I am a ‘gross’ ‘bully’ who should be ‘dead’. Would corporate America save me?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 12:19 GMT

Facebook logo is displayed on a banner during the annual NYC Pride parade in New York City, New York, U.S., June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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At a time when leaders, laws and sentiment seem to be changing, will corporate America continue to fight for LGBT rights?

Last week, I wrote an article for the World Economic Forum making the economic and business case for LGBT inclusion.

In a nutshell, I argued that most Fortune 500 companies are ahead of the curve, having introduced non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation, and having extended health benefits to LGBT families. None of these measures are officially required by U.S. federal law, yet corporate America seems to have fully embraced diversity.

My article praised these efforts, stating that employees of international corporations should be able to feel reassured that regardless of where they live, when it comes to work, they will not suffer discrimination because of who they choose to love and who they choose to be.

As I wrote my article, I never for one moment regarded it as controversial. I thought my case for inclusion was based on authoritative reports and some good-old common sense.

My piece was published by a number of websites: the World Economic Forum, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and AnswersOn, Thomson Reuters’ corporate site. It was also widely distributed across social media.

As it hit social media, I began receiving a good steady number of Twitter likes and re-tweets, but also some really disturbing Twitter “mentions”. I selected a few:

@antozappulla Whys this gay ass shit in my twitter feed? Am sick of this shit @twitter

@antozappulla Wish them dead

@antozappulla Want to see gays deported to Muslim countries so the natives will throw them off buildings

@antozappulla How does sex play into workplace. Dread to think.

@antozappulla Get outa my face

@antozappulla Bully

@antozappulla Nobody cares

@antozappulla Try live and let live

@antozappulla Effoff gay is never right

@antozappulla Its not genetic. It is not fine. It’s bad. Lgbt is bad.

@antozappulla Gross

@antozappulla There is an economic case for legalizing heroin too…but…

@antozappulla Disgusting! Have some Regard 4 Rites of Others! To see 2 men “kissing” makes me sick. Keep your sex life PRIVATE.

@antozappulla Time to end normalizing mental disorders that confuses developing minds @senatorSessions

A few hours later, my piece had been written about by Breitbart. The article was accurate, it lifted and quoted entire paragraphs and it correctly attributed them to me in the right context. The comments, however, were a mix of disturbing anti-gay rhetoric combined with vile insults and a ‘creative’ (or should I say alternative-facts-based) approach to history. LGBT rights were linked to communism, gay men  to paedophilia, and diversity defined as a tool in the hands of the ‘invaders’ to weaken Western societies.

Here is a selection of the comments:

That's why I think the WEF is pushing the women's equality and LBGT movements, to weaken western society and make it harder to hinder the invaders.

Invaders can be handled with a bullet. Here illegally? Have I got a bullet for you! Quick, easy, sad, but it gets the invaders out.

Experts at harassing people!


That and homosexuals must recruit since they don't procreate.
That means they are hunting for prey, and looking at our kids to capture.
So hellno, it's not okay.

These global elite are anti-family and anti-life. Populist are pro-family and pro-life. These globalist want abortions and lgbt to keep the world population in check.

Their "talent" comes with a price...undermining moral law which leads to destruction of society...

Nobody should be forced to submit to Gay rules.

Amen and now that Trump is President, Christian beliefs will be respected again at the federal level.

Beyond the need for large-scale investment (whether philanthropic of state-funded) in spelling classes, the comments above made me wonder whether corporate America will continue to openly fight for LGBT rights, at a time when leaders, laws and sentiment seem to be changing.

A great piece I read this week on Pride & Prejudice - the LGBT business blog by the Economist - looks at this changing scenario. The article highlights how an inclusive approach to LGBT rights has become “so deeply held in the C-suite, that {…} a growing number of companies have been willing to take a public stand against intolerant laws or practices, which in turn has helped win the argument”.

The writer mentions, as I did in my piece, North Carolina, where last year corporate America played a key role in opposing the notorious anti-LGBT law restricting access to bathrooms by transgender people. On that occasion, business of all sizes and sectors united in publicly opposing the law threatening to pull activities out of the state.

However, it is worth remembering that they did so knowing that they had substantial backing from the top. The federal government in fact had threatened the state of North Carolina to withhold $2.2 billion in federal funding from the North Carolina Department of Education. Business had its back covered, so it went ahead.

Today, things feel already quite different. During his first week in office, President Trump has passed executive orders to curb immigration from Muslim countries, erect a Wall on the Mexican border, dismantle Obamacare, and curb abortion-related US funding. He also publicly accused CNN of producing ‘fake news’, while his Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, encouraged the media to “keep its mouth shut”, and his senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, talked in Orwellian terms of ‘alternative facts’.

So far, when it comes to Trump’s LGBT agenda, the facts are contradictory, to stay on the optimistic side. During the election campaign, he spoke of making America safe for “the gays” (which sounded like Islamophobia on speedos), but he also openly endorsed the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would legalise widespread discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religious beliefs.  

On the other hand, the Vice President’s stand on LGBT rights is very clear: Mike Pence supports conversion therapy. That should sum it up nicely.

So, where does this leave US business, and in particular those CEOs who have paved the way to enshrine LGBT rights into the DNA of the companies they lead?

We are increasingly becoming familiar with the effects of a Trump Tweeter-rant. It worked in persuading some companies in abandoning plans to build factories abroad. Could it now work to curb diversity policies?

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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