Brian McNaughBrian McNaught is the face of gay diversity training and his extraordinary efforts have helped countless queers working in corporate America. Brian is an author and international presenter on gay and transgender workplace issues. He recently produced a popular four-part DVD corporate educational program coming soon to an HR conference room near you. So grab some popcorn as Brian gets personal about payday and the diversity movement. You might want to email this one to the gal in the corner office or the guy in the next cubicle. Enjoy!

1. How does diversity impact the earning potential of gays and lesbians working in corporate America?
Diversity training is the only reliable way to enable gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees to work in an environment in which they feel safe and valued. Without the benefit of education, heterosexual colleagues, even in corporations that earn 100% ratings from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for being gay-friendly, tend to accommodate gay employees rather than engage them. Thus, gay employees feel marginalized and invisible. In those companies that have initiated comprehensive training for their senior managers, gay and lesbian employees find it easier to come out. Those who are out, find it easier to climb the corporate ladder. The more successful they are as openly gay people, the easier it is for the company to truly value its diverse workforce. Subsequently, more gay people come out at work. But that can’t happen merely through enacting protective policies. Education is the only way of enabling the corporate culture to catch up to the corporate diversity ideals.

2. What is your most significant memory about money?
The memories which had the greatest impact on my attitudes about money include watching as a child as my upper middle class father generously responded to any request for help, reading as a young man about the rejection of wealth and status in Siddhartha and in books about Francis of Assisi, living in a rat-infested apartment during my hunger fast in the 1970s, the joy and embarrassment I felt when my life partner received a major bonus for his work as a managing director at a Wall Street firm, and the excitement of being financially able to donate a large assortment of animals to an impoverished village in a Third World country. I’m wary of the negative impact money can have on one’s spiritual journey, and I love money for the positive impact it can have on the lives of others.

3. What is your worst habit around finances?
My spouse Ray would say that my worst habit is assuming that if I save $100 on a sale, that I now have $100 to spend on something else.

4. Compared to most Americans, you’re a real estate mogul with homes in P-town and Ft. Lauderdale. Name three things that have contributed to your financial success?
Ray had a long career on Wall Street despite having left the seminary without a degree, working in beverage control at a hotel, and getting his BA in college at night. He was the first openly gay managing director at Lehman Brothers. He is a strong believer in saving money and investing conservatively. He’s in charge of our finances.

5. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
Since one can’t buy a full stomach, decent housing, a good education, and freedom for every human being on the planet, I’d buy the U.S. presidency for a woman or man who is smarter than me and who shares my values. Other than that, I want for nothing.

6. Do you and your partner, Ray, see eye-to-eye on money?
We merged our money thirty years ago, a year after we moved in together. At the time, we each made about ten thousand dollars a year. In all of the time since, we’ve not once had a disagreement about money. I’m smart enough to take the advice of people who know more about an area than I do.

7. There are 33 states where people can still be fired for being gay. How important is it for queers to come out at work?
Personally and professionally, coming out is one of the best decisions a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender person can make for him or herself. Most major corporations prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Even in states that allow for workplace discrimination, most major cities ban it. It’s not hard to find a place in the country in which you can work openly, and thus, happily. Some people cite a variety of reasons why they can’t change jobs or move. I understand, but urge them to find ways to affirm themselves on a daily basis, even if it’s to come out to just a handful of people at work.

8. Your novel, “Sex Camp” allows readers to be voyeurs in a sexuality workshop, all for the bargain price of an Amazon paperback. How important is it for people to invest in self-development? Should people budget for these types of real life experiences?
Camp Book The happiness that I experience in my life would not be possible without the work I’ve done in therapy and in reading soul-enriching books since coming out. One of the best things I did for myself was to confront my internalized heterosexism. My most recent book (“Sex Camp“) provides the roadmap I’m following to sexual health. Identifying the obstacles to personal and professional happiness in our lives does not have to cost a lot of money, but it does require a personal commitment.

9. What are your plans for retirement?
My guess is that I will be involved in some form as an educator on gay and transgender issues for the rest of my life. I would like to spend less time on airplanes and in hotel rooms, though, so I’m limiting my speaking engagements to those that require attendance by senior managers. I created my new DVD so that companies could have the same training without me needing to take off my shoes and belt at the airport so often.

10. Money can buy great experiences, but can it buy happiness?
I’ve been very happy when I’ve had very little money, and I’ve been very happy when I could afford to buy anything that I wanted. Happiness results from a decision we make to be happy. We choose to be happy, just as we choose to suffer (which is not to say that we choose to experience pain.) Ray and I ask each other two questions on a frequent basis. The first is “If you were to die today, is there anything you haven’t done that you want to do?” The second question is “If this isn’t heaven, what is?” The answer to that is not influenced by having homes in Ft. Lauderdale and Provincetown. It’s influenced by the joy and serenity we find in being present to the moment.

More about Brian McNaught
Brian McNaught is an international presenter on gay and transgender workplace issues, counting among his clients nearly every financial institution, as well as a variety of other Fortune 50 companies. Labeled “the godfather of gay diversity training,” by The New York Times, he is the author of Gay Issues in the Workplace, among other books, and recently produced a popular four-part DVD corporate educational program entitled Understanding and Managing Gay and Transgender Issues in the Workplace. McNaught began his career as an educator when he was fired for being gay in 1974 by the Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit. His videos appear frequently on PBS stations.

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.