For 33 years
Brian McNaught has been training corporate executives and
the general public how to handle gay and transgender issues
in the workplace. The author of four books, McNaught,
who himself was once fired for being gay, has become
one of the most sought-after corporate diversity
trainers in the world. But the intense amount of travel was
wearing heavy on McNaught, so he decided to offer his gay
diversity training through a four-part DVD series that
seeks to build bridges of understanding at work.
When did you decide to go to DVD?
I have a variety of videos already available, most of
which were filmed for PBS stations. But when the
director of diversity at Merck heard that I might be
pulling back and not available to do the education,
she said, “Can we have you come in and have you do
your whole program so that we [can record it], because
we don’t want to lose you.” I said,
“Sure, and how about I take it and make it available
to other companies?”
Is the workplace better now for LGBT employees than it
was 10 years ago?
Initially our focus was to try to get companies
to pass policies that would make it easier for people
to feel good at work, such as nondiscrimination
policies, domestic-partner benefits, the creation of
gay and lesbian employee business networks. Most companies,
major corporations, have done that. But that did not
address the culture. Now the really hard work begins.
How do you transform the culture so that gay people
don’t feel [merely] tolerated at work but feel
valued? That’s the basic message of my
presentation, and that’s what people are resonating
So how do you transform that culture?
Gay people are not afraid in most places of being fired
for being gay; they are afraid of being marginalized.
They are afraid of not having someone ask on a Monday
morning “How was your weekend?” They are
afraid of being invisible at work when they come out.
The reason for that is not the hostility of the
heterosexual colleague but their fear or ignorance.
Their strategy is to avoid openly gay people. My message to
them is, Avoidance is not a successful strategy,
personally or professionally.
Are some industries, such as entertainment, better than
others? Or is that a myth?
I think that’s a myth. But my
experience—and I sometimes have to pinch myself
when I’m doing these trainings—is that the
financial institutions are way ahead of other cultures
in the business world. They want to attract and retain
the best and brightest people. My message to them is,
You have done a good job in attracting people by having
corporate policies that protect them, but how do you