Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gay In The Workplace

gay in the workplace image
Being gay in the workplace isn't always easy, but I have yet to experience any violent discrimination due to the color of my skin or my sexuality, so I count myself lucky. That doesn't mean I don't realize the difference between being a heterosexual woman in the workplace versus being a homosexual.

A few days ago, I approached a coworker with a question in mind. A few of my other coworkers and I wanted to know if she wanted to join us at an event after work. I approached her desk and said, "I have something to ask you, but it isn't so professional". She replies, "oh what? You wanna know if I'm single?", she giggles and then says, "sexual harassment?". Now I may have been overreacting, but her automatic assumption that I was going to approach her with anything sexual in nature was a complete turn off. I shook my head and walked away in disgust.

Okay, now she obviously felt comfortable enough with me to believe she could make a joke like this, but in making a joke like this she also let me know that she doesn't just see me as a woman, but as a gay woman. Someone that is capable of seeing her in a sexual way. Someone that might even be interested.

Would she have made such a joke if I was hetero? Does being "out" in the workplace automatically place you in a zone that makes hetero women believe you could want them?


I brought my experience and concern to a close friend of mine and she believed I was overreacting, but also said something that struck a nerve with me. She said, "it comes with the territory". Unfortunately, I don't believe that should be the case. If a hetero woman should feel it is her right to feel as though her workplace is a safe place from sexual innuendos from male coworkers, than I, as a lesbian woman, should also be able to feel the same level of comfort. My friend then told me about her own experiences with coworkers making jest or including her in sexual conversations they believe she would be okay with, simply because she they knew about her sexuality.

 Is it best to avoid "coming out" in the workplace to simplify the experience? Will you just become that weird person that doesn't ever talk about sex?

 The thing is, sex really shouldn't be apart of the workplace. This little comment by my coworker is minor compared to so many people that have experienced real discrimination and violence based on who they choose to sleep with. Upon entering a new position I always remain tight lipped about my sexuality until I feel comfortable enough with my coworkers or until someone raises the question. Feeling out your environment is always best. Get a sense of the people around you and how they think before sharing that personal part of yourself. As sexual beings it can be difficult to keep our private lives separate, but sometimes it can be the best decision. Unfortunately, my coworkers seemingly innocent joke made me recoil from her, and reconsider all of the actions I make while in her presence.

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