Highlights from Out & Equal

Posted on 09 Oct 2015 at 7:45am

Speaking Frankly


Barney Frank

Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts had a stern message for the CEOs and other corporate executive attending the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Dallas this week. While he applauded corporations that have great policies of inclusion for LGBT employees and lauded their efforts to lead the way to equality, he still had one major scolding: “You give your money to people who screw us,” he said.

Companies put their financial interests ahead of the well-being of their employees and undo much of the good they’ve done with their internal policies, Frank explained.

Snark is what Frank is known for. When President Ronald Reagan began talking about the right to life while limiting welfare and Medicaid for the poor, Frank quipped, “He apparently believes life begins at conception and ends at birth.”

Frank wasn’t the first out elected official in the U.S., but he is the first congressman to marry his same-sex spouse.

Even before coming out, Frank was supporting legislation to benefit the LGBT community.

When he was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he served for 10 years before his election to Congress, a statewide gay rights group polled candidates and asked if they would support a statewide gay nondiscrimination law and if they would sponsor it.

While Frank was afraid coming out at the time would hurt his election chances, he couldn’t vote against equality legislation and he figured someone more senior would sponsor the bill. So he answered yes to each question.

Once in the legislature he found himself in an awkward position. While others said they would vote for a nondiscrimination bill, he was the only one who said he’d sponsor it — so he did.

Frank described growing up knowing he was a gay kid during the McCarthy hearings. During that period, President Dwight Eisenhower issued an executive order preventing “homosexuals” from obtaining a security clearance. That kept gays and lesbians out of a variety of government positions and all sorts of jobs with companies that were contracting with the federal government.

Once in Congress, Frank said the number one issue he dealt with until 1995 was security clearances that had been denied to LGBT people.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton was looking for ways to make amends to the LGBT community for the passage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Frank suggested rescinding Eisenhower’s order, which Clinton did.

Frank said he had intended to retire at 75. Instead, he retired at age 73, after 16 terms — 32 years — in Congress.

“I wanted a normal life,” he explained.

While he was in Congress, Frank said he was never more than three days away from having to travel back to his district or to Washington. Now for the first time, he said, he’s enjoying married life, living with his husband Jim.

Clandestine & Equal

CIA“We’re doing outreach to demystify the organization,” one CIA employee said, explaining why the agency had a booth at the Out & Equal Conference.

The woman not only works for the CIA, but said she also is a member of its employee resource group, Out at the CIA. She was in Dallas with coworkers this week talking to people attending the Out & Equal Workplace Summit about careers with the agency.

She described the agency as extremely diverse and, yes, welcoming of talented LGBT employees.

“We have to look like the rest of the world,” she said, handing me a wonderful brochure called “We’d like to dispel 10 myths about working for the Central Intelligence Agency” that, well, dispels 10 myths about working for the agency.

Those myths range from “everyone drives a sports car with machine guns in the tailpipes” to “only those who have been U.S. citizens for generations can really get a job here.”

The opposite is true. Those with experience in foreign cultures and foreign language experience would be highly valued for some positions. And, of course, only a few people have machine guns in their tailpipes.

Interesting careers are available, including some with foreign assignments. But most positions are located in and around the agency’s Maryland headquarters.

Other myths: “Foreign languages are required.” No, foreign language skills may be needed for some positions, though. You probably won’t carry a gun. Why would you need a gun to work at a desk in a secure location outside of Washington D.C.?

Go to CIA.gov for current job listings and requirements.

Members of the National Security Agency also attended Out & Equal. Their goal — protect the nation. And they’re looking for more good people — including talented LGBT people — to help them do just that.

One NSA employee acknowledged intelligence agencies were difficult places for LGBT people to work in the past. But now, “it’s a very welcoming, comfortable atmosphere,” he said.

The NSA’s employee resource group has more than 100 members with about 25 who are members of the military.

Much of the work done at NSA is intelligence analysis. Jobs in this field require researching and analysis to present findings. Someone who fits that category would be good at puzzles and putting things together.

Good memory comes into play, the NSA employees explained, remembering some odd fact from weeks ago that might be relevant to interpreting a document you’re handed today.

NSA is looking for people with technical skills like cyber-security, telecommunications, data mining and others. Areas of study include foreign language, political science, chemistry and biology, geography and — hmmm — journalism. The CIA also mentioned they’re always looking for writers too. …

How to apply for positions is explained at IntelligenceCareers.gov.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 9, 2015.

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