Visitors to the
National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md., have to pass
through three security gates to enter the premises. Should
they need to use the restroom inside, an escort must
accompany them to the latrine.
Not only did
Brian McNaught have to face this foreboding environment, he
had to stand up in front of 600 employees of the NSA -- the
country’s cryptography and wiretapping agency
-- and convince them that making gay jokes hurts their
McNaught earns a
living lecturing to companies on how to foster safe
environments for LGBT employees. Over the past 34 years
he’s spoken to dozens of Fortune 500 companies,
but when he visited the NSA in June, it was the first
time he lectured to people in fatigues.
remarkable thing,” McNaught says, “is you have
the NSA bringing a gay speaker to an organization in
which half of its employees are civilians and half
operate under ‘don’t ask, don’t
NSA’s director of diversity invited him to speak,
McNaught said he would do so only if all top-level
managers -- civilian and military -- were required to
attend. He got his wish. All senior executives,
including NSA deputy director John Inglis, were on hand.
lecture, McNaught had lunch with Inglis, who made it clear
the agency welcomes gay civilian employees -- but they
must be out.
closeted can turn someone into a blackmail target,”
McNaught says. “The NSA is worried whether
someone with access to national secrets has anything
an enemy of the United States could use against
them.” Knowing that, McNaught used his
presentation to stress the importance of putting gay
employees at ease -- no jokes, no gossip -- so that coming
out isn’t an issue.
How was he
received? “After a three-hour presentation,”
McNaught says, “I got a standing