Mercedes Allen

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Employees Show Their Love For The GLBT Community

Filed By Mercedes Allen | November 29, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: hate crimes against LGBT people, Norvartis, Transgender Day of Remembrance


I have a feeling that I should post this here, because now that the original link is out in the blogosphere and the backlash is happening, I expect the original thread to be deleted soon. After all, it is easier to TOS the complainants and discussion than to deal with the complaint.

It seems that the good folks at Novartis Pharmaceuticals (or some of them, anyway) have taken issue with the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The original post-er on their message board writes:

"... Are you kidding me? Have we as a company and a nation lost our f*cking minds to allow this sh*t. So tell me, what am I to remember? I am confused. But wait, that's what this day is all about anyway, confusion! Remebrance? I'm certain guys like Patton, Omar Bradley, Schwarzkopf, and for you unread mullaf*kas, Lt. General Chesty Puller, I'm certain they would make certain these homosexual deviants would be made to feel, well, nice, in a pair of lace panties somewhere along the way. When are we as RED BLOODED AMERICANS going to stand up and say "enough of the politically correct horse sh*t" and tell these queers to go straight to hell...."

Transphobic and homophobic follow-ups include comments like the following (Warning: it gets kind of vile. People who aren't normally concerned about trans issues might want to have a look too, though, as the comments aren't particularly trans-specific):

"When are we celebrating Beastiality day or Pediphile day? Afterall, my sexual orentations shouldn't be descriminated against!" ... " Better yet, a national day off to allow sex offenders "a free day" without penalities!!!" ... "I'm just curious as to why a particular group of people would get their own day of the year to celebrate the fact that they put other guy's d*cks in their mouths and asses? Doesn't really seem to me to be something to celebrate, but rather something to make others nauseous. It's freakin' disgusting. I hope you guys enjoy the loads that are shooting on your face on transgender day. Just make sure to wash all of it out of your hair." ... "It is in remeberence of the d*cks they once had" ... "There's a difference between being a woman, and being a eunuch. Which is what you've become. Tell your boyfriend that he's gay, because he's dating another male, who had his private parts mutilated." ... "Well. have a Happy Trany day to [name deleted] Mancow in Nashville Oncology--- Mooooooooooww." ...

Well. And coming from a moderated forum.

There is a similar pattern in most forms of conscious victimization of people, from abuse to murder:

  1. blame the victim

  2. construct an ideology in which the victimization is okay

  3. do away with any empathy for the victim.

In both transphobic and homophobic violence, the victim-blaming is pretty much this: "I panicked when I realized that she had a penis," or "If he has a vagina, he shouldn't be treading in mens' spaces," or "he (or she) came on to me" -- all of which are routinely used to minimize or render irrelevant the murder of a human being, as TDoR shows.

The ideology is the transphobia and homophobia itself.

And society has done a pretty good job of using religion, sarcasm, spin and self-absorption to achieve the third point.

People ask if we really need a Transgender Day of Remembrance, and this illustrates exactly why: the event enables us and our allies to challenge the victim-blaming, challenge the transphobia and re-establish that empathy by telling the stories (or what we know of them) of the victims, and restoring what value we can to their lives.

After all, we're addressing not just the prejudice itself (we wouldn't have enough time to scratch the surface of that in a few-hour event), but what can happen when that prejudice is taken to its most tragic extreme. Ideally, in doing this, we should also look internally at the other prejudices that we also may have (racial, ageism, privilege, bias against sex trade workers, distaste toward others whose transness is not like ours...) and confront that pattern in those contexts, as well.

So if the people of Novartis Pharmaceuticals receive a backlash, they've sort of asked for it. As much as they may try to characterize our response as "exemplary of [our] own bigotry" towards, oh, I don't know, bigotry perhaps, there is a valid reason that people are seriously upset.

Note to Novartis employees: Transgender people generally experience Gender Dysphoria, an incongruence between mind and body that you should be thankful to not have experienced. The most extreme of this is classified as "Gender Identity Disorder" (DSM-IV-TR, although recent studies have pointed to a likely biological component to transsexuality).

The medical community has recognized that aversion therapy drives a person to withdrawal, anti-social behaviour and even suicide, while acceptance and (in the case of transsexuality) transition allows a person to move on into a happy and successful life (also provided other baggage accumulated from coping is also dealt with). That's why the recommended Standards of Care implemented by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recommends transition and even surgery. Look it up.

Note to Novartis International AG: Should management contact me and demonstrate both an honest apology for the behaviour of its staff and an earnest attempt to educate its staff on the matter, I will be happy to remove the post from my blog and ask Bil to remove it from The Bilerico Project. It may not happen, but hey, the offer is there.

Note to transfolk: We don't need to support this company, should it trivialize such attitudes from its employees. Most trans-related medications do not originate from here -- aside from perhaps some unstated medications in generic forms, I see only Estraderm TTS/ Estraderm MX and Estragest TTS that one might encounter as part of HRT.

