White Guy Responds to Transgender Appointment Hate Mail

In this Ask the White Guy update, Luke Visconti responds to one reader's comment on Obama's recent appointment of an openly transgender political appointee. See why he says diversity training is a must for your business to succeed.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

The White Guy responds to one reader’s comment on the recent presidential appointment of Amanda Simpson, who is transgender.

What!!!! Why do we need to know about a person’s sexual orientation! If that person is qualified for the position then so be it done!!! I don’t care that this person has had his penis removed or if a woman has received the penis that he had and he received the vagina that she had and took hormones to perpetuate as a gender that he or she was NOT BORN with–! I know wrong sentence structure!

I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth going over once again only to serve as a warning.

Diversity management requires constant vigilance because we are all predisposed to discriminate. This person works for a philanthropy whose web site eloquently describes its mission as serving people in need regardless of age or economic situation! Even here you will find biased and creepy people expressing their ignorant and hateful “opinions,” creating the toxic environment that most people outside the majority are burdened with.

The fact that being transgender isn’t about orientation is clearly lost on this person. She’s just full of bile and hate over a story about an intrepid and successful fellow traveler on this planet. That we don’t have to diminish everything that isn’t like “us” or that we don’t understand is lost on her. This is why you MUST have MANDATORY diversity training—and when this kind of nonsense rears its ugly head, you must deal with it immediately. There is no such thing as parsing civil or human rights; discrimination of one group will place the chain of oppression on other groups. And as Yvonne Johnson, chair of the Bennett College board of trustees and retired mayor of Greensboro, N.C., once said to me, the chain of oppression is connected to both the oppressed and the oppressor.

Oh, you think your religion preaches that people are born one way or another? Don’t go there—your religion is protected by the first amendment to the Constitution, and we the people are protected from your religion by the same amendment. Further, in a work environment, you don’t get to choose. It is the imprimatur of the employer to set the ethic and moral values.

Let’s get back to this reader’s multifaceted hate rant. A person’s sexuality (orientation and/or sexual expression) is central to who they are. It would be a sterile, inhumane environment where you could NOT talk about your orientation. Heterosexual, non-transgender people display their orientation in any number of ways—discussing what they did with their families over the weekend, photos of their loved ones on their workstations, who they show up with at social events.

It is a human feeling to think that someone getting something is going to cost you something. The liberation of all people to be who they are—with all the orientation or sexual expression that the human condition gives us—does not diminish being heterosexual. I’d say it validates it by allowing all of us to be who we are while we respect who other people are.

This couldn’t be more central to running a business. Regardless of what your organization does—business to consumer/business/government—you’re dealing with people. The ONLY thing that transcends commodity is value. You can’t build value independent of human relationships. When you can engender trust, you can build value. Increasing clarity on values increased an organization’s decision-making abilities. It becomes more clear where you’re going to draw the line and what business you’ll turn down. Concurrence and clarity of values helps pick successful business partners. I’ll never forget the moment of understanding that the late Dave Sampson brought to me when he told me how Marriott won three different $1-billion contracts by expressing his company’s values on supplier diversity to city governments when bidding for convention-center projects.

This works on a personal basis also. George Chavel told me about refusing to respond to an RFP after a racist incident with a prospect when he was in a vice-president position. Is there a connection between this clarity of values and his rise from a modest (but value-filled) home to being the CEO of Sodexo, a company with more than 100,000 employees serving food to millions? The connection is absolutely clear in my mind.

So, if you have a person on your team who expresses his or her hateful little opinions, you have a problem. Maybe training will help; people evolve (Abraham Lincoln thought that emancipated enslaved people should be sent back to Africa early in his presidency—Frederick Douglass gave him some “training.”) However, sometimes you need to put someone out of your organization. This isn’t about opinion; it’s about setting the moral values of how you conduct yourself and your business with others.


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  • “Posted Thursday Jan 7, 2010 by Guest;
    I guess there is no getting away from the small, narrow-minded ignorant people that exist and write comments like that! If they didn’t care about Ms. Simpson’s gender–why bother to write and make a fool of themselves? And how, exactly, do they know what gender she was born with?? She could have been inter-sexed.”

    I appreciate this comment, because I had a minor epiphany when I read it: Is there really a difference between being transgender and being inter-sexed?

    I know the technical meaning of each word. However, in common usage, one seems to upset some people more than the other, probably because most people in our culture still make a separation between the “physical” body and the “mind.” Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker coined the phrase, “The mind is what the brain does.” Why is being inter-sexed more acceptable on some level than being transgender?

    The organs of the body are all part of a single system. Humans have made divisions and named the parts, but those separations are arbitrary. Where, for example, does the spinal cord end and the brain begin? There is no abrupt transition.

    I have seen the statistic that one in 500 newborns has some anomaly of the reproductive system, and I would assume that there is a continuum of such differences. Where do we draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not? Many inter-sexed persons who were surgically “repaired” as infants are now saying it is a mistake to try to make everyone fit into either one sex or the other.

    We could choose to consider transgender as within the range of intersexed people. The brain and the reproductive organs are definitely part of a holistic system that makes us, in terms of both sex and gender, who we are.

  • NO, I think your wrong… and I’m surprised that you of all people would find that a person, such as myself and many other Americans, who makes a 1 paragraph statement expressing what so many of us feel, and that is, who gives a rats-ass what their race or sexual orientation is .. if they are hard working and educated and qualified for a certain position then they should get it .. end of story. The fact that you would write an entire article blasting this persons comments even going so far as to relate the person to being “creepy”. Seriously? You call this person who has a common, standard and more natural-then-not viewpoint creepy, yet you don’t think someone such as Amanda Simpson, who artificially changed her physical appearance and as much of her biology as possible to become the opposite sex on the outside as NOT creepy? I mean, if you’re going to use that word at all, it should be used in the proper way, don’t you think?
    When did you stop being honest with yourself and the rest of the world, and became so steeped in political correctness and the plight of the micro-minority that you stopped giving a balanced viewpoint and started batting for the other side? I thought Diversity was all about equal access for all different kinds of people and their opinions? Why be so one sided? Is there no more truth in your world, or is everything relative?
    Bottom line, There should be no more fan-fare, or accolades, that a person who changed his/her outward sexual gender to match what he/she might feel he/she is on the inside, then there should be if a middle-class white male with equally qualifications should get. …which currently is ZERO.
    In response to Amanda Simpson’s comments, the only time there should be “hundreds more” transgendered people working for the government is if they were all more qualified based on non-racial, non-gender-specific qualifications, end of story.
    …I still can’t believe you took the time to write an article about a readers comments which you did not agree… aren’t you supposed to be the most neutral of us all? .., you never cease to amaze me Luke Visconti !
    Don’t you think that a simple rebuttal, perhaps, acknowledging this persons views as common and typical of most but then asking him/her to consider an alternate way of thinking or looking at the situation which could better help the commenter understand and be accepting of alternative groups, such as those who identify themselves as being part of a LGBT “community”?

    ..at least that approach would be more constructive, in any case.

  • Luke, if you don’t want other people to have negative opinions about a person’s inappropriate selective operation, you must tell people to stop publishing the fact that they can’t accept what and who they are. No, the religious world, especially those that truly believe in the God of creation, and the Lord Jesus Christ, will never stop responding to such an attack on the image of God which is displayed by males and females.

    You answered this very profoundly, however incorrectly. You may have your opinions and promote immorality by stating removing your genitals to become something you can never become is okay, and that people can do what ever they wish. This is incorrect. Just imagine living next door to a repeated rape or sex offender? One changes their mind very quickly.

    Until Christ come to set up his kingdom on this earth there will always be sin, and true Christians will always fight against sin. Is this hateful because we advise people not to walk off a cliff? Some of us are unwise in our approach and comments, but we will never say or condone a person trying to change their sex. We know the affect that sin has on this world; abortion, lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, bestiality, adultery, fornication, witchcraft, homosexuality and the likes. Luke, do you believe that there is such a thing as sin? If you do then who determines it? If there is sin then there is help.

    Call us right wing or whatever name you wish; it will always be wrong for one not to accept their birth gender, and to change it. God is still in control, but allows man to destroy himself, but not without warning. And I am at trumpet. The problem here with transgender or transvestites is the confusion of the mind. If you have someone openly saying that they have changed their gender, they are also saying they don’t know who they are. In order to change the gender, one must change a part of their brain and their pelvis bone. Then they will end up like Dr Frankenstein’s monster. To put people like this in high level positions is to risk a job being done from the beginning. If the person is capable of doing the job, why do we have to know if they had their genitals remove? If the President hires a one arm person, should we know this or see it?

    Luke, I would like to say to you and all your readers (you will not publish this even though it is considered diversity) that God loves each one of you, but he has standards. Those standards are the things that will judge us after this life. Christians, left wings nuts as you and your readers call us, know that God is sovereign, and his law is final. I love you in the name of Jesus Christ and pray that God’s mercy will cause all to repent. If not a fiery day awaits those that reject Christ’s offer of salvation. Call the fiery day statement a fear tactic, but it is a real statement.

  • Luke, this is a great response and I appreciate your kindness. Jesus’ nature is the nature of those that are truly born again. He tells us to have compassion on those that hasn’t been born again in order to win them to Him. Proselyte is our nature, because it is the nature of God. It is the nature of fire to burn. It is not fire if it doesn’t burn. It is not a Christian if it doesn’t have the nature to proselyte. And in order to proselyte we have to make righteous judgment according to the moral law found in the Bible.

    I have coworkers that are practicing homosexuality. We have a very good working relationship because I treat them as decent human beings. I don’t spend all of my time trying to win them to Christ, but I have let them know that homosexuality is wrong in the sight of God, just like any other sin. I tell them that Jesus died for their sin. An open mind is to accept people, help them when they need it and correct them when they are wrong. This is exactly what Jesus did, but always told them to go and sin no more.

    Thanks, I will keep participating. I will not condemn because I have the power to help. I am praying for you. Jesus died for your sins, but you like me have to accept it and follow his holy ways. Keep fighting for human rights, not rights to do wrong.

  • Luke,

    Your response captures so much of my personal belief and feelings. My shades of bias and prejudice seem to emerge at the moment I personally become overly judgmental, uncomfortable, and irrational without having knowledge, understanding or a personal relationship with the difference I am challenged by. Fear tries to take over.

    I often try and imagine how different my life would be, how “successful” would I be in life, if my entry point into life was different from how I identify (white, male, heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied, US citizen, financially secure etc.). I am not arrogant enough to believe I am that talented and gifted to pull myself up by my “bootstraps” and bust through all the systemic barriers and disadvantages I would face for being different…probably not. Ironically, I would be the one on the receiving end of my fear generated hate and discrimination.

    Thinking about this usually shifts my fear towards respect, sensitivity and a desire to use my various forms of privilege to serve creation without looking for recognition and reward. Getting pats on the back is not part of the deal going against the grain. I have also come to understand that by trying to do this doesn’t make me feel less whole. Changing my behavior to accept, respect and be fair with the other person to help make them feel whole only deepens who I am and my faith belief. I become more whole.

    Thank you for all you are doing to open my mind to the “majestic range and complexity of the human condition.”

    Remain strong.


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