Acting Out

Nov 1, 2011 | 2011 Fall - Out in the Workplace, Articles

By Catherine Rock

I live and work in Ohio, one of the most homophobic states in the US. Two years ago my college started a Safe Space program geared not just to students, but also to our faculty and staff, since we have very few “out” people on campus. As part of our training, we cover the coming out process. I decided to write this skit, which we now regularly use to demonstrate the process and to do a bit of biphobia education.

We don’t actually perform the skit. It’s more of a readers’ theater, the actors using scripts and reading dramatically. Overacting in places makes it more entertaining. Although various people play the two roles, I wrote them for myself and for Melanie Carr, Recruitment Counselor and ally. After the skit, Melanie processes what happens, asking people about her character’s immediate reaction to the revelation, how she acted later, what she could have done differently, what I must have felt like, etc.

Much of what is in the skit is based on things that have happened to me or to friends. I have been married to a man, Brian, for twenty years. I was recently asked, “If you’ve been monogamous for that long, how can you know you’re still bisexual?” When I wrote this and when we’ve performed it, I was almost completely closeted. However, because of my participation in the advisor track of the Campus Pride Summer Leadership Camp in July, I have decided that my college’s students need role models and my colleagues need to see that they’re not alone. When the fall semester starts, I will come out at my college. I know there are risks, but someone has to step forward.

Feel free to use this skit, change it, etc. Changing minds is what we’re all about.

Restaurant Sketch

Scene: A restaurant. Catherine is sitting at a table. Melanie arrives, remains standing.

Mel: I’m glad you picked Panera for lunch; I’m starving. What do you feel like?

Cat: Let’s. . . not eat just yet. I’d like to talk to you first.

Mel: [sits] Oh? What’s up? Are your classes really bad?

Cat: No, no, it’s not that. It’s just that, well, we’ve been close friends for about three years now, and I need to tell you something.

Mel: You’re pregnant!

Cat: What? Of course not! Where do you get these ideas?

Mel: It sounds serious, and what could be more important than that?

Cat: Melanie, I’m bisexual.

Mel: [scooting chair away] YOU’RE WHAT??

Cat: SSHHHH!!!!!!!! [loudly whispering] I don’t want everybody to know!

Mel: But you can’t be a lesbian. I mean [grabbing Cat’s left wrist and holding it up to show the ring], you’re married! [Realizing what she’s doing, she self-consciously drops the hand.]

Cat: I’m not a lesbian; I’m bisexual. There’s a difference. I like men and I like women, too. And yes, I’m married. So?

Mel: But if you like women, how can you be married to a man? I mean, doesn’t that mean you’re – what’s the word – straight?

Cat: You’re married, right? Out of all the men in the world, why did you pick Mike? You did eventually pick one and marry him. Does that mean you didn’t like others almost enough to marry them? But you didn’t, did you? You settled on one, and only one.

Mel: But if you’re married to a man, that means you’re straight now, right?

Cat: Well, no. Bisexuals are chameleons. We’re often misunderstood because we look like our surroundings. I’m married to a man, so I’m perceived as heterosexual. If I were in a relationship with a woman, people would think I’m a lesbian.

Mel: But if you like both men and women, how can you be happy with just one? [whispering loudly] Or are you fooling around on the side?

Cat: No, I’m not fooling around. I’m in a monogamous relationship, a monogamous marriage. And besides, sexual orientation isn’t just about sex. A big part of it is emotional attachment.

[Mel looks puzzled]

Let me try to explain. You probably feel a certain way about men in general and another certain way about women in general. You don’t want to sleep with all men, do you?

Mel: Of course not!

Cat: But you feel a certain kind of emotional attachment to the one sex and not the other, right? Mel: Well, . . . yeah.

Cat: I feel that way toward both sexes.

Mel: Isn’t that, uh, weird? I mean, doesn’t it seem strange to be that way?

Cat: It’s the way I’ve always been, so how can it seem weird to me? In fact, it was a surprise when I discovered that not everyone thought that way. THAT was weird. I mean, why limit yourself?

Mel: That’s an interesting way to look at it. Does your husband know about this? What does he think?

Cat: He has mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it doesn’t bother him because it doesn’t affect our relationship. On the other hand, he’s not sure he really believes it, because it doesn’t affect him.

Mel: Oh. Um . . .

Cat: What are you thinking?

Mel: [hesitantly] Are you attracted to me?

Cat: I like you as a friend, but to answer the question you’re really asking, no, I have no ulterior designs on you. You’re safe. Besides, remember that I’m in a monogamous relationship. Just because I’m “differently oriented,” as some would say, doesn’t mean I’m promiscuous. I’m no more likely to have an affair than you are.

Mel: Does anybody at school know?

Cat: Are you kidding? I value my job. My Chair, I know, would be fine with it, but there are other people to consider.

Mel: Why should you care what they think?

Cat: Because I have to work with these people every day. My career is in their hands. I could be refused a position on a committee or be denied advancement in rank. Of course that kind of discrimination isn’t allowed – on paper – but in real life, it’s like any kind of job discrimination; it’s next to impossible to prove. No one turns you down because of your sexual orientation; they turn you down because someone else was better, or because you didn’t do enough committee work, or your evaluations weren’t good enough – any number of reasons are used as excuses by people who object to what you are.

Mel: I see what you mean.

Cat: That’s why, for the time being, anyway, I’m staying in the closet. Things will have to change around that place before I’m willing to come out publicly. Maybe the Safe Space program will help that and will start to change people’s attitudes.

Mel: I hope so. It must be terrible, having to hide who you really are.

Cat: You don’t know the half of it. I have to watch everything I say so that I don’t slip and reveal my “dark secret” to the wrong people, and I don’t even know who the “wrong people” are.

Mel: Thank you for trusting me. I won’t tell anyone; I promise.

Cat: Thanks. I wasn’t sure how you’d take it, but I’m glad you’re still speaking to me.

Mel: What do you mean?

Cat: Unfortunately, it’s very common for LGBT people who come out to be cut off from their families and friends. Some have been kicked out of their homes. In some cases family members have refused to speak to them for days, years, or forever. It can be very painful for them, I can tell you.

Mel: [feelingly] Has this happened to you?

Cat: No, but I haven’t been brave enough yet to tell my parents, and I don’t know if I ever will.

Mel: That’s sad.

Cat: I know, but that’s the way it is. . . . Well, we’d better have lunch so we can get back for that meeting. [Both start to get up.]

Mel: I’m starving! What do you feel like, soup or salad?

Cat: I don’t know – I can go either way.

[Both laugh and they exit stage.]

Catherine teaches English at Stark State College in North Canton, OH.

Related Articles