Diversity goes beyond race

My recent blog about efforts by the Coast Guard to improve diversity in its civilian and uniformed ranks brought a thought-provoking e-mail from a reader.

“Diversity is not just about race,” he wrote. “It includes women, gays, lesbians and transgendered people.”

As a 25-year-old gay man and a licensed merchant marine officer, he portrayed a disturbing sequence of discrimination and bigotry during his career in the maritime industry. “In the marine industry and in the Coast Guard, I will agree that there is not much diversity, but minorities have not had to put up with what the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community has had to endure.”

He said he was “witch hunted” out of the Coast Guard Reserve, was fired from several jobs because he was gay, and has been told that immoral people like him shouldn’t be working the river. One company, he claimed, launched a slanderous campaign against him.

“The sad reality is with the industry and the Coast Guard,” he wrote. “The bigotry that is there needs to be fixed first. There needs to be fairness across the board, not just based on race. I will admit I have seen many cases of discrimination based on race, but those cases don’t usually end in termination, but the opposite. I have seen racial cases and sexual harassment cases, always involving female cooks, being settled quickly and out of court. In cases like mine we are always terminated and in always a bitter and hateful way. These companies even dare you to sue them because they know the GLBT community is not a protected class.”

These stories make you wonder – just how common is this in the industry? Does anyone else have similar experiences to share? Drop me a line.

About the author

Pamela Glass

Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.

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