By Daphne Kanellopoulos
Never have I ever expected to hear assistants in a medical office do a training on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“So, wait, what does bisexual mean?”
“It means being sexually or emotionally attracted to both genders.”
“What’s non-binary again?
Ugh. I’m going to fail this test!” It did me a lot of good to hear that as a bisexual woman working as a temp in a medical office. Some people there seemed very conversant in these areas, so I find that very encouraging.
I also overheard, “It is important for us to know if someone is trans, because a trans man still requires pap smears.” That did me a lot of good to hear. It really made me so happy on a sunny, cool Friday. The weather was nice, people around me sounded knowledgeable, and it was Friday. I didn’t hear any bigoted comments, so that was nice too.
I also never thought I’d remain quiet about my own orientation, hearing that. I used to feel like I had to throw my orientation out there up front for everyone in case they decide they’re going to reject me. My feeling was, “Get it over with. If they’re going to reject you, let them do it early on when it hurts less.” I would pay close attention to people’s reactions, particularly in a dating context. If the reaction is anything other than “Oh, okay,” then I consider that a disqualifying condition for continuing to see the person.
Reactions can range from, “Oh, I would never date a bisexual woman. She’d leave me for a man. I can’t trust them,” to, “Hey, so you’re into threesomes?” No and no. When I’m with someone, I’m with someone. I feel like it shouldn’t be “a thing,” so I shouldn’t feel the need to announce my orientation. It’s a small part of who I am anyway. I have also felt less need lately to share my identity when applying for work. My involvement with the Pride Center of New Jersey was on my resume for years. I removed it recently because I had enough experience to fill one page, and including that detail did not feel important enough to justify another page. In the past, I felt it was very important to leave that there so bigoted employers could rule me out before I even have a chance to talk to them. However, I don’t think people always read resumes before interviewing. I’ve had a couple of occasions where prospective employees were clearly surprised to see my Pride Center involvement. One went so far as to ask about the other volunteer experience on my resume because she felt it was important to get to know who I am as a person, but completely bypassed my Pride Center involvement. I didn’t get that job. I was more than okay with that. I didn’t want to work for her. I don’t want to work for someone for whom it may present an issue.
We’ve really come a long way from when hearing someone say slurs such as “faggot” was very commonplace. Now, sexual orientation and gender identity are becoming less of a “thing.” I look forward to the day when someone’s orientation is not interesting, where it’s as ordinary as having brown eyes. I have hope that we will get there.
Daphne Kanellopoulos volunteered for many years at the Pride Center of New Jersey. She has also submitted articles to Out In Jersey Magazine.