I’ve just read a great short piece at Diva and was reminded of my outing experiences at work…
I was very wary. Especially soon after I’d split from my fiancé – the dreaded ‘What happened?’ question was met with the usual ‘We just wanted different things’, which of course felt like the biggest lie in the world. If anything it was our mutual interests in breasts and all things related that broke the relationship apart. So when at work, in my previous job, I kept quiet. Everyone had known me as straight and it was very odd trying to come out. It wasn’t until two weeks before I left the job that I felt confident enough to say in response to the ‘Up to anything interesting tonight?’ question with a casual ‘Oh, I have a date with Marty”. This of course was followed by the excited ‘Ooooh who’s Marty? Where did you meet him?’.
The look on their faces when I revealed I’d met HER ages ago through mutual friends. We’d always had our flirt on but it wasn’t until I was single and she was single that we both realised the other was a then-still-closeted lesbian.
Cue new job. New scenario. By this point, I was more comfortable with who I was. But the reactions of previous colleagues (who went on to ignore me/not pass work to me/have a generally uncomfortable air when I was around for the last fortnight) had made me incredibly cautious about who I came out to.
The decision: don’t label yourself. Don’t actively proclaim your sapphic tendencies, but don’t hide it if asked.
This worked surprisingly well, at first. Nobody gave a damn and all assumed I was straight. Until I met Him. You know who I mean: the one colleague you get on with best. You take lunches together, buy reciprocal drinks on Friday nights, build in-jokes quickly. Doesn’t help that he (let’s call him Office Boy, or OB) is possibly the most attractive man in the office. I say this with clear unbias. Charming, intelligent, funny and a cheekbone/jawline combination you could shave cheese on. Of course, the gossip started.
Then tensions rose. Turns out if you have a female boss who liked her status as Top Bitch and enjoyed the over-flirts with OB, you can step on toes unwittingly. Gradually, team members found out through mine and OB’s not-so-subtle in-jokes (which was absolutely fine). Top Bitch had a marvellous knack of never listening to anything, whether work related or not, so clearly didn’t pick up on this.
It got to a point when the two of us (Me and OB) were getting into trouble for mistakes that didn’t even happen. Another colleague admitted that Top Bitch had said more than once she thought that OB and I were having a fling (the idea disgusts me; in my mind it would be close to incest). Eventually, I went to HR – I would have gone to Top Bitch but I rather liked my job – and mentioned that this tension was ridiculous because I was a lesbian and clearly therefore wasn’t having a thing with OB. HR immediately spoke to Top Bitch and tensions eased. But it often got awkward in downtime-chat (when Top Bitch and I had established some kind of unspoken mutual agreement to get along) when the team were discussing their partners/dating habits/relationship woes. Each would have their say, with a response from Top Bitch, but it came to my two cents and the conversation got shut down.
It was interesting to me that the rest of the team, all much closer in age to me, were completely accepting. They even liked the novelty of a girl admiring the new girl’s choice of dress more for skirt length than fashion critique, but that I was also a softie when it came to emotional discussions and am a girly girl at heart. But Top Bitch just couldn’t get her head around it, dodging any questions relating to personal life in case it was against some lesbian-specific policy and I was ready to sue her for discrimination.
I refer to a previous post, that it shouldn’t matter to anyone who you are getting your jollies with. But at the same time, it matters to everyone else and life gets a lot simpler without having to juggle the white lies.
Generally, now, I go on the assumption people know. Having a shaved head (through chemo, not choice) helped break down those barriers – but that opens a whole other Pandora’s Box of irritations surrounding stereotypes. I think this blog is long enough – let’s save that one for later…