When I started my job six months ago, I wasn’t sure how I should behave in the office. Apart from basic politeness (good morning, how was your weekend?), I wanted to keep my sexuality a secret. Despite having an openly gay manager, I was convinced that everyone would start acting funny with me if they knew. So how did I “come out” for a second time? I put my hand up in the office and someone noticed my engagement ring. Then came all the normal questions. Who is he? How long have been engaged. I slowly explained that he was actually a she. The ceiling didn’t fall through and no one looked at me funny. After the initial shyness I started to talk about my fiancée more and more in the office. People asked about my wedding plans. Life carried on and I began to experience new heights of freedom.
I believe that you can’t be free if your hiding a significant part of your life. You spend most of your life at work. Your colleagues can become your closest friends so it’s important to be honest with them. This may be hard at first but you will be surprised at how supportive people can be. Even if you have the odd raised eyebrow it wont kill you. You can’t expect everyone to agree with your lifestyle but you deserve respect and most of all tolerance. I am lucky that I work in an environment where equality and diversity is high on the agenda. Even if you work in a more conservative environment you might find these tips useful.
Get to know your colleagues
I don’t think you should flaunt your sexuality in public when you start a new job. I certainly didn’t. You need to get to know your colleagues. What kind of people are they? Are they young or old? What kind of things do they like doing? In my office gay members of staff openly spoke about their relationships, or the lack of them. Most of the office have been to a gay club. Sounds like the perfect environment doesn’t it? You might be the only gay in the office. This doesn’t mean that others won’t be accepting of you. When you begin to settle in, come out to someone that you trust. Ask them how they think others will react? It is likely that this person will spread the word and the next thing you know people will be throwing you a coming out party. Ok, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but you get the picture.
Respect the rights of others
Now that your out, it doesn’t mean that you have to talk about your sexuality all day. The conversations in my office can get a bit filthy (naked gay calendar anyone?) but that’s appropriate because everyone feels comfortable. If you work with someone who you know feels uncomfortable with your sexuality, don’t mention it around them. They have as much right to work in an environment that’s free from intimidation, just as much as you do. As I said before tolerance is better then rejection. It’s always best to consider the feeling of others.
Host a night out in a gay club
What better way to feel completely free at work, then to take your collogues into your environment? If you work with open minded people I am sure they will agree to come. The biggest fear that straight people have, is that they are going to get hit on in the club. Kindly remind them that gay people are not sexual predictors. Similarly, you can remind them that a polite decline of unwanted advances won’t hurt them either. I feel that gay clubs are a little piece of heaven. It’s not often we get to spend time in a judgement free zone. Not to mention the cheap drinks and gay men in uncomfortably tight trousers. This experience could be a turning point in your working life. Hopefully you will feel more comfortable. Remember this can only work with open minded people. If the married woman with 2.5 kids doesn’t want to come, it’s not the end of the world.
I know this blog is completely different to anything I have written about before, but I felt that it had to be done. Although LGBT people are gaining more legal rights, we remain on the margins of society. I am proud of who I am and I want others to feel that same way. If anyone would like to see more blogs on similar topics please “like” this post.
-Are you a not-so-straight-professional, how do you cope at work?
If you like this then you will love my other blog http://the-not-so-straight-professional.com