Many of us probably can't just go out and find a job as easily
as in the past. And although record numbers of companies have anti-discrimination policies for
gays and lesbians, legal protection to keep us from being fired on the basis of
our sexual orientation alone still isn't law yet.
Taking all that into consideration, I know that I will be out at this job too.
Even in the face of the risks, I can't not be out at work. Why not?
I spend more than a third of my time there during the week. It's hard to
turn parts of myself on and off and if I'm not being my real self a third of the time,
I'm not sure I'd still be all of me even when I wasn't at work.
I'm both an honest and social person and if I'm not out it's hard to be social
at work and talk about my life outside of my job without lying or deliberately
omitting certain facts. So I have to choose being dishonest or anti-social, neither
of which fits into who I am.
I'm not ashamed of my sexuality and I don't want to spend a third of my time hiding
it as though it is something that deserves shame.
As we all know, there's a lot of myths and disinformation about gay people. Being
out at work gives me the opportunity to set people straight (pardon the pun) about
their misconceptions in ways that might never happen otherwise.
I could very well be the way someone else comes out. I've known more than one person
who was questioning their sexuality and turned to an out friend at workr for advice
or answers to their questions. I've also known people with gay children who have
turned to out co-workers when trying to understand after their kids have come out
to them. Often being out at work can have repercussions beyond just yourself and how
you feel. It can make a world of difference to someone else who is just beginning to
come to terms with his or her sexuality.
I might meet someone else who's gay that works at the same place and become friends
or something more with him. Granted the something more is fraught with the risks of
any workplace romance, but that's a separate issue entirely.
If the company I work for doesn't yet include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination
policies, my being out at work and doing my job well gives them another reason to rethink
those policies. I will also be one more voice, perhaps the first active voice, to demand
those policies. Change in a corporate policy on discrimination, harassment, domestic
partner benefits, or any of the other issues that affect us as individuals and a
community doesn't come from hiding until its safe. They come from us expressing
ourselves as a voice. The more of us there are out there, the stronger that voice becomes.
We can all take these reasons and expand on them, but they cover the basic reasons
that being out at work is so important. It's an act of pride and being free from
shame about who we are. Equally, it's an act of social responsibility, to ourselves
and our community. Yes, it's scary, but so is the idea of spending forty plus hours
each week hiding. And if I choose to spend those forty hours hiding, nothing will
ever change or get easier. If I choose to be out from the get-go, it will get easier
and I have the ability to influence change.
So, it may not be the first thing I do when I walk into that new job Monday morning; it
may not even be in an overt and dramatic way; it may only be to one or two people
over the first couple of weeks; but I will be out at this job. Just like the last
one and the one before that... all the way back to my first job when I was nineteen years old.