felt closest too — and those whom he believed he could trust most to be his departmental allies (an erroneous belief, as it turned out) — where those who lived on his side of the sexual spectrum.
My own anecdotal evidence — and I recognize that it is entirely anecdotal, with all the limited weight associated with that kind of evidence — makes it easy for me to believe the accusations in this news report:
Bonnie Bleskachek, the nation’s first openly lesbian big-city fire chief, has agreed to step down in the wake of firefighter lawsuits accusing her of harassment and discrimination, her attorney and the mayor said.
Mayor R.T. Rybak announced the agreement in a letter to the city’s executive council in which he wrote that he no longer had confidence in Bleskachek as chief. The executive council was to discuss the agreement Tuesday, and the full City Council could consider it as early as Friday.
Bleskachek, 43, was hailed as a trailblazer when she was promoted to the top job two years ago, but her tenure has been troubled.
Three female firefighters have sued, alleging various acts of discrimination and sexual harassment. Two of the lawsuits were settled, but earlier this month, a male firefighter brought another lawsuit alleging he was denied advancement because he is male and not gay.
You can read this rest here.
By the way, I don’t believe that gays are any more likely than straights to engage in workplace harassment. I just think it’s interesting that a group that is proud of its sexual sensitivity, that worries constantly about its sexual vulnerability, and that allies itself politically with those who claim victim status in this country is itself not immune to the temptation to engage in sexual harassment and sexual politics. How very human.