Coming out in inverted commas because I'm unsure as to how I feel about the term. No one should feel obligated to declare their sexuality - it is a very personal thing. However, we live in a world where people are assumed heterosexual until they assert otherwise, and as such coming out is often a practical thing you have to do. How can we expect to obtain our rights, without first asserting that we exist?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Coming Out to...the Colleagues, Part 2

Tentative Steps

It's been a few months now since I first told someone at work that I'm bisexual. He was driving at the time, and I'm glad he didn't crash the car from shock or something. He actually told me he was glad I'd shared something personal because it felt like we were closer now. I wanted to tell him to stop being so nauseating, but I kept my mouth shut as it was the right kind of reaction.

Every reaction since has been similarly positive, running the gamut from supportive to the can-we-gossip-about-your-personal-life-too-now. The dynamics have been different from coming out to family or friends from outside work. People in the office either assume that I'm completely fine with my sexuality or not to pry. And I think that's how I prefer it. Everyone has difficulties in their personal lives, and they don't need to be solved at work by colleagues. The most I've ever discussed with anyone is the fact that certain things in life are more complicated for me, especially given my background. Luckily, my biggest sexuality related hurdles are already behind me.

Thus the conversations at work always tend towards the lighter side of life. We talk about dating in a big city, and how it's hard to date several people at the same time. I point out that when I say people, unlike them I really do mean 'people'. I drop the occasional dirty gay sex joke just to push their boundaries. However, I'm often reminded that they have none really and some of them are dirtier than me by miles. I like how everyone at work takes my bisexuality at face value. I like both men and women, and they don't dispute the fact. Personally, I think this is because everyone I work closely with is heterosexual, and I am their first (somewhat) detailed introduction to the queer world. Whatever the reason for their acceptance however, I find it refreshingly different from the LGBTQ community's, where folk tend to have a lot of opinions on bisexuals. 

I won't claim that there have been no cases of ignorance, however. A colleague once asked me if all gay people had a sob story like the death of a parent that they blame being gay on. I was genuinely confused by this, and asked where he was getting his info from. He didn't seem to really know, and he was quite happy to accept my assertion that it wasn't true. He went on to say that I've made a choice, and he's thinks it's perfectly acceptable for me to make this choice and he's totally supportive. I did a mental facepalm and asked him what choice he was talking about. Long story short, I had the whole 'when did you choose to be attracted to girls' conversation with him, and told him that I similarly never really chose to be attracted to guys. My bisexuality just happened one day, just like his heterosexuality. It was quite enlightening for me to see the look of realisation on his face - like he'd just understood how other sexualities worked. I'm glad he asked me these questions and I took the chance to answer instead of simply being offended. The conversation taught me a lot about how some people think and where they're coming from. Even in today's world, there are many people out there who know very little about the nitty-gritty of queer sexuality, simply because they don't know any LGBTQ people intimately. I think there are just too few of us around for that to have happened yet. These people don't always mean us harm, and they aren't aware of the linguistic implications words like 'choice' can have in the wider context of queer rights movements. Speaking to them from square one is more constructive than reacting with outrage and screaming homophobia. I don't think we should be offended by incorrect assumptions about us, even massive ones, as long as there's no malicious intent and we're given a chance to explain.

I wonder sometimes if there are any negative reactions still to come. There must be - with such a big office it's just a numbers game right? I'm only really out to my younger colleagues. My older colleagues, including my boss, don't officially know. But we have an open plan office, and consequently I do end up talking about my personal life in their presence. I hope/suspect that they already know something, if not everything. I'm happy to say that I've not noticed any changes in behaviour, and hopefully this means that I shouldn't worry about the immediate future a least.

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