July 20, 2010
Diversity in the workplace is a very broad term. Diversity itself means variety. Diversity in the workplace can be about age, ethnicity, physical ability, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and many more categories beyond those specified legally in equal opportunity and affirmative action non-discrimination status. Gays in the military is a topic that has brought about many heated debates for years. Gays in a typical workplace is common and accepted by the general public. Discrimination is illegal and unethical in the workplace and sexual discrimination is no exception. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is one workplace that has the potential to have a complicated ethical problem. The potential problem comes from the men’s shower room. It is a communal type shower with 12 shower heads in a fairly small room. None of the divers have had any problems showering together after the dives because they know they are all straight. A common concern in the in the locker room is the possibility of a gay diver potentially getting hired. None of the divers want a gay man in the shower with them. This is an opinion that they are allowed to have, but not legally allowed to prevent. These divers have some concerns that are valid and some that are not. In group settings, like gym showers, men showering with men, and women showering with women has always been the cultural norm in this country. Showering together as a part of normal, daily life is unusual for opposite sex couples, married or otherwise (except when the couples are having some sexual play). Depending on the point of view, a gay man in the shower would be the same as having a woman in the shower. So why are women not allowed in men’s showers and men not allowed in the women’s showers? Professor Charles Moskos came up with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” idea which is now a law adhered to by the military. Here's what Professor Charles Moskos said in a 2003 interview at Northwestern University: "To me, the issue comes down to privacy. Prudes have rights, too." Even more frankly, Prof. Moskos declared, "Fuck unit cohesion. I don't care about that ... I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay [man]." (Steinman, Saturday, March 22, 2008).
Various gay blog websites have discussions about showering at a gym. A small amount of gay men say they are discrete and none of the other men realize that they are showering with a gay man. On the contrary, posted on the same blog website, Justusboys.com, were countless comments so graphic that they cannot be listed here. The ratio of discrete gay men to the vulgar ones validates the divers concerns to some extent. The vulgar men would probably not act up in their own workplace.
There have not been any gay male divers at the NBL in the 13 year history of the facility. On the contrary there have been several gay female divers over the years. This has not been an issue for the female divers. The female locker room is sectioned off and has individual showers for privacy. Converting the male locker room and showers into a similar configuration would cost thousands of dollars. An ethical question that should be addressed would be: Should the management be forced to fund the remodeling costs of the locker room to allow the men the same privacy as the women? Or should the straight men be told to just deal with showering with a gay man?
Management should not be forced into the remodeling. There is no legal issue preventing straight and gay men showering together in a communal shower. In order to settle any conflict that the straight men might have, and help deter any violent acts, management should look into making some modifications for the prudish straight men to have a separate shower available.
Steinman Rear Admiral (Retired), A. (Saturday, March 22, 2008). Gays in the Showers,
Oh My! Retrieved from http://admiralscall.blogspot.com/
(2010). Public showers. Retrieved from http://www.justusboys.com