A series on sexual orientation in the 1990s with a curious moniker


Back in the 1990s there was a sequence of two books that constitute almost an antithesis to my work.

These are two items from Routledge, authored by Bob Powers and Alan Ellis.

The first is “A Manager’s Guide to Sexual Orientation in the Workplace”, for which I have a hardcover dated 1995.  The second is “A Family and Friend’s Guide to Sexual Orientation”, dated 1996, paper.  I actually purchased these in paper copy in 2000 at a Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis.  Today, the first of these is a collector’s item on Amazon; the second appears unavailable.

The books do make up a real series, because the subject matter of each book is different (unlike the “Healing our World”, last post, which has multiple editions of essentially the same material).

I had previously (in 2000) reviewed these on a legacy site here. http://www.doaskdotell.com/books/bguide.htm

A couple of aspects of the series still seem noteworthy in today’s discussion.  One of these is simply the authors’ viewpoint.  The authors treat sexual orientation as an immutable trait that invokes no need for any existential (or “essentialist”) moral debates on personal life courses, choices and actions.  And there is relatively little attention to the political issues of the time (military, marriage, and the like) now so well known. That is in marked contrast to the tone of my own “Do Ask, Do Tell” series that I commenced in 1997.

The second is that the authors treat these works as practical, didactic “handbooks”, especially the second of these, where there are empty spaces for consumers to write down notes, as if at a weekend hotel symposium.  The books have many testimonials or accounts of various people in workplace or familial situations.  To me, this approach is hyper-commercial, and tends to “talk down” to the reader.  But in some contexts, this method (like the “for Dummies” series) does sell a lot of books and makes money. I’ve seen it done with religious matter.

The books have each have a red button with a white “Do Ask, Do Tell” text on the cover art. Page 14 on the first book has a little sidebar conclusion “Do Ask! Do Tell!” and mentions little novelty items with the slogan being sold, but I don’t recall seeing these anywhere in the 1990s (I lived in the DC area then but visited Texas, California, Nevada,  Washington State, New York and Minnesota during that period).  The phrase was not included as part of the formal title of the books.

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