You’d think this kind of crap wouldn’t get me exercised by this point, but it does:
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce entered into an agreement this month with the Department of the Interior Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization to increase outreach to gay-owned businesses and to educate gay business owners about contract opportunities.
“The agreement says it’s OK to be who you are,” said Justin Nelson, co-founder and co-executive director of the NGLCC. “[The Department of the Interior] wants to do business with gay firms in a public manner.”
The federal government should be impartial; an announcement from the Department of the Interior that federal contracts are available to businesses regardless of the sexual orientation of those who run them would be great. But we all know that’s not what “outreach” means. More on that in a second.
What really jerks my chain, naturally, is that “The agreement says it’s OK to be who you are” BS. Can we please, at least every third Thursday or so, not offload our own responsibility for self-definition on the government? Please. And anyway, how exactly does being officially defined as “disadvantaged” make what you are okay, of all things?
The assumptions underlying the program are hardly flattering, after all:
Nelson said that many gay-owned businesses shy away from working with the federal government, because of the perception that the Bush administration is anti-gay.
“Our community is very apprehensive about finding out about opportunities [with federal agencies],” he said. The NGLCC wants to tell gay-owned businesses that, “there’s a separation of the policies of the administration and opportunities they should be afforded.”
I apparently missed the speech in which the President informed America that gay-owned enterprises should be boycotted until they go out of business. I also wasn’t aware that “apprehensiveness” in an entrepreneur was a trait to be indulged rather than outgrown. Aren’t business owners supposed to be go-getters? If they want to know what kinds of contracts might be legally available to them as gays, they just need to ask one of their corporate lawyer friends. All of us coat-and-tie queers know twelve lawyers if we know one; for Pete’s sake, I sometimes feel like the only middle-class fag in the entire developed world that didn’t go to law school.
This nettles me even more than usual because a book I just got around to buying and reading spurred me to go back and revisit some sections of Geraldine Brooks’s fascinating Nine Parts of Desire. Here’s one passage that sticks in the memory, about a family in Saudi Arabia:
Basilah had invited a woman friend who helped her mother run a successful construction company to join us for tea. When her father died, she and her mother had expected his male relations to run the business and provide for her and her children. But they were lazy and incompetent, and it seemed that everything her father had worked for was going to be destroyed. “Finally my mother took over,” the woman explained. “She went to the Ministry of Construction with the papers that needed official approval. No woman had been in there before. The officials ordered her out. She refused to go. She sat there, and sat there, until they were forced to deal with her. She turned out to be a very good manager, and she saved the business.”
Fine, the analogy isn’t perfect. Still and all, it does seem that if a woman in Saudi Arabia can stand up to a room full of male bureaucrats in order to do what she needs for her company (presumably against her male relatives’ wishes), free American gays who run the kinds of firms that the government contracts with could figure out how to pursue jobs without having their hands held.