Out in the Work Place!
It takes a huge amount of courage for a gay person to come out of the closet to family, friends or at work. Quite often if someone comes out while they are a student many then go back into the closet when they start work. Its all about rejection, and being outcast. Will friends still want to be my friends, will my parents disown me. At work will I be laughed at, or bullied for being gay – or be turned dow for that promotion / job because I’m gay? These are all real concerns for the LGBT community and still happens in the UK today. This can lead to anxiety, depression or other mental heath problems.
Just imagine going to work tomorrow and having to swap the gender of your partner – you can’t say He…., you have to say She….. (or vice versa) Just imagine not being able to give your partners true name! So every conversation you have, you have to stop a second and edit your response – also you have make sure you use the same name as your used last time! Or, imagine you can’t say the true name of the bar or restaurant you went to – you have to change that too, before long you are having to change names, locations etc, and you have to remember what you’ve said so you don’t contradict yourself in later conversations! Sounds exhausting right?
For a work colleague who isn’t out at their work place this is exactly what has to be done. That conversation at the coffee machine on a Monday morning turn from a light hearted catch up to a minefield of conversations trying to trick you and catch you out! Would you feel relaxed, stress free and able to give your job 100% in those circumstances? There is always banter in the work place, people laugh and have a joke – and in some places / departments these jokes can be aimed at the LGBT community. “You haven’t got a girlfriend? You’re not one of them puffs are you??”. “That guy in accounts, I’m sure he’s a shirt lifter….did you see the way he looked at me?”. “That’s so GAY!!” All these things have been said to me (or in ear shot), in the work place. None of them have been said maliciously and not aimed at me, I know if they new I was gay at that point they wound’t have dreamed of saying it However, for someone having the internal turmoil of not being out, none of these statements would entice you divulge your inner most secret.
Being out in the work place means that your colleague doesn’t have to “edit” their response before they say it….they can be 100% themselves. People in the work force should think before making that joke, wandering if someone could over hear who could be affected by what they say. All of this will help them feel more relaxed, less stressed at the work place and so give more energy to their tasks and responsibilities so being more productive. Now, doesn’t that sound better for everyone?
I’m not saying everyone should just come out, everyone has to do that when they feel its the right time. So don’t go up to your colleagues and try to out them – that would cause more anguish than they are already under. What I would ask you to do is to have conversations with people in a way that shows you’re comfortable with Gay, Lesbian or Trans people. Mention that gay friend you have, talk about your lesbian relative or the gay bar you went to on a night out. By indicating you won’t have an adverse reaction to such news would make it 10x easier for that quiet guy in the corner to get the courage to come out when they want too – because he knows YOU won’t have a bad reaction to it. In my first job i wasn’t out to anyone. I was quiet, shy and didn’t socialise with any of my colleagues in or out of work. During that first job, i came out to friends and family, but not at work. I started working for a big organisation who had LGBT policies in place and I felt far more comfortable and able to come out. I soon realised that I was getting a lot of leading questions for people, and i soon realised a few people had already guess. Once I did tell my colleagues I was gay I did feel far more relaxed and able to concentrate on the job rather than keeping up the pretence of being straight.
Please be an example to your work colleagues, be the one who talks and includes the quite people in your department. In conversations bring up LGBT comments (ie that gay cousin, that Pride march you went and saw, how great it is that another country has legalised Gay marriage etc). It won’t feel like much at the time, but you could be making someones day by making them feel a bit less scared or outcast at work, and paving the way for them to come out.
Lastly, just want to say when my colleague asked “Your not one of the GAYS are you!!”. I responded “Yes, got a problem with that?” He went very red in the face, and apologised profusely, lasting for weeks afterwards.