Girl On Girl: Is Being Out In The Workplace A Bad Idea?

Since I work out in a boxing gym and am one of the only girls there, I always try to keep my head down, work hard and not engage too much with the guys, some of whom have serious boundary problems. So, a few weeks ago, when one of the trainers said, “So, what’s your boyfriend’s name?” I quickly responded, “I don’t have a boyfriend.” Unfortunately, this guy was persistent and asked, “Why not?”

After a few moments, filled with “well … um” and “uhh…,” I decided to tell him, even though it meant we were going to have to talk for a bit longer than I wanted to. “I’m gay,” I said. “I have a girlfriend.” His response wasn’t what I expected. He leaned in close and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody. You shouldn’t tell people that.” Then he said something about how it could prevent me from getting a job.

I was so surprised, I didn’t know what to say. I should have said, “Gee. Thanks for keeping my shameful secret private.” But I simply told him that I work at a newspaper and people at my office know I’m gay and don’t seem to care. Then I walked away and proceeded to beat on a punching bag.

When I got home, I ran the conversation by my girlfriend. After talking about it for a while we realized that the dude wasn’t right. But he wasn’t wrong either. At some jobs, in certain places and around specific people, it really could eff you over to talk about your sexuality if you are a lesbian or gay man.

Despite this, I don’t hide that I’m a lesbian—whether I’m at the gym, in a bar or at work. I don’t think I should have to keep info like that on the DL, since I haven’t done anything wrong by liking women. Furthermore, it’s illegal to discriminate on those grounds in the workforce and if I ever thought being gay was keeping me from getting a promotion or landing a particularly juicy assignment, you can bet that I’d be making some phone calls. As for social scenes, I don’t want to be around haters anyway, so it’s better to get it out in the open sooner so no one is wasting their time.

My girlfriend basically said the opposite. She told me some people are uncomfortable around homosexuals—be it because they had a bad experience, were raised differently than us or just have issues. She said until she gets to know someone and is sure they aren’t going to turn on her because she’s a lesbian, she will purposely avoid discussing her love life. Especially at work, she said, you need people to like you to make the job easier.

In retrospect, I’ve noticed that she does do this a lot. She often tells me about times when she’s talking to people at her school, where she works, and one of her colleagues will bring up their significant other and she expressly avoids telling them about me. Sometimes she’ll say stuff like, “This girl I was talking to said her boyfriend goes to NYU, just like you did.” And I’ll say, “Did you tell her about me?” The answer to that question is almost always no.

Sometimes I feel mildly offended or jealous when she tells me she purposely avoids talking about me. I also don’t understand how she can see these people every day without them being aware of this important part of her life. What if my girlfriend gets really close to these people then, when the cat is out of the bag, they want nothing to do with her? What a hurtful, wasteful mess.

Still, there could come a time when the end will justify the means and I’ll have to keep my mouth shut about my sexuality. It won’t be at a bar or around potential friends but it could be at a job, especially since I want to work all over the world. For now, I will continue to be open because I don’t need some boxing trainer or anybody else forcing me into a closet.

This, though, is just me. I’m hard-headed, combative and self-righteous. My girlfriend is understanding, empathetic and a great listener. Tell me which of us you think is right when you leave a comment.