David Castillo

How I Became a Home Depot Defender

Filed By David Castillo | June 25, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: American Family Association, coming out of the closet, domestic partner benefits, Home Depot, Media Matters, pride celebrations

I'm not usually in the practice of coming to the defense of many coporations, especially a giant retailer like Home Depot, but Media Matters for America's County Fair blog pointed out a World Net Daily report that promoted a homophobic American Family Association (AFA) email to its members. In it, Home Depot is the subject of AFA's ire for its domestic partner benefits, which are open to domestic partners of their employees.

County Fair on the AFA:

"So, what exactly is the AFA? It certainly sounds wholesome, but a review of its past comments tells an entirely different story. Political Correction -- Media Matters' partner organization -- offers some enlightening context:

Yep, you read that correctly. WND quotes an organization that thinks too many Indian-Americans are winning spelling bees and that gay sex is tantamount to domestic terrorism."

It's true, as County Fair's Kyle Frisch points out, that WND is clearly on the furthest parts of the right-wing fringe, but it's also true that they're doing their part to spread hatred in the form of some twisted comedy to all its readers.

It's also true that there are probably some things I would hate to know about Home Depot's corporate business practices, but at least it does have accepting benefits policies, which include any domestic partner of an employee, which includes its LGBT staffers.

I'm glad they have a presence at Pride celebrations like the one featured in the WND story. More corporations would do well to look to Home Depot for ideas on how they can be more inclusive of their own LGBT employees.

Still, my support for Home Depot doesn't derive from that alone. There are, thankfully, other American corporations with similar policies. It derives from how much enjoyment my father has found in working for them, especially where it concerns their inclusive policies.

Both my parents are hard-working blue-collar Latinos with not much more than a high school education. They also probably spend their time online doing less social networking than most of those reading this post right now, especially when it comes to activism. But I like to think that over the years I've kept them informed enough to consider the LGBT implications of those they support electorally, financially, or as potential employers.

Not too long ago, my dad took a job with a Home Depot in Texas working in the lumber department. I was a little confused when he told me left an operating room position at a local hospital to take a customer service job at Home Depot, but he told me he was happy about the decision and looking forward to not having to contend with physician egos. Understandable.

I can't say I was really convinced that it was the best decision, but over the last year I have really come to understand more clearly than ever how important it is to attain personal happiness. My partner has been instrumental in helping me get to that point. My father, I've learned, is doing what he needs to do to be happy.

He's also an outstanding carpenter so the lumber department makes perfect sense for him! He even landed an account at a river resort in the Texas hill country making deck chairs. He gets to work with his hands and he's around 2x4's and 3x4's and whatever else you might find in that department. All I know is that he is in utter bliss when he's there.

I'm very proud of him and he is also skilled at charming the pants off people when he meets them, so it's fitting to have him on the floor talking to folks about what they need for their own projects.

Despite all that, I was still on the fence about him working there.

I became a Home Depot supporter when my dad told me what he learned after finishing orientation. He called and was very excited to tell me about Home Depot's LGBT friendly benefits policies and how he spoke up to his supervisors to let them know that he was happy he was working there because of that policy. He told them that he had a gay son, so it was important for him to be working for such a friendly company.

He had come out to his fellow staffers. True, he didn't come out as a gay man, but I know many parents back home who love their gay and lesbian kids, but who would also prefer that nobody else know they have one. It's sadly far too common.

I'm lucky enough to have parents who love me for me in private and in public and who are unafraid to say so.

Whether my dad knows it or not, he was an activist that day when he voiced his support for his company's LGBT policies. LGBT employees at Home Depot should thank my father for his small action.

He is a true friend and ally to our community the world over.

Thanks, Dad.


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When I learned that the AFA was targeting Home Depot with an email and phone campaign because of its appearance in a Maine Pride event, I emailed Home Depot a letter of support for their policies. Their response said they would forward my remarks to upper management. They need to hear the positive reactions to counter the negative tide from AMA.

Kudos to your dad for setting the loving example for others to follow.

What's wrong with Corporations?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 26, 2010 1:38 AM

I agree that there is nothing wrong with a socially responsible corporation. Years ago I bought a house in the historical district of Old Louisville and the collection of hardware stores and supply of repair and replacement parts was a major disappointment. The local hardware stores thought of me as a difficult customer because I wanted better quality than they had on offer and more options. Their sclerotic attitude was "if it was on their shelves it was good enough." And if you want to talk homophobic they were there.

Home Depot has caught on to the fact that a gay customer is a greater spender. They now are in Indiana just across the river from the downtown area and they are packed.

All corporations, like all employers, expect employees to conform to their standards. Home Depot's is a gay affirming expectation, but this is not the case with all corporations. Many gay men and women hit a "pink ceiling" in the corporate world. Internationally many corporations also behave in ways that are questionable for the sustainability of our planet, but that is really another issue.

David Wood | June 26, 2010 1:28 AM

Your Dad's story brought a tear to my eye. Both of you must be so proud! I emailed them too and got the same response as Jessie. I will remember to support them whenever I can.

I have worked at The Home Depot for over 8 years. I am a transgendered female. For 5 years I was Chuck the plummer. Three years ago I started transitioning at work. I am now Charlene the female who works in 5 different departments as needed. My Home Depot human resources manager read the therapist letter and allowed me to transition. It was difficult at first due to some of my associates, supervisors and managers still gave me a hard time. But eventually Coorperate office stepped in and stopped the local store harrasment. Home Depot is a great place to work. They now treat all their employees fairly. And Yes if you are a hard worker and are wiling to learn trades and how to sell it is the place to work.

