I just finished reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. And I'm fired up and inspired.
If you've not yet read this book, I'd highly recommend it. Sheryl is the COO of Facebook. Her book brilliantly brings to attention the lack of equality for women in the workplace, along with women's own reluctance to "lean in" to their careers and lives. My favorite part of the book is her contribution to the conversation around equality, not only in the workplace but in our society as a whole.
Sandberg is a self-described feminist, and in the true spirit of feminism, she calls upon both men and women to contribute, stand up, and lean in to their full potential.
First of all, I must admit I was disappointed that she only mentioned same sex couples in one sentence in the book (p. 107). I would have liked to have seen her actually devote part of her discussion (even one paragraph) to sexual minority women. Even so, her words and insights sparked in me two of the passions that are central to my being: equality and conversation.
The last chapter of Lean In is called "Working Together Toward Equality."This chapter left me nodding my head in agreement while simultaneously wishing she were describing the LGBTQ community. (Because, well, to be fair, in a sense she was.) She illustrates that in order to really create change for ourselves and for the culture of our society, we are first called to "decide that true equality is long overdue" and "understand and acknowledge how stereotypes and biases cloud our beliefs and perpetuate the status quo" (p. 159). Also, she says, "we need to be grateful for what we have but dissatisfied with the status quo" (p. 172).
Sandberg's point is well made that while we have a lot to be thankful for in terms of progression towards equality for women, we shouldn't accept what is as good enough.
True equality will only be achieved when we as individuals, groups, and collectively as a society, decide that what is is not what it should be, and make the necessary steps to change.
I know we are making huge strides in the goal of equality for the LGBTQ community. We are in the middle of a huge transformation. And, it still isn't good enough. Not yet. While we can't expect things to change overnight when the culture of mistreatment and abuse towards the LGBTQ community has been the norm for hundreds of years, we can expect that as we each stand up and lean in to our truths, that it matters. And that every time we lean in, we are changing not only ourselves, but the world around us.
Sheryl quotes Gloria Steinem on page 140: "Whoever has power takes over the noun-and the norm while the less powerful get an adjective." She states, that as we shift and change, one day there will no longer be "women leaders," there will be, quite simply, "leaders." I would like to add that there will not be full equality for LGBTQ people until there are also no longer "gay NFL players," "gay movie stars," or "gay politicians," until there are, quite simply, NFL players, movie stars, and politicians.
Part of what will bring us equality is engaging in conversation.
Sandberg holds that "talking can transform minds, which can transform behaviors, which can transform institutions" (p. 148). I couldn't agree with this more. The more we allow ourselves to stay in the closet, maintain the status quo, and not speak up and engage in conversation around the issue of equality, the longer it will take us to get there. (Disclaimer here: I understand some people's physical/emotional/mental safety is at risk, so theyremain quiet until safety is no longer an issue. I agree this is a wise and necessary choice.)
True connection, conversation, and equality will not come of the "us vs. them" mentality (p. 166).
Although it may feel like a war, it does not need to be this way. Nor can it be a war if we are to truly gain equality. Allies to the LGBTQ community are an important and integral part of engaging in and contributing to productive discussions. Of course, discussion is not always easy. As Sheryl Sandberg describes, "the subject itself presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated the same" (p. 148). She also states, "Shutting down discussion is self-defeating and impedes progress. We need to talk and listen and debate and refute and instruct and learn and evolve" (p. 149).
I couldn't agree more. Discussion (true discussion, not talking at each other, but with each other) is integral to belonging, change, and equality. This type of discussion asks of us to be vulnerable, honest, and kind.
"The discussions may be difficult, but the positives are many. We cannot change what we are unaware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change" (p. 156).
What parts of your truth are you ready to lean in to?