Over-the-counter medications include: Triaminic, Theraflu, Lamisil, Benefiber, Nicotinell, Bufferin, Buckley's Cold and Cough Formula, Denavir/Vectavir, Desenex, Excedrin, Ex-Lax, Gas-X, Keri Skin Care products, Maalox, Habitrol, No-doz, Tavist, Vagistat, Doan's pain relief, Lamisil foot care and Comtrex cold and cough. For prescription medications, they've been kind enough to give us an alphabetical listing on their website.

Because we're not interested in abiding or providing support for the pattern of victimization and the hate machine anymore.

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Boy, those people are freakin' stark raving nuts. Right out of the Dukes of Hazzard.

Don't take it down, even if they do apologize. Novartis may apologize, but those posters never will.

Instead, I hope one of them gets assaulted for holding his wife's purse while she uses the ladies' room. Then, he could be "remembered", too.

The karmic wheel inexorably spins.

Well, the way I see it, a company can't always control the attitudes of the employees, but they can make an earnest attempt to educate them, and in the end, that's what we can hold them responsible for.

I'm also not going to wish violence on them, just enlightenment and maturity.

Incidentally, the thread has been taken down now. A few people have archived it in text and screencap formats, but the original link will no longer work.

Well, it's cool the thread is gone. But I have to agree with Polar about karmic repercussions. This is not to wish violence on anyone, let alone death. However, it's been my experience that people learn lessons faster and truer when the issue touches home.

That being the case, if some raging 'phobe is mistaken for one and subsequently dealt the hand he or she has been gleefully dealing to others I say so be it.

I had a boyfriend who didn't understand why I was so broken by his sleeping with a friend of mine. Thought I should just get over his little mistake. So I slept with his BF and told him about it immediately. He understood and was wreaked. We still broke up, but I learned that showing is often so much better than telling.

It's petty tit for tat I know, but it felt really REALLY good.

Reformed Ascetic | November 29, 2008 1:36 PM

When I clicked on your link I received a "no thread specified error."

Just for clarification and to get the details: Were the commenters actual employees? How long were these comments up before they got pulled? Did any moderators act at all?

Thanks for the convenience of listing products.

And Thanks for pointing out that the truly vile also draw no distinction gay and transgender complete with examples. Fighting for one means fighting for the other.

I wonder if everyone is aware that there have been actual scientific studies demonstrating that those who describe themselves as the most homophobic also consistently demonstrate physical response (yes, that's right erections) when presented with homoerotic material. The researchers describe talking to men sitting there with full erections and saying how horribly the material was. The researchers have even put up video presentations on YouTube for those who are interested.

For some reason I thought of that when I read what I thought were surprisingly detailed comments. Strangely enough hostile non-queer people seem to find those studies upsetting.

"Just for clarification and to get the details: Were the commenters actual employees? How long were these comments up before they got pulled? Did any moderators act at all?"

Yes, the message board is usually not frequented by the public; roughly about a week; and no, except to pull the thread, AFAIK.

"The researchers describe talking to men sitting there with full erections and saying how horribly the material was."

I'd be interested in knowing about this study, although I can't help but wonder if this was using the same machine (or premise) invented by Ray Blanchard and condemned / discredited when J. Michael Bailey used it for a number of studies. Was this voluntary and did the subjects know?

The only way I know to measure erections is the penile plethysmograth -- which, yes, has been discredited.

But not because it can't measure erections (or lack thereof), but that erections are not an accurate measure desire. Physiological response is not always linked to emotional response and psychological response. Not to mention that charting the reason for the erection is often just speculation. Maybe someone is responding to the stylistic differences between gay or straight porn, or to one particular person, or the bare feet prominently displayed in one video, or any dozens of things instead of the entire gender makeup of the cast.

For all we know, the virulent homophobe with a raging erection is not being turned on by the gay porn, but turned on by ranting against the queers.

Reformed Ascetic | November 30, 2008 7:18 AM

Tobi made really good points. Additionally it can even be argued that physical stimulation from the measurement device (a circumferential transducing strain gauge, or a type of plethysmogrph, could induce reactions. Or even just the general awareness of the situation.

I think Kurt Freund (who was replaced by Blanchard) is generally credited with inventing the device, but I could easily be wrong.

The APA notes in the DSM IV:

Penile plethysmography has been used in research settings to assess various paraphilias by measuring an individual's sexual arousal in response to visual and auditory stimuli. The reliability and validity of this procedure in clinical assessment have not been well established, and clinical experience suggests that subjects can simulate response by manipulating mental images. Paraphilias, at 524

As Tobi suggested the device can definitely measure erections, but the farther you move from that the more questionable the results become. Even if the study design is accepted, many questions remain as to how the physical responses then translate into desires or identities (actualized or denied).

The premise of the researchers here is that factors other than homophobia should be randomly distributed through the groups given randomly selected volunteers. I can't remember the sample size but given the kind of study it was probably fairly small (I believe I remember it being mentioned in the video) which always causes all kinds of problems.

