Out on the job? There may be more at stake than a paycheck when trying to answer this question.
I’m 33 years old. Gay. Live in Downtown Chicago. Been partnered with the same guy for almost 6 years. We have a slobbering dog. We make inappropriate jokes. Watch Game of Thrones, and drink a little too much bourbon on occasion. We watch sports, we drink beer. We go out with friends, live in a great house, have everything we need or want.
I’m a VP at a media company. My phone is within arm’s reach at all times. Work is chaos even on a good day. Ridiculous behavior by co-workers, way too much alcohol, and egregious displays of money are an everyday occurrence.
I am not out at work, and it’s slowly killing me.
This fact always surprises my friends and family, because gay men in advertising are common. There’s got to be 50 “out” gay guys in my company of 700 people, easily. But I am hesitant to be one of them.
My boss is gay. My boss before him was gay. So, what is my problem?
When I’m with co-workers, subordinates, whatever – and we talk about some decision that my boss made, there’s always a hint of bias suggested because he’s gay. It’s been that way with all of my gay male bosses, or any gay male in the company. Any favor that he displays towards male subordinates or co-workers, and the assumption is made, or the joke is told, that he must want to sleep with us. I got the corner office – uh oh, he must’ve checked out my butt. Another one of his male employees got his budget approved without question – uh oh, must’ve had one too many buttons undone on his shirt that day. It’s always meant to be inoffensive and light. Everyone laughs about it, but it’s always in the back of my mind
Someone questioning my decisions, or examining them for bias, just because I’m gay, is absolutely terrifying to me. I don’t want my decisions at work to be questioned for that reason.
But at the same time – I am tired of leaving out details of my weekend, and lying by omission. I’m tired of saying “I hung out with friends” or “did nothing”, when that’s the furthest from the truth. I want to say that I saw my nephew, that we went out for a nice dinner, or did some inane household project. I want him to come to my work holiday party, or to show up at happy hours and team dinners. I have no framed pictures in my office, and I never invite him up to the office to eat lunch with me.
I’ve made a commitment to myself to come out to all of my co-workers by the end of the year. I will be fully out at work by December 31st. I’ll have awkward conversations, 1:1s with my employees, stressful (for me) happy hour introductions, and ultimately – there will be a framed picture of us, together, in my office by New Years. I’m making this commitment now.