Diversity Pays.

Today, May 17th, is International Homophobia Awareness Day. I’m taking part in a series of blogs designed to bring attention to the subject.

I decided to focus on diversity in the military, because I’m a veteran. I served in the US Navy for four of the longest years of my life. ^_^ Everyone should have the right to work unimpeded by harrassment. As a woman, I experienced harrassment from shipmates who thought it their right to “Join the Navy and ride the WAVES.” WAVES = Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. By the time I joined, the “emergency” aspect was over, and the name had changed to WINS (Women in Naval Service). However, the phrase only changed to “Join the Navy and jam the WINS” (a play on jamming the winds on a sailing ship), so the attitude was the same. Women were not viewed as coworkers, but as sex objects. Two items we were required to wear were a girdle, and lipstick. I managed the lipstick (at least in the morning), but figured out about day two of boot camp that no one was going to feel me up for a girdle. I kept one on hand for uniform inspection (we had to occasionally show we had the proper “kit” on hand), but never wore one.

Pay for a Navy WAVE (1940s)

When I reported to my first duty station, there were two heads (bathrooms). One was for men, the other for officers. Women had to walk to the next building, which housed offices. Fortunately, that changed not long after. Pay wasn’t bad. In the 40s, women were paid different amounts from men. By the time I came along, we were paid the same as men. But there were still things that kept women and men apart when it came to service. Our uniforms were different from men’s. Women were permitted to wear male fatigues (a type of dungaree and chambray shirt) when working in areas such as a flight line, rather than the more restrictive and detailed female pants and blouses with darts. I recall being told if I didn’t like a rule to “get back in your own uniform.” As if what I wore had something to do with my attitude.

I also thought it was disgraceful that women were referred to as “civilians under naval training” as if we didn’t really “cut it” to be true members of the military. It wasn’t until I was writing up a complaint about being called this that I noticed what the acronym would be: CUNT. It was a good thing no one had called me that within earshot. Back then, I had a tendency to speak before thinking. I’m amazed I got into as little trouble as I did. Before I submitted the report, we got a notice from the captain of the base that he had heard about this very term, and stated in strong terms that it was never to be used on the base again. If it wouldn’t have risked making me look like a girly girl (or being put on report for conduct unbecoming) I’d have hugged the man. :)

The very next day, one of the women in my squadron brought in a Chippendales poster to put in her locker, since the walls in her work area were plastered with naked women. Her male coworkers tore it down. Next morning, she and I went to the chief to complain about the double standard, and were told the captain had already taken care of that problem, too. It seems he had decided to give his new bride a tour of the facilities and did a walk-through prior to bringing her on base. The guys muttered for days, but the walls were plain green after that.

Pay for all service members (2012)
(from USNavy)

It was wrong of my coworkers to treat women the way they did when we first arrived. Because the captain of the base took steps to ensure we women had a chance to prove ourselves, we were able to overcome the prejudices against us. I ended up making lifelong friends on that base, most of them with men. My husband and I still have good memories of them. We women were willing to stand up for ourselves, but having someone in leadership who took steps to do the right thing made all the difference for us. I hope you will do the right thing for gay, lesbian, and transgendered workers around you.

Are you in a position to speak up where you work? You might not be in a leadership position, but can you step in and prevent harrassment? Are you willing to allow people a chance to prove they are good workers, and see past their outside appearance? Are you willing to speak up when others are treated with less courtesy or respect? Would you want someone to stand up for your kid sister or brother if they were harrassed? What will you do when you see a gay, lesbian, or transgendered person spoken to in a less than courteous manner, or treated unfairly where you work? For some help about what to do and how to handle it, click this link. 2012 Diversity Pays
To visit other blogs in this hop, click HERE.

Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include badass immortals, warriors who purr, and agents who find the unfindable–or hide it forever. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion.