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General News The Age: Why I Hid My Homosexuality At Work

Discussion in 'Current Events, World News, & LGBT News' started by SgWay, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. SgWay

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    I thought long and hard about writing this piece.

    Throughout my career to date I have actively covered my sexuality. As I matured and my life experience expanded, I began sharing this part of my life with the people closest to me. The only place where I didn't openly share this part of my life was at work. This wasn't because of fear of violence or persecution, but rather that it was just so darn easy being straight at work.

    Covering is exhausting, but after a while you get good at it. I recall Monday morning conversations starting with: "What did you get up to on the weekend?" and my ever-so-quick diversion response: "Not much, it was quiet. How about you?"

    It didn't matter if I did something special on the weekend with my partner or we celebrated an event, I used this response nonetheless because it made me appear plain and appearing plain at work is easy.

    Every person in the room assumed that if I didn't have a "missus" then I therefore must be a straight single guy looking for a girlfriend.

    As a 'covered' gay employee, I had every response, question and comment figured out. I learnt quickly the art of ensuring I never let someone look at a photo on my phone without me physically holding it to make sure there wasn't the accidental swipe left or right to see photos of me with my partner. My phone background was never the cute couple photo, just a plain colour usually because no one takes a second glance at a boring background.

    When I started a job once, I was asked to introduce myself to the team through a series of photos that showed key milestones in my life. My photos were heavily focused on my childhood, hobbies and travel. Following the presentation, my manager asked in front of the group: "Do you have a missus?" I answered the question honestly, "no", and for most of my time in this team I was assumed single and therefore on the market for a girlfriend. I even had a colleague arrange a blind date for me with a female friend of theirs which I had to politely turn down by making up a story that I was already dating someone.

    My manager asked the wrong question in this scenario. A turn of language to include 'partner' or 'significant other' might have yielded a different outcome. Instead, every person in the room assumed that if I didn't have a 'missus' then I therefore must be a straight single guy looking for a girlfriend.

    Something I have observed on several occasions is the awkward pause and sometimes stutter that comes when someone clicks on to the fact my partner is male and words start to flow.

    "Are you... gay?" with a look of surprise on their face. It's a perfectly okay question to ask, except that the term gay is seldom used in a positive context. How often do we hear the term 'gay' used to describe something someone doesn't like? There is often an awkward pause as the person thinks through whether the question they are about to ask might be offensive or rude. No one finds its offensive to ask me if I have a 'missus' or 'girlfriend' because that's deemed normal, but somehow asking me if I have a boyfriend or husband might be considered rude or offensive.

    Far too many people feel it is not safe to bring their whole selves to work.

    I have unfortunately experienced the spectrum of exclusion that exists for gender and sexuality diverse people. I recall a manager openly stating he didn't want any 'poofs' in their team out of fear they might crush on other men. Clearly my efforts in appearing straight in front of him had worked a treat. Then there was the time someone pulled me aside to let me know something I had said made me seem 'a little camp' and that people might start to think I bat for the other team. We wouldn't want that now, would we?

    Far too many people feel it is not safe to bring their whole selves to work. There were always a select few people at work I trusted to know about my sexuality but for the most part I found it safer to let people believe that I was heterosexual.

    When people know you are gay, the water cooler conversation somehow changes from being anything under the sun to questions all aimed at my sexuality: "How do you feel about the marriage equality plebiscite?" and "My sister's roommate is a lesbian", wanting to create a connection or implying that somehow all gay people must know each other.

    There are always good intentions behind this but unfortunately what I've found is that LGBTQ employees don't want a light shining on them. We just want to come to work and do our jobs knowing we can be ourselves and feel accepted.

    ________________
    If you would like to submit a blog to HuffPost Australia, send a 500-800-word post through to [email protected]

    Why I Hid My Homosexuality At Work
     
  2. lonewolf79

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    Wonderfully well written piece.
    I too hide my sexuality, but not just at work. Everywhere. Even though I came out 12 years ago, I decided it would be easier to be closeted again for various personal reasons. So people assume I am just single and not dating a "missus" at the moment...
    I just keep my head down, work hard, then sleep, :wink:
     
  3. sldanlm

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    With the workplace there's also another thing to consider, at least if you're in any kind of management position. A coworker of my late partner and who didn't realize she was a lesbian complained to him about a female supervisor who counseled him for job performance. He claimed she was just out to get him because she was "a man hating dyke".

    I was in a management position at my former employer, and revealing my sexuality might've caused problems in doing my job. (not the least of which the owners of the company are conservative Christians and there is no job protection for LGBT employees against getting fired) Granted, no one got fired for that specific reason, but no one came out at work either. It was like a civilian version of don't ask, don't tell. (which my partner had to deal with at the time in her part time Army National Guard job)
     
  4. mnguy

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    I fully understand this in many situations coming out isn't safe and everyone has their own work/life balance and desired level of separation. I think people at work figured I'm gay eventually since I never talked about women, maybe not. The more people come out, the more it helps to reduce our discrimination and would be nice if we all could share the important people in our lives, I'm a bad example. Everyone I know who was married openly talked about their spouses, the good times and the bad. It didn't interfere with work, it was just them being normal humans. You spend a significant part of your awake life with co-workers, maybe more than with your family. Not having a significant other over a long period of time is very unusual, but some people just don't bring their personal life to work and that's fine. In the case of actually getting fired for being gay, I would question giving my talents to such a company. On the other hand if they pay you a lot, I guess you could be taking advantage of them. I dunno, everyone has to make their own decisions, just wish being LGBT was no harder than being straight.
     
    #4 mnguy, Mar 10, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2017
  5. xenu

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    I'm the same way at work and think its better to keep my personal and professional lives separate. The company I work for does offer protections for GLBT people, and I have had coworkers that were out there, but why invite problems? I don't see it helping my career, therefore its my own business.
     
  6. Linkmaste

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    I actually let it slip I'm seeing a woman at work (kept trying to use those gender neutral pronouns but I said 'she').

    Honestly, I trust the environment I work in that they're LGBTQ safe. Probably the biggest reason to come out is to show that we're 'normal'. We arn't sparkling or super happy or a bunch of sterotypes that I can't even fathom.

    The guys love me because I do a good job, I love videogames and I can look at their reports.

    Girls love me because I do a solid work, cut the drama, and lend a ear pretty well.

    Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I'm special. I just come in, get my work done and go back out. Simple as that and hopefully those people hiding it in the closet will see I'm here to help if they need it. :slight_smile:
     
  7. Makalaster

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    I hide my sexuality at work too, but as of recently I'm thinking it may of gotten out without my permission. I guess I act too gay sometimes and I just don't know it. I'll jokingly say I like guys I don't know how it happened, but it did. At the same time some people say if I have a girlfriend. I did have sex with one of my coworkers who is bi and someone asked me if I fucked him; I denied it due to fear. It doesn't help that the owners are christian.

    at this point I don't know and I guess i'm okay with that.
     
    #7 Makalaster, Mar 12, 2017
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