How do gay pride mailing lists work out at work?
October 12, 2010 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Do you have a mailing list at your place of work, for gay people to chat with other gay people on? A pride list, as it is commonly known. What are your experiences of it? Do you know anything about how it was originally set up? How does it work for you; what are the pros and cons of such a mailing list in the workplace?

Many years ago when I was at university, there was a 'pride' mailing list. I was extremely closeted at the time and it was of great comfort and benefit to me, to find it and take part in it. Things are rather different in the workplace, but just recently a friend of mine made an off-hand remark about some interesting thing they'd seen recently in their x_large_employer pride mailing list. A fairly well known global company. I was really surprised to hear about such a mailing list in the workplace, but it got me thinking. This company, being so large, must be somewhat of a special case. A staff base so wide and varied could more easily support this kind of thing, but yet I found myself thinking back to my university days and that mailing list. I found myself envious.

I'm a gay guy, I wouldn't say I was closeted at work; you'd surely know I was gay if you knew where to look. I have colleagues I mildly suspect might be gay too, and colleagues I strongly suspect might be gay. They're cool guys, and while I don't wish to date them, I'd enjoy openly having something like that in common (I'm not inclined to just blurt it out and ask, for fear of being wrong). There's no 'pride' mailing list here. I wonder if there ought to be, and who else would pop out of the woodwork if there was. Nobody's ever quite bold or curious enough to ask me or to ask them if they're actually gay (rainbow mugs from Amsterdam? Hello?).

And so I come back to my original point: How do these mailing lists tend to work out, in the workplace? What are your experiences of them? Did it forge better friendships with colleagues, connections, ease some of those closeted cramps? How did the privacy or fear of recriminations work out? How did you advertise it, or invite people? For the record, people seem very accepting and modern here, without a whiff of homophobia. Finally, has anyone been involved in setting up something like this from scratch?

I'm interested in getting the ball rolling, but I do wonder if I'm opening myself up for a world of hurt, or if it will be all rainbows and spreadsheets and unicorns.
posted by Elfasi to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not familiar with this at any company I've worked at (and I live and work in SF) but it sounds like a very sticky issue.

Your first trip should be to see your HR manager to see what they say.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:09 AM on October 12, 2010

I've never heard of such a thing either. However I know that there are some very large employers who go out of their way to cater to their queer employees - so it wouldn't super surprise me to find that this was the case at places like Google or Microsoft.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:25 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please keep in mind that any communication done in a work environment is not private or secure. Before you or anyone else participates in such a mailing list using company e/mail accounts or company computers, consider that you might as well be having those discussions in the office lunch room full of people.
posted by HuronBob at 9:28 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've worked at a couple large companies that had mailing lists like this, but in both cases they were connected to LGBT employee organizations within the company. I think the purpose of the groups was mostly networking.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2010

I work at a very large firm and Pride is one of our 5 employee networks in the US. Signing up for membership is confidential and only the network steering committee sees the membership list. Additionally, my company relies heavily on internal chat (IM), and we have a very active Pride chat channel. Anyone on the channel can see the other members, so it's not confidential, but it has worked out really well. I sometimes see people contributing there that I've met in a work capacity and we have a 'fancy meeting you here!' conversation.

I think the key is workplace recognition, personally, so that resources are available for people to find the network without having to ask managers or HR. Email distribution lists are so far from secure that I'd be paranoid about saying anything on there, or even adding myself, if I were closeted.

I've been quite involved with setting this up at my workplace, so if you have any questions, feel free to MeMail me.

Good luck...
posted by widdershins at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2010

Usually these things make more sense set up conjunction with an internal employee organization/affinity group.

Honestly, the way I would go about doing this is making "office-friends" with a few other folks you think (know?) are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans -- or allies. I can't see it actually taking off or working out without a group of people who are relatively comfortable being out. Then from that group of acquaintances, set up something more formal, maybe just for networking or possibly to work towards a more gay-friendly working environment, recognition (benefits?) for same-sex spouses or partners of employees, lobbying for better health coverage (gender reassignment surgery?), and all those things that a straight working environment takes for granted.

Heck, maybe you could just announce you want to have an internal LGBT/ally happy hour and see if anyone is even interested. Again -- having a small (core) group of people you know are going to show up already would be helpful!
posted by polexa at 9:48 AM on October 12, 2010

I just started a job and we have an LGBT Employees Network that handles mass emailing of interesting things.

I got a pretty standard email alerting me to the network's existence and asking if I'd like to sign up for updates. I did, and shortly thereafter got a nice little email about National Coming Out Day. The network has events, monthly meetings, and other extracurricular things. I'm curious to see how the IRL component feels.

My sense is that the network became a priority because I work for a large, very progressive state agency in a conservative state. As an entity of the state of Texas, we wont be getting domestic partnership benefits any time soon. So I think to distance itself from the official stance of the state, the network was created in order to foster a more inclusive atmosphere.
posted by jph at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2010

I don't know about a mailing list, but I hear Genentech is great at having LGBT group stuff going on there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:27 PM on October 12, 2010

> Your first trip should be to see your HR manager to see what they say.

I would say this is the absolute opposite of what you should do. Quietly start the list and see what happens. It's always better to apologise than ask permission, as they say.

If you go to HR first, they'll mull it over for six months and consult the lawyers and so on and so on. And when you ask a lawyer "might there be a problem?" they always reply "yes, there might".

If you start the list and someone later wants to shut it down, on the other hand, that's "big corporation censors its gay workers" in the news.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:38 PM on October 12, 2010

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