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Archive for 2012


by Ryk Koscielski, World AIDS Day Chair at Alcatel-Lucent

December 1 was World AIDS Day and Alcatel-Lucent Employee Business Partners are partnering to host events to commemorate the day and to provide awareness.

This year the following Alcatel-Lucent EBPs (Employee Business Partners) are partnering together to host World AIDS Day events at Alcatel-Lucent.

  • 4A (Asian/Pacific Association for Advancement at Alcatel-Lucent)
  • ABLE (Leaders of African Descent)
  • EQUAL!(Supporting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Employees and Their Friends and Family)
  • HISPA (Hispanic Association of Alcatel-Lucent Employees)
  • IDEAL (Individuals Dedicated to Enabling Accessibility in Life)
  • LUNA (United Native Americans at Alcatel-Lucent)
  • VALOR(Vetrans at Alcatel-Lucent Organization)
  • WLN Chicagoland Chapter (Women’s Leadership Network – Chicagoland Chapter)

 

Events include the following:

  • World Holiday Bake Sale and Alternative Snacks Fundraiser in Naperville on Tuesday, December 4th in Naperville to raise funds for the Annual EQUAL! Holiday Stocking Drive for the HIV/AIDS clients of the Open Door Clinic in Aurora and Elgin Illinois.
  • EQUAL! Holiday Stocking Drive – For the nineteenth year, EQUAL! (Northern Illinois chapter) is coordinating an annual holiday stocking drive for people with HIV/AIDS. As in past years, they will be providing stockings for the clients of the Open Door Clinic in Aurora and Elgin. The recipients of these stockings will be low-income adults, both male and female, living with HIV/AIDS. Help make the holidays a little brighter for those in need. Last year, the volunteers delivered more than 100 stockings and gift bags. Please consider helping them meet or exceed 100 stockings this year. You can help by donating money or small personal items for one or more stockings.
  • “Pedro: The Movie” viewing/discussion on December 10 or on-line at your convenience, sponsored by EQUAL!, IDEAL, VALOR and ABLE.
  • World AIDS Day 2011 Speaker Replay: Kristin M. Hartsaw, Case Management Supervisor, DuPage County Health Department in Illinois, spoke on December 1, 2011 about the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

More details are available on Engage (Alcatel-Lucent internal site).

If you have any questions about World AIDS Day, please get in touch.

 

(banner photo by JoséMa Orsini on Flickr)

by Eve Jutras, Alcatel-Lucent employee in Canada

… Taking the risk of becoming Visible

Last night my younger daughter brought home her graduation photo samples. She will finish high school next May. I was amazed at how beautiful she looked in the pictures and how proud I am of her. But, she could not stop finding issues with minor things on her face and how her hair was so bad… I told her “You are too critical about specific details that you latch onto. I don’t see anything like that and I am sure your friends don’t pay attention to any of that.” Well, unfortunately most teenagers do and they are often pretty fast at pointing them out. “No matter what, and I don’t know why, but these things that you see on yourself, I don’t and I just love you for who you are. And I don’t know why.” I said. She stopped saying things and went on doing her rituals (texting, chat, gaming… As I’m sure other teenagers’ parents are very familiar with!).

I am always astonished at how trivial moments like this one are often a fine reflection of my own internal struggles. Isn’t it interesting that four weeks ago she was the one telling me, “Dad, what people think will have no influence on how I see you. People are more open now and it should not stop you from being what you desire.” We were in a restaurant back then and all I could reply was “You are the therapist 1 of my soul!” We left the restaurant and she said, “If you ever decide to change something, I would like to be around.” I had received a similar reaction from her older sister a couple weeks before.

That lengthy spiral of doing small steps, letting go of shame layer by layer, started a year and a half ago at a visit to my doctor. After eight years of battling with depression, mood swings and suicidal ideation, I told him I decided to stop all Bi-Polar medications and that I had scheduled an appointment with a sexologist as there must be something related to my gender. “I have no more wishes or plans, and I hate everything in my life.” He then replied “I am sure there is at least ‘ONE’ thing that you really wish. There!!! You smiled! What is it?” He caught me thinking that the craziest thing I ‘desire’ 2 over anything else was “to be a woman.” His reply “This is it, you are a Transgender woman!” “But how come I am not attracted to men?” “There is no relationship between ‘Gender Identity’ and ‘Sexual Orientation’. No link and there is no medication to cure this. You are doing exactly the right thing by starting a therapy with a gender therapist.” It finally became very clear that there is a direct link between not addressing my ‘gender identity’ and the depression.

Since then, most doors I knocked at, have opened — some very widely… This can even be frightening at times. Of course telling friends allowed me to assess how comfortable they were (initially) with the news. However, with even the smallest transformations and affirmations that I carried out, over time, I first had to adapt to myself, so it is no wonder that I have to give time for others to adjust.

