Scene 2: Panel on Out Lesbians in Corporate America
The LGBT Community Center, Sept. 18
How should a lesbian respond if a co-worker points to a desktop photo of her partner and asks, "Did you two marry in the military?" What's the right "drag balance" to strike when getting dressed for the office? Will mentoring an attractive young woman raise eyebrows?
Anything a power lesbian ever wanted to know but had been unable to ask was on the agenda one Tuesday evening at the LGBT Community Center in the West Village. There, some 46 blocks south of the Upper West Side that many of these women call home, New York City's elusive corporate set assembled to network, air grievances and share solutions in a rare public event.
Unlike out elected officials and other advocates, corporate lesbians are like the invisible hand of capitalism, because they so often help to propel the cause without being seen. Each fall at the LGBT Center's annual women's gala, for example, the private sector generates thousands of dollars for the Center, which right now plans an ambitious capital expansion as its 25th anniversary approaches.
This evening a standing-room only audience of almost 130 mostly wore suits, offset by some skirts and even high-end athletic attire, to hear panelists address the topic, "Challenges in Being Out and a Lesbian in Corporate America," presented by Citi Pride Network NYC. Moderator Jennifer Brown introduced five women speakers who held positions at such quintessential New York companies as Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase and the New York Times Company.
L to R: Jennifer Brown (Out & Equal), Sue Truitt (Citi), Marsha Bonner (New York
Times), Laureen Callo (J.P. Morgan Chase), Liz Porter (Citi)
Panelists discussed communication, appearance and productivity in the workplace, but their recommendation that women need to show greater support for one another was resoundingly familiar. "Women are tougher on women than men are on women," observed Liz Porter, a director at financial giant Citi.
All agreed that wardrobe issues, for better or worse, are important to women in the workplace. While it was suggested that clothing functions as a critical uniform for investment bankers, attorney Faith E. Gay, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver and Hedges, LLP, said of her experience, "What matters is how good you are, even if you show up in a diaper."
Marsha Bonner, a human resources internal consultant at the New York Times, advised women to build professional identities around performance, rather than combinations of gender, race and sexual orientation. According to her, the key question for lesbians in the corporate world is, "At the end of the day, what do you bring to the table?"
Now that's a powerful calculation.
Scene 3: I Heart Brooklyn Girls Calendar Release Party
Southpaw, Sept. 22
Once upon a recent time, the idyllic brownstone neighborhood of Park Slope in Brooklyn was considered fertile lesbian ground. Opinions differ sharply on whether that remains the case today, but that didn't stop the I Heart Brooklyn Girls Calendar (now in its second installment) from scheduling their release party in the neighborhood.
On this Saturday night, artists and hipsters populated Southpaw, a Park Slope music venue, to support a project that benefits the threatened legacy of Coney Island. The 2008 calendar features 12 femmes from Brooklyn's queer community photographed around the famously freaky seaside location.
The legendary amusement park, beach and boardwalk at Coney Island may soon be changed forever by real estate development. The upside is that this lesbian reclamation of the traditional girlie calendar is available in a swimsuit edition.
Certainly, the edgy crowd that traveled from places such as Williamsburg and the frontiers of Queens could be forgiven for avoiding explicit talk about gentrification and zoning. Visitors such as Jenny Shimizu, Silas Howard and L.P. probably distracted them, along with the antics of hostess Pubic Zirconia and a performance by Brown Girls Burlesque, a collective of women of color.
Diversity in neighborhoods and within lesbian representations is a priority for the team behind the I Heart Brooklyn Girls calendar. Photographer Erica Beckman mentioned that 60 women applied to be calendar girls for 2008, and the 12 who were selected represent a variety of styles, ethnicities and shapes, united by the fact that all are femme.
No one in the audience seemed to mind the similarity in that respect.