I had a wonderful experience working for Home Depot. Ten years ago, H-D, Ft Lauderdale hired me as an out Lesbian with a transgender history. I was out not from bravery but because I had worked there part time pre-transition and I knew, of course that my ssn would out me so I simply explained to the Manager that, "I'm not "him" any longer." No one cared.

I worked in a number of departments as I do know a lot of that "stuff" but finally ended on the contractors desk. For a while, I had a boss who 1) did not like wimmin; 2) felt wimmin had no business working in construction (except on calendars); 3) especially did not like dykes and finally could not stand this cute mouthy transbian with her gorgeous butch girlfriend and her Rainbow suspenders holding her orange apron.

That man made my life miserable and did everything he could to humiliate me in front of customers. Once the company became aware of this they investigated and fired him outright despite his stratospheric sales numbers.

The support I received was strong and caring and I would go back to work there in a heartbeat since it was really really a fun place to work.

Even my pre-transition store in Colorado had 36 lesbians out of a work force of 206.

Home Depot is upfront about the companies values and more importantly truly does its best to live those values. GO ORANGE!

j-Marie

Thanks for this story, I had no idea about the company but now I will make a point of shopping there.

A. J. Lopp | June 26, 2010 11:26 AM

Gays are known for moving into metro areas and reviving entire neighborhoods, a.k.a. "gentrification", and there is little question why home improvement businesses like Home Depot (or Loew's or Menard's or Contractor"s Warehouse) should value their gay customers ... and employees. (Anyone who cares to read up on the details of LGBT gentrification might check out Cities and The Creative Class by Richard Florida.)

Even here in Indianapolis we have Fall Creek Place, a community re-development project that transformed a residential area on the Near North Side during the 1980's and '90's. The effort may not have been entirely fueled by gay influx, but OTOH, I doubt it would have been successful without it.

But insight about LGBT gentrification rarely makes it so clearly into explicit company policy. After seeing this post I'll feel much better about the business I give Home Depot.

A. J. Lopp | June 27, 2010 2:52 PM

Couldn't resist copying this quote and drawing a connection between two posts:

We're unable to marry, but Republicans love us when we gentrify."

--Mike Albo on Pride in the Village Voice

It might be the only thing we do that Repugs approve of. That, and throwing fine dinner parties.

Oh, yes ... and we do their wives hair, and we design their dresses ...

better world | July 4, 2010 11:57 PM

yes gays revive neighborhoods and wilton manors florida is beautiful. But now these communities are lovely looking and like the rest of this world are on bad foundations. Built on the sole right for a man to put his penis in another mans rectum.

Worked for Home Depot in Wyoming, while folks in the community were shooting at my car and house or leaving strangled dead animals on my front porch. The management and the other workers were strongly supportive of my transistion. They even sent wonderful letters of recommendation to several KMart stores in West Virginia (no Home Depots here)when the haters forced me to leave Wyoming. I recommend Home Depot to everyone in need of home improvement supplies. What they do not carry they will gladly special order for you. Their GLBT, disability, racial support policies are the best in the country.
Dawn Storrud

Home Depot, Seneca Road here in Eugene Oregon is on my list of first stop purchasing. They have always been top shelf when it comes to service and it is a delight to shop there. I have made major purchases on their credit card for my new home. To get there I hop on my bicycle with a trailer and take the easy 25 minute ride to shop there. I had no idea of this place being Gay Friendly so next time in I will make a point to thank them for standing up to criticism from the Religious Right wingnuts.

If I remember correctly, Home Depot employees marched in the Indy Pride parade this year.

Sorry I have to be the one to offer the dissenting opinion. Home Depot is a monopoly and has put a lot of local businesses under. I will say the lumber and building supply businesses are some of the most conservative. It is commendable tbat Home Depot is progressive enough to offer domestic partner benefits. There is too much wrong with their big box, one size fits all corporate model of success approach, however. I know a bit about the building supply business and the homoginization corporate pressure exerts, driving down the quality of goods and services when the only interest a corporation has is the profitability of products and services that have mass appeal.

Also, I don't think companies like Home Depot should be allowed to do drug testing. People should be judged by the job their performance not by what their lab tests show. There should be no search and seizure without probable cause. The notion that it is o k for a corporation or the government to demand a search of your body as a condition of employment is something people have become too used to in the post McCarthy/ Invasion of the Body Snatchers police state world we have grown accustomed to. I don't think people should be forced to trade civil rights for civil benefits.

David Castillo David Castillo | June 27, 2010 6:19 PM

Edith, I think you're getting exactly at my reservations about corporations. Maybe I should have gone more into why I don't normally defend corporations, but I wasn't really interested in dissecting my philosophical values as they related to labor and business.

What you've mentioned is certainly nothing new nor necessarily profound. Home Depot, like other similar corporations, employs a business model that makes it hard for smaller businesses to compete.

My post, though, wasn't really about that. It was about how I was able to reconcile my political philosophy with my father's decision. Would I be happier if he ran his own successful hardware store? Sure. But, that isn't happening anytime soon.

If he's going to work for a big box retailer, I'd rather it be one that has inclusive policies. And, judging from the comments so far, the company often seems to go to bat for its LGBT employees. Those are good practices that should be highlighted, especially when the company in question is being vilified for its involvement in Pride celebrations.

I'm glad you have such a strong relationship with your dad, David.

Hi David,

I understand. We live in a world that is far from perfect. I think it is great you have a wonderful relationship with your father. I mean that. We are in the land of the internet. My life is too hard to explain as is my situations and my feelings about this. Anything I would say in regard to what I wrote would cause way too much confusion. Let me just say, I think the world needs more people like your father. It sounds as though he really cares about you.

This is beautiful, Dave. Good for Home Depot and good for your dad. You are both very lucky.