Notice anything missing from this picture?
This is the ad for the event that took place this week at the Newseum. It was a gathering of all the openly gay U.S. Ambassadors.
The ad says openly LGBT U.S. Ambassadors, but you might have noticed that is not what is pictured there.
Participating in the panel discussion, which was hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, the Harvey Milk Foundation and GLIFAA (formerly Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and now LGBT+ in Foreign Affairs) were Ambassador to Australia John Berry, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James Brewster, Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel Baer, Ambassador to Spain James Costos and Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius (the only career ambassador). They are gay men and they are all white. Not even one of the moderators was a lesbian or person of color, to say nothing of transgender. LBT was not present in that picture or on that stage.
None of the stories I have seen on the event (such as this one in the Washington Post and this one in the Washington Blade), which I am the first to admit is a wonderful thing and evidence of how far we have come, mentioned this absence. Which I take as evidence of how far we have to go.
Of course, it was definitely noticed in social media, where I was not the only one to notice that these representatives of the State Department are very pale and male.
And it isn't just the Ambassadors. When the Department recently appointed an LGBT envoy, which to its credit is a career FSO (as is only one of the out gay Ambassadors), it appointed another white man. I was told at the time that there just aren't any lesbians or people of color who rank highly enough to be considered. And that seems to be true. I can find no lesbian or out person of color who has made it to the ranks of Senior Foreign Service.
Of course, rank didn't stop the Department during Secretary Rice's tenure from appointing several men to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) who were only FS 02s in rank (for reference, FS 02 is the Foreign Service equivalent of a Lt. Colonel. Senior Foreign Service is the equivalent of a general. The highest ranking out lesbians that I know of in the Department are FS 01s, or Colonels, higher ranking than those men who were made DASes). And those men did not return to their mid-level positions afterward. In fact, two became Ambassadors, another an Assistant Secretary.
So really, the Department could appoint a career lesbian or out person of color if it really wanted to.
But we don't even need to go there. Because it could be argued, quite rightly, that an officer should have more experience before being named to such high positions.
But what about the political appointees? Five white men. Are you really telling me the Department could not find a single out lesbian or person of color for one of these positions? Anywhere? It stretches the bounds of credibility.
I hope that someone in the Department will take notice the optics of how jarringly white that picture is, and how inappropriate it is given we strive for diversity and for a State Department that looks like America. As one person on Facebook said, this looks like the Supreme Court of the 1960s.
I hope that the Secretary really meant when he said last year during his Pride remarks that " I’m working hard to ensure that by the end of my tenure, we will have lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ambassadors in our ranks as well."
Because you might have noticed the next Presidential race has already started,
So we don't have much time left.
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