We didn’t get the most amazing reaction when we announced that our Southeast Mini Meetup Tour would also have a partial focus on gay rights and homophobic legislation in the south. We’re a tech blog, and we really shouldn’t be dabbling in politics or human rights. And yet, even issues that seem far removed circle back around to the tech industry, the startup scene, and the state’s economic well-being.
Such is the case with the issue of discrimination against gay people in the South. So we sat down with a few gay men who are in the tech scene in Atlanta — Chip Standifer, Mark Streeter and Hai Nguyen — to learn more about their experience here.
The truth is, if you’re gay and you live in the south, Atlanta is where you want to be. In fact, some refer to it as the San Francisco of the South. Yet, Chip Standifer in particular (the oldest of the trio), explained that he still probably missed out on opportunities — or had to turn them down — because of his sexual orientation.
At the same time, couple Hai Nguyen and Mark Streeter, who both have radically different jobs, say they don’t feel that much discrimination at all, though that’s not to say that being out is easy.
In Atlanta, there are programs in place in certain companies to help the LGBT community feel more welcome, but Mark Streeter explains that it sometimes feels forced. But there’s still a concern that the South may be missing out on some amazing technological talent because of what could be referred to as closed-mindedness.
We all agreed that the best thing that can be done to make it easier for the LGBT community in the long run is for individuals to be out now. It’s obviously easier said than done, especially for those living in outskirt cities rather than the Atlanta metro area, but once someone gets to know you and respect you, it becomes much more difficult for them to hold on to any illogical hate.