“Discrimination is ugly and you do have to bare that ugliness in the open like a sore so you can begin the healing process,” says Lynn Cothren, the head of Queer Nation in Atlanta, who helped lead the boycott of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, which, in 1991, fired seventeen workers for being homosexual.
In 1991, it was legal in forty-seven states to fire employees for being gay or lesbian and only 3 percent of American labor unions had contract language protecting these workers. In addressing the many aspects of this type of bigotry, filmmakers Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson have wisely focused on the stories of just three individuals, providing a depth of exploration that—along with its humane gaze—allows <i>Out at Work</i> to resonate long after we view it. The three are Cheryl, fired from a Cracker Barrel in Georgia for “failing to comply with normal heterosexual values”; Ron, a Detroit auto-plant technician who endured many painful months of on-the-job harassment before becoming a delegate to a UAW convention where a unanimous vote added a sexual-orientation nondiscrimination clause to all contracts; and Nat, a comfortably effeminate library clerk in the Bronx, whose gay city workers have strong job protection. When asked how it felt to come out at work, Nat smilingly replies, “I was never in.” Filled with humor, insight, and moving fervor, <i>Out at Work</i> offers a stirring experience for us all.
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