That NYT Article on Gays and Tech is Way Off

Jul 23 at 12pm

The New York Times’ recent article “Technology’s Rainbow Connection,” an attempt to comprehend the LGBT people who live and work in and around tech, is yet another example of the Gray Lady just not getting SF. It makes many people here sound like unsympathetic humanoids.

Basically the argument is that in spite of falling all over itself in support of LGBT rights, the tech sector can be a mixed bag for LGBT employees. Sounds simple enough, but things go awry quickly, with the startled recognition that SF Pride was dominated by tech companies. Why this is so surprising is anyone’s guess; NYC Pride has lots of floats representing airlines and banks, because that’s what forms a big part of its economy. (But we have the Dyke March, the Trans March, and the post-Pride Faerie Village as alternatives.)

It gets weirder. When someone says sexual orientation is becoming irrelevant because “There’s a person on my team who can unicycle for three miles… and there’s a lesbian on my team. And I’m on my team. It’s cool,” you know something’s off in the diversity manual. Although there’s lots of P.R.-speak to be found, there’s no real inquiry into whether the warm embrace of LGBT people by the tech industry or corporate America is just savvy pinkwashing. (Look at Betabrand, now selling gay jeans whose rainbow threading literally “comes out” over time. Um, eww?). Instead, homophobia’s the fault of a few rogue bros. The piece reads as if gay people and tech people are equally exotic species, and LGBT techies are less bridge-builders than doubly awkward souls trapped in the middle of a cruel Venn diagram. Isn’t San Francisco strange!

And no Times article on gays and tech would be complete without yet another mangled semi-outing of Apple CEO Tim Cook. Quoting the Wall Street Journal’s characterization of him as “a vocal supporter of gay rights” is ridiculous. Cook is gay. Dosing the reader with some wink-wink innuendo about a well-established fact is a failure of journalism – and wrong in another sense, too. The phrase “vocal supporter of gay rights” should not be code for someone who’s secretly gay – as proven by the untold millions of heterosexual supporters of LGBT equality in the US. Supporting gay rights in 2014 doesn’t make your sexuality suspicious. The Times realizes that, because there’s no catty whispering in the next paragraph about Mark Zuckerberg’s having marched in Pride because duh, he’s as painfully straight as they come and we all know it.

There are syntactically strange factual errors, too. Hi Tops isn’t a “sports-themed gay bar near the Castro.” It’s in the Castro, just not on Castro Street – and who calls a bar “sports-themed”? Please just say “gay sports bar,” like a person. And if this was really an examination of people breaking down stereotypes on two sides, why-oh-why did it run in the Fashion section?

Such quibbles aren’t mere “nitpicking.” People in Real America hold a lot of misperceptions about this city, and now that San Francisco’s gentrification and culture wars add to our reputation as a home for the mentally deranged, there’s quite a bit at stake. But once again, San Francisco looks like it’s populated by oddballs who don’t talk like normal humans.

Photo by Charlie Nguyen via Flickr

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