We know that bigotry exists, we see it every day. Sometimes, we forget how far people will go with their judgments. We forget all the people that can be affected just because someone has a dislike for another person. I was reminded of the far-reaching scope of hatred recently, when two of my friends came to me about a situation they have been going through. I would like to share their story with you, so that we don’t forget just how far prejudice can go. The situation revolves around Dani, and her close friend Abigail, and their colleague Bryan. Some names have been changed or omitted to protect those that are involved.
Dani has been the kind of person that doesn’t share a lot of personal information with people outside of her comfort circle. So, most people did not know she was bisexual. She had shared it with her close friend Abigail. Over the years, Dani helped groom Bryan for his career and in the process, they became trusted confidants. Over their time working together, their bond developed, and Dani shared that she was bisexual with Bryan. Bryan always seemed okay with the idea.
Eventually, Dani & Brian left to work at two competing companies and Abigail ended up working for Bryan. Soon after, Dani started dating a girl as soon as Brian found out, he told others in his company about his former boss’ relationship. With this revelation, also came out that Dani and Abigail were close friends. Although Abigail is heterosexual, she quickly became a target of harassment at her job based on her friend’s orientation.
Daily, Abigail was forced to endure the hateful comments from her coworkers about her best friend being gay, ranging from the CEO to coworkers who she thought were her friends. Many of the comments were implying that Abigail must also be gay, or that she and her friend Dani had been lovers. The harassment continued over the course of weeks and even including playing Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” over the office’s speaker system. Dani was unaware that her former protégé, Bryan, was divulging her personal information to a competing company or failing to stop his employees from harassing Abigail. Abigail decided that she should tell her friend what was going on and that her trust in Bryan was misplaced.
Over time, the comments continued and made it difficult for Abigail to come to work each day, let alone engage with her family after a long day of harassment. Abigail was treated to ongoing gay jokes, both direct and indirect. Each comment was said to Abigail to elicit a response, a hope for a reaction. Abigail endured the comments, only talking about it to Dani. The work environment was becoming ever more hostile for Abigail and she wasn’t sure where to turn.
Dani had become outraged at her protégé’s blatant disregard for trust and privacy. Dani finally called Bryan to ask for an explanation for why, and with whom, he had discussed her personal life. Brian denied the situation outright, he insisted that he had no part in the matter and was unaware of the harassment that Abigail was experiencing. The day after Dani’s phone call, Brian called Abigail into a meeting and reprimanded her for discussing an “internal matter” outside the company. Abigail had, in his words, “made them look like bad guys.” Ultimately, Abigail was left with a choice: she could either put her head down, accept the harassment, and fear for her job security, or leave a high-paying job in which she had invested years of her time.
The sad truth is there isn’t much help in this situation. The only recourse that Abigail has is to bring about a lawsuit for sexual harassment. Abigail being heterosexual doesn’t fall under any of the protection statuses that have been put into place in Cuyahoga County in the last year. Dani cannot really get involved, since she is not the target of the offensive remarks and situation. So, what are the options, really? If Abigail files a lawsuit, it will only make matters at her job much worse. Sure, she may win the case but her work like will become unbearable. Dani has been left feeling betrayed over the breach of trust and a sense of responsibility for what her best friend must endure.
We forget how far homophobia can reach and just who is affected. The fact that a large portion of the world feels it is okay to discriminate against LGBTQ people, makes it more accepting in certain circles. When our allies become targets alongside of us, it is far beyond time that we rise up to confront this ignorance. No person should have to be the target of discrimination, especially in their work place. We must stand in solidarity with those that stand beside us. as long as small minded bigotry is left unchecked, no one is safe.