If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I am concerned with the lack of a out lesbian or out person of color Ambassador. I discussed it most recently regarding the gathering of all the LGBT Ambassadors at the Newseum.
Or I should say, out gay white male Ambassadors, because that was what that was. And if it hadn't been for one lone FSO, I'd have had to qualify it as out gay white male political appointee ambassadors.
Turns out, I wasn't the only one who noticed.
Dr. Marcie Bianco wrote a piece on mic.com called This Photo Represents a Major Problem in the LGBT Rights Movement.
She says in the article, "White men running the show is not "progress." It's more of the same. But when its leaders better reflect the greater LGBT movement, whether they're appointed by members, nonprofit boards or the government, true equality can become attainable for everyone."
She isn't wrong, While I would not say it is "no" progress, it is certainly not enough progress. We can do better than this.
Ironically, I would not have seen this article had it not been posted on the GLIFAA Facebook page. I say ironically because it was posted by someone who was angry that she said this wasn't progress. He ranted about how it was great progress, and when my wife and I dared to object (as did many other lesbians to us privately), we were absolutely flamed over it. How dare we question the good work of these ambassadors (we weren't). How dare we look after our own self-interests (we weren't). We were merely pointing out that Dr. Bianco is right, it isn't enough.
The person who flamed us (and attacked us personally...I continue to be disappointed that those comments have been allowed to remain on the GLIFAA page), said that six of the Ambassadors had people of color for spouses. That is great, but all of the married U.S. presidents had female wives and that doesn't mean that the Presidency was attainable for a woman. Likewise, African-American men got the vote long before their wives did. I suppose their wives should have just been content with "progress" made by their community and not continued to push for rights of their own.
The fact is that racism and sexism still exist, and the picture of the six gay white male ambassadors highlights that. For contrast, I'd like to point out another photo, taken at the Chief of Mission conference recently. It is a picture of all of the female Ambassadors who attended.
It is a great picture. But I'd like to point out that there are more gay white male Ambassadors than there are women of color in this picture.
Diplopundit, in a nice piece on the number of female ambassadors, points out that 31.6%, or 116, of the ambassadors appointed by President Obama have been women. Of that, more than 70% are career appointees (meaning they are FSOs, not political appointees). That number isn't awful considering that the number of women in our senior ranks is somewhere just under 39%.
But the number of women in our senior ranks is an issue in itself. I hope time will sort that out, as women are now the majority (by a slim amount) of those entering the service, but a report I read recently said women are also more likely to leave (and not just "to have families." Perhaps the appearance of lesser upward mobility than their male counterparts plays a role in their looking elsewhere?). So who knows?
And as I have mentioned before, I know of only two out lesbians who have reached the rank of FS 01 in the service, and none have made senior Foreign Service. None.*
And that is a problem no matter how many gay white male ambassadors we have.
*I have heard rumors of some career lesbians in the senior ranks, and perhaps even ambassadors. But if they aren't out, that doesn't help.