The address of the youtube presentation follows:

I think you can then use that to find more detailed scientific information if you’re still interested.

For the purpose of the study arousal/interest was operationally defined as penile response because it is fairly easy to objectively measure. They did use a combination of self-reporting and the plethysmograth as data though. Which they felt by comparing also allowed them to have some insight into the self-awareness of the subjects and not just the physical reactions. I believe the video mentions that non-homophobes self-reported varying degrees of interest without necessarily having physical responses (and vice versa), but the homophobes often had significant physical responses while self-reporting no interest.

All subjects were volunteers who rated themselves into different classes of homophobia (non vs. homophobic) who also were required to have a heterosexual history prior to the study. The researchers reported that compared to the non-homophobes the homophobic subjects "reacted" more strongly and at a rate significantly statistically higher. The study doesn’t really address individuals but trends between the two groups.

Reformed Ascetic | November 30, 2008 6:29 AM

Not to point out the obvious or anything, but then didn't the employees clearly violate company policy as detailed below. My point being that although I don't have access to a company handbook but shouldn't sanctions against individuals follow along with the apology?

"At Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, we are fully dedicated to our Diversity programs and our EEO mission. Our policy is to employ and retain the most qualified individuals without regard to gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, race, disability, military status, or any other category protected by federal, state, or local law… We see our commitment to EEO as a moral imperative. But we also have a compelling business rationale for EEO. As the American workforce rapidly becomes more diverse, we face the challenge of creating new and better ways of recruiting and retaining talent from all segments of the American workforce, and we must ensure that Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation continues to provide a positive environment where we can all work together comfortably and effectively…. It is the policy of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporations to provide a work environment that is safe, conducive to good job performance, and free from discriminatory practices. The Company will not condone or tolerate harassment of any individual on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, military status, Vietnam Era veteran status, disability or any other legally protected classification. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation will take all steps necessary to prevent such harassment by supervisors, other employees or non-employees."

Gee, when I had a penis I got erections when viewing naked bodies, male or female; go figure?

It is kind of confusing for those who do not understand, the whole idea of sexuality in the transgender community. I mean personally, I consider myself homosexual, since I like women and have never slept with a man. But for the non-trans, wouldn't that mean I am straight? One of my psychitrists once made that mistake, when I told them I was gay they thought I dated men.

Go figure!

You can lead a fool to knowledge, but you can't make them think. There are people out there that you will never reach, they have blinded themselves to any but a gender and hetero normative reality. They will never be able to get their head around any concept that does not fit into that paradigm.

All we can do is f**k with their heads and have a good laugh at them when it is over.

It's hard for me to take seriously idiots who spew hate but can't even spell their rants correctly.

Leaving that aside, this is the perfect example of why gays and lesbians should care about trans rights. The haters can't and don't differentiate between us. They hate trans people because they think we're gay. And they hate gays because they disrespect women. Look at the contempt with which the moron drips talking about putting dicks in people's mouths.

Obviously, people who perform oral sex on men are contemptable, according to this doofus. The vast majority of people who do that are women; so that should give you an idea about his regard for them.

Years ago, I realized that sexism and homophobia were the same phenomenom. It took me longer to add transphobia to that equation.

The attitude of those posters is why GLBT must make common cause with each other, and with feminists. We *are* one community.

You didn't mention this one, which is the reason why why hate Crimes legislation that will allow Federal intervention when the local police are uninterested in investigating is so much needed.


The problem is that the last sentence may be correct. It has been in the past, and I don't mean a decade ago, I mean last month.

Nothing new here.

Just another indicator to how the public have been led to believe that transsexuality is another form of homosexuality through association and attachment to the GLBQt.

Sure the employees are violating company policy. Lets shut them up so that they cannot speak such things.

Now if we could just change their minds so they don't think it.

As others have stated they have an equal opportunity statement and policy.Personally I wouldn't remove this article without atleast a statement from Novartis that the employees involved were appropriatly punished for their actions.Being a company message board Novartis should be able to identify the posters if not they should put in the necessary software to ensure they can and let it be known that these types of statements aren't free speech and won't be tolerated.Nice post Mercedes

Gee, I worked for a company that rated 100 for several years on HRC's scale, and I still had to put up with a hostile workplace both during and after transition. One of the people on my team would see me walking in the hall, and they would turn off at the nearest intersection to avoid me. It was really kind of funny, in a sick sort of way, him giving me That much power over his actions.

This is not counting some of the things that I heard secondhand and after the fact which went on during the early period of my transition.

No one was fired, or even reprimanded as far as I know, for homophobic and transphobic remarks and acts that happened.

Yeah, those policies really help.

They have other anti-LGBT threads going...

- The AIDS scam

- Read Ecclesiastes. Pfizer is the modern day Sodom.

- homosexual behavior pride month of pfieldnet

...just three examples -- and that last thread on Pride Month dates back to June. Yeah, right...they police their "moderated" boards for TOS violations well.