Coming out as Transgender person is a somewhat different experience than coming out as a gay, lesbian or bisexual individual. Why? ‘Gender Identity’ relates to a person’s own way (inward perception) of seeing his/her Gender, while ‘Sexual Orientation’ pertains to whom one is relationally attracted (outward) to at the emotional, romantic, and sexual levels 3.

Given that it is not noticeable that someone is Gay or Bi, it is much easier to pass (being invisible or concealable 4) in society. A Transgender person may or may not be, initially aware, of his/her own ‘Gender Identity’, just like most of us never question our own gender in life. She/he typically presents a Gender matching his/her assigned sex at birth but at the same time has a ‘concealable’ identity. At some point his/her social gender presentation (or Gender Expression) may become highly visible (one can not hide it anymore if she/he takes hormones, undergoes breast/facial surgery or changes body gender expression/clothing). People’s reaction (surprised, troubled) are not always masked when they see an individual whose body appearance/ presentation is somewhere in-between a man and a woman. This ‘disruptiveness’ of cultural norms contributes to creating a ‘Stigma’ 5 against the Trans community at large. These well known heteronormative expectations are the continual enforcement (through family, law, media, culture) and enactment (via performativity 6) of gender binaries; hence there are only two possible genders (Male or Female) and nothing in-between. This creates more pressure on transgender people to meet those stereotypical expectations. The more non-binary identities are hidden, the more the erasure of those categories will happen.

The further I was hiding the way I was inside the less genuine I felt with my peers. The fear of being discovered or outed grew to a point that I could not stand it any more. It is always a relief (and most of the times, empowering!) to come out to someone.

For those who are troubled by my transition, I offer to explain it in the simplest words I can, and to help them to understand that it is sometimes as hard for me as it is for them.

Just like Anderson Cooper from CNN said when he came out:

“… the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”

 

I truly believe that the only way humanity will survive is to embrace diversity and remove our culturally stereotyped assumptions against marginalized minorities.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day (NCOD): If you are “not out”, and need to tell somebody, I invite you to come forward to any EQUAL! Officer. A small email sometimes makes a big difference.

 

(banner photo by Sharon Drummond on Flickr)

Notes:

  1. Interesting enough to note that the Ancient Greek definitions of the word ‘therapy’ (θεραπεία) has the following meanings: healing, taking care of, listening to, attending to, and a waiting on service. Soul also has its own Ancient Greek word ‘psyche’ (ψυχή) meaning: The human soul, mind, or spirit. When we combine the two words together we get ‘psychotherapy’ which literally means ‘taking care of the soul’.
  2. Here I used the word desire intentionally in contrast to a wish. Typically, Gender Dysphoria is accompanied with a strong and recurrent desire to live completely and permanently as the gender opposite to that which they are.
  3. For a widely accepted LGBT glossary of terms see this Human Rights Campaign page.
  4. For an excellent introduction to Passing and Social Stigma see this Wikipedia entry.
  5. See also Erving Goffman’s 1963 seminal work and still up-to-date: Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-671-62244-7.
  6. For the most well known reference on Gender Performativity see Judith Butler’s 1990 most influential work: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge, 1990. ISBN 0-415-92499-5

By the EQUAL! Benefits team

Benefits have long been a key focus area for EQUAL! Our 2012 Benefits Focus Team has made some significant progress in helping make key benefits information more accessible to our membership. As we continue to expand this work and identify benefits gaps, we need your help and support.

We would like all members to participate in providing information through a very short survey that we have created. The information you provide will be helpful to the future progress/direction of our team and provide useful information for our membership.

Please be honest and open with your feedback. All responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself in the final question.

Thank you.

Survey URL: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BQZYH9C

by John Fredette, EQUAL! Vice-President

I am left-handed. I always have been. I don’t know why. No one else in my family is left handed. I must have been born that way. When I began school I noticed other left handed people and I felt a connection with them even if never verbally acknowledged. I realized early on that society is set up for right handed people. That is the expected norm. But I have been able to make accommodations. Aside from being unable to use a fountain pen because my hand smears the ink as I write I do not find being left handed a liability.

I know in the past being left handed was seen as very bad. In fact, people were forced to change their natural left handedness and were made to write right handed. This often caused emotional distress for those unfortunate former left-handed people. The word sinister is derived from Latin for left handed which gives some idea of historically how people viewed the condition. On the other hand, it has also long been seen as an attribute of creative people – both Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo were left handed. It is estimated that about 10% of people are born naturally left handed.

In addition to being left handed I am also gay. With the exception of the comment about fountain pens, everything listed above about being left handed could also be said about being gay including the two great artists. I did not choose to be born gay, it is just who I am and have always been.

Fortunately for me, being left handed is no longer seen as sinister or even worthy of notice or comment . Unfortunately that is not the case with being gay. Some people not only notice, they feel compelled to comment upon and take action against people being gay. Being gay can still elicit very strong negative judgments.

