Naturally enough, some Pittsburghers have been trying to determine whether or not the new mayor’s otherwise successful government diversity agenda has been inclusive of openly LGBTQ persons — and with little success.
Given both the candidate and the administration’s pride in backing LGBTQ rights and all the crowing about government diversity, it’s a fair question.
It’s also a darn tricky one.
The first difficulty is in the timing of when to ask it and to expect a useful answer. When is the new administration fully assembled enough to do so? That’s been the precise trouble in gauging whether or not there has yet been enough progress in the police bureau. In that instance, change can only come at a glacial pace — after hiring a new Director and Chief, letting a few internal reviews work their way through the system, successfully negotiating new collective bargaining contracts, implementing improved rank & file hiring practices over time, and actually altering an entrenched, centuries-old culture of police work.
However in the instance of governmental diversity, six months seems like a relatively sufficient time frame to expect real changes. The first of many.
The second and far greater difficulty has to do with basic human resources. When an applicant for a job or a high-level volunteer post is interviewed, it’s relatively easy to make high-percentage guesses about race and ethnicity or about gender without asking any questions. Whereas if an interviewer asks, “By the way, and this won’t be determinative for you but we’re just curious for good reasons, do you happen to be gay?” that is a great invitation to an expensive lawsuit or three if either honestly or cynically misinterpreted.
Moreover if anyone does “turn out” to be gay, bisexual or transgender and the administration does just happen to know about it, it’s entirely possible those individuals did not sign up to be celebrities on the basis of it. Even if they are “out”, they may not want to be that out. That’s another lawsuit waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, the public’s interest in having the comfort and security of knowing City government reflects all Pittsburghers is important at the same time.
And when important enough questions seem to be overlooked or ignored, corrosive assumptions start leaking all over the good china.
What to do about this? I have no idea. I’m glad it’s not my conundrum. Maybe somebody will ask during tomorrow’s Reddit AMA.