Working It O-U-T

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

By Chiquita Violette

Ever since I started my coming out process, deciding whether, when, and to whom I come out to at work has been sort of like dipping my foot into the pool to test the waters. The first job I came out at was a retail store that sold music-themed, alternative, Goth-styled and pop-culture referencing clothing. It was very easy for me to come out there, and I actually did it during my interview. My soon-to-be store manager, Jeremy Henry, was openly gay and he let me know up front that this was an LGBT-friendly company. This fact became really clear to me during Pride Season, when all the rainbow and LGBT-themed clothing was put on display. He told me, when I asked about mentioning him for this newsletter, “Yes, of course girl! …We gotta be proud. We can’t hide anymore. That’s the environment I want for all of my employees. They shouldn’t have to hide themselves in order to make a paycheck. Come as you are.” I have so many happy and hilarious memories working at that store – that’s my family!

For a couple of seasons, I worked at a tax preparation office and came out to two co-workers, one of whom is now a best friend. The other wasn’t so accepting. She was very surprised, and somewhat disapproving. Needless to say, she and I didn’t get along quite as well. To clients that happened to be very out and open or talked fondly about LGBT friends or relatives, I shared that I was also “family” and they seemed to be either very accepting or curious about it. A part of me wanted to be fully out, but at the same time, this particular office was overflowing with drama and I didn’t care too much to have my sexual orientation be a part of the gossip. Also, the waters here weren’t as welcoming as at my retail job. I decided that there are some instances where I don’t have to come out, not because I’m afraid but because I like privacy and I am aware that there are some people who are intolerant and stuck in their ways.

Through these experiences, I learned that picking and choosing seems to be the best way for me to out myself at work. I survey my surroundings to see if there might be out and open members of the LGBT family. I recently took a training class for my new job. On the first day, one woman shared that she was a femme lesbian who loves studs and bois. I almost immediately came out to her. At lunch she and I got together with Paloma, another coworker, and talked about sexual orientation and who else at work is queer-identified. Paloma, a straight ally, told us that her best friend is a pre-op, male-to-female transgender. We also have an openly gay man in our class and everyone seems accepting. As the weeks went on, a few more women in our training class have expressed that they too have had relationships with women, though most of them are currently in relationships with men. So, far there seems to be quite a few of us at this company who are out and the place seems quite LGBT-friendly. I’m very glad about that. Work can be stressful enough without having to worry about being harassed or hated just for being who you are. I prefer and enjoy work more in a “come as you are” setting.

Chiquita is a working it o-u-t, proud, bi woman in Dallas, TX, a friend of former boss Jeremy Henry, and an avid fan of his Haus of Glitch music.

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