Which is why the recognition of June as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Awareness Month is important. The movement to equality for the GLBT community has come a long way in the decades since the Stonewall riots in June of 1969 marked what is considered to be the start of the modern equality movement. Back then being actively gay was illegal. Less than 50 years later, gays can be legally wed in the same neighborhood where the Stonewall riots took place. But such equality is not available everywhere and there seems to be brewing a last ditch effort to limit equality rights. That is very unfortunate.

Alcatel-Lucent has taken an emphatic stand on the right side of this issue. We have a very comprehensive Global Human Rights policy which is explicitly clear in protecting the rights of individuals. EQUAL!, Alcatel-Lucent’s internal business partner organization has a full month’s worth of activities (internal link) available for people who want to increase their knowledge of the issues important to the GLBT community in our company. There is something for everyone to learn no matter what side of the issues one finds oneself on. I am delighted that, Christel Heydemann, our HR leader has offered her full support for the EQUAL activities:

“Alcatel-Lucent supports diversity programs in the workplace and embraces ensuring that all employees have a supportive work environment. Our Global Human Rights Policy was written to support these values and states that we prohibit discrimination against any employee or job applicant on the basis of age; disability; race; sex; color; religion; creed; national origin; citizenship; sexual orientation; gender identity, characteristics or expression; marital status; covered veteran status; or any other protected class and will treat everyone with dignity and with full respect for their private lives. June is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender awareness month. I encourage to participate in the events during the month.

Some day raising awareness will no longer be necessary and being a member of the GLBT community will be as unworthy of notice as being left handed. No one will even think to question why someone was born “that way.” The events EQUAL! is offering this month help to bring that day closer.

May 17th is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia); individuals & organizations around the world celebrate the removal of homosexuality in the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 17th, 1990. This event, first launched in Canada with the Fondation Émergence, has since spread to numerous other countries (more than 50 are participating this year) with the IDAHO Committee.

Beyond the symbolic aspect it shares with similar events (such as International Women’s Day, and World AIDS Day) this day serves as creating awareness about equal rights for the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community, as well as the discrimination the community still faces today around the world.

A simple goal: equal rights for everyone, everywhere

Equal rights are still not a given in most countries. Large corporations often implement global equal rights policies, even if local laws do not mandate it yet. At Alcatel-Lucent, efforts have been made to achieve such equality; for instance, the works council in France recognizes employees’ dependents, whether they are spouses or partners, or ‘non-biological’ children.
Furthermore, civil unions (that remain the only legal form of same-sex union today in France) provide the same benefits as marriage in terms of leave entitlement (five extra days) — whereas the local law doesn’t require this. Similarly, the health coverage includes dependents from a civil union.

In several transgender cases, Alcatel-Lucent supported employees during their transition, and helped amend payslips in order for their new identity to be recognized in court.
More recently, Alcatel-Lucent France opened parental leave to same-sex couples, benefiting the partner of a new mother in the event of a medically assisted conception. While beneficiaries of this policy may be few and far between, but it is worth highlighting this effort.

Looking beyond French borders, similar policies are implemented to ensure equal rights amongst Alcatel-Lucent employees: support to the partner’s relocation for Long Term International Assignments (as many countries do not recognize same-sex unions and therefore do not grant dependent visas), and inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the anti-discrimination policies that apply worldwide.
Alcatel-Lucent takes action to eliminate any form of distinction or discrimination that are related to sexual orientation.

Discrimination is still commonplace (especially at work), even in ‘developed’ countries

It is worth highlighting a significant disparity between the various regions. In too many countries, individuals can be sentenced to jail (and even death in seven countries) just because they are GLBT. In France, the situation is quite different (thankfully) and the last police files tracking gay individuals were destroyed 30 years ago.

In Alcatel-Lucent France, even though there can be a certain ‘clumsiness’ in discussions about this topic, it would appear there has been no discrimination related to sexual orientation or gender identity — and this is great. This may also come from the fact that often, victims of such harassment or discrimination do not dare to speak up as they fear the investigation may cause more problems or may be too ‘out in the open’.
To put things back into perspective, it is interesting to note that for several years now the annual report on homophobia in France (published by the SOS Homophobie advocacy group, and based on phone calls from victims) shows the workplace is one of the first location of discrimination.

EQUAL! – a support and educational group, open to all Alcatel-Lucent employees (and retirees)

In order to help people who need it, and also to make the workplace more inclusive, a group of Alcatel-Lucent employees support educational and awareness events on GLBT topics within EQUAL!. Some of these events are planned every year in June, for the GLBT Awareness Month. This year, we are thrilled to welcome Amnesty International and SOS Homophobie on June 7th at 1pm in the Salle Polyvalente in Velizy, to explore the two topics discussed above.

To get to know what EQUAL! does, what events are organized, or even just to educate yourself on GLBT Diversity topics, you can browse this site or contact one of the EQUAL! members whose contact details are listed on the website.