I consider myself to be out an open about it, I don’t hide who I am. Even saying that I do realize that I do not tell everyone that I am a gay man. Is that being in the closet for not sharing, it may depend, itself, on the type of interaction that I have with a person. If a person smiles at me in the grocery store and starts a casual conversation, I don’t smile and say, “oh btw I’m gay.” It doesn’t have any bearing on the situation. Likewise, at work, if someone that I am not acquainted with makes comments about my dating life, I don’t answer back that I am gay. It just doesn’t need to come up. There isn’t a need to instigate a situation that could go in directions that aren’t conducive to polite conversation. If you ask me about it, then you will get a matter of fact response. My coworkers all know I am gay, and my family and friends know I am gay. I feel it is important that those I interact with a lot know about me. That is part of friendship and sharing.
Know when it’s a good time to come out to someone is as important as when not to. We still live in a world that has very strong beliefs about those that are different. People still share all kinds of microaggressions like asking inappropriate questions about our sex lives as well as dismissing our sexuality all together. Regardless of the intent, we still have to endure the effects they cause us. Many times, we even get the coded language remarks. Coded language refers to making statements about a person’s identity, oftentimes in a negative context. One such scathing remark is the horrible “he seems a bit light in the loafers,” referring to someone who may be acting effeminate. Or how about “your people are supposed to be good dancers, what happened?”
In October 2018, the Huffington Post release an article titled “For Many LGBTQ+ People At Work, Outrageous and Offensive Remarks Are An Everyday Reality” this article highlights seven individuals and the environments they work in. An anonymous 29-year-old lesbian remarked that “One male co-worker had the audacity to ask me when I ‘switched sides,’ rather than the far more appropriate question, ‘When did you come out?’ A different male co-worker asked me over lunch in the kitchen at the office, seemingly out of nowhere, ‘So, what do lesbians consider sex?’… I explained to him that while he may be understandably curious about non-heterosexual sex, Google would be a more appropriate outlet.”
K, a 41-year-old transgender person from Pennsylvania shared this about their workplace. “I’ve had people tell my boss they didn’t want to sit near me because they felt ‘uncomfortable.’ Interviewees have told me that they were asked, before they came onto the team, if they could work with a transgender co-worker. Just a few days ago, a co-worker asked if I was going to be Marilyn Manson for Halloween, because all I’d need was a white latex suit to look like his infamous album cover.”
No matter how progressive your company may be, there are always going the be people who have very set feelings and views that will not change. It becomes a constant thought as to whether it is something worth pursuing or to simply let it slide. Ignoring it, no matter how trivial, can lead to other and higher forms of this type of behavior. And drawing attention to the matter can be just as bad for the person reporting it. These are the very reasons why laws need to be changed to ensure that LGBTQ people are not discriminated in the work place. What always strikes me is odd is how so many defend themselves with “oh, I didn’t mean anything by it, it’s just how I talk with my friends.” That justification doesn’t make the statement any less hurtful, in fact it implies that I would not like being around your friend as they seem to share the same backwards levels of thinking that you employ in your humor.
We often time make concessions for people who have these mindsets, in our work environment, because we do not want to create a scene, when it shouldn’t be something that we are forced to have to endure in the first place. If we have to consciously think whether or know this is a time or place to come out, then those who make these kinds of remarks or hold the opinions should take the moment to reflect on whether they should be sharing the same thoughts. This type of interaction isn’t only limited to a work environment, often times the worst we face comes from our own families. The very people that are supposed to love and accept us no matter what. They often are the ones that judge the more harshly and have such deep entrenched feelings that aren’t easily changed.
Family interactions can be mitigated more easily, at times. If they aren’t accepting of who we are, we have the ability to create a family that does. I had mentioned before that one of the best lessons I was taught after coming out was that now I can choose and create my own family. This gives us a better chance to surround ourselves with people who do accept up. It allows us to create a bubble in an often-cruel world and can allows us to gain the strength we need to combat it.
I am not advocating living your life hiding who you are but pointing out that there are times in which it may be more conducive to simply not bring it up or engage it. If it is a passing instance of meeting someone, it can be better simply to just overlook the situation, without lying about it. Be true to yourself and don’t sacrifice your validity and remember that some battles can be avoided.