|Related Articles: LGBT, All|
Working It Out
Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on May 17, 2008
How much of being gay in the workplace is your business, and how much of it is your employerís? The answer to that is a highly a personal decision. But whether by our hands or not, those of us who work in the corporate world will sooner or later become office chatter. In this day and age, most of us are protected from unlawful discrimination by Fair Employment laws. However, even those laws canít save us from the often guillotine like machinations of office politics.
In social settings, you can almost always choose your friends and companions. Itís simple enough to not hang out with people you donít like or know you wonít get along with, either because you share different values or hold different views. In a business setting, however, no one, save for the big honcho at the top, is afforded that same luxury of picking and choosing the people he wants to spend his time with. So what happens if youíre not that top dog? Youíre stuck making small talk with all sorts of freaks and geeks.
When the average American spends more than a third of his day at work, having to watch yourself becomes a problem for gay men and women who donít want their personal lives to interfere with their professional personas. It quickly puts an unnecessary strain on work relations because you constantly have to come up with excuses or lies about what you did over the weekend, on vacation, or on Valentineís Day. Unwittingly, you get backed into a ďpronoun corner,Ē where every incriminating ďmy boyfriend and IĒ must be painstakingly replaced by an ambiguously unassuming ďwe.Ē
I wish that there were guidelines on how to handle uncomfortable situations like these, but there arenít. No H.R. handbook comes complete with a section on how to skirt topics pertaining to love, sex and family with coworkers who demand a familiarity with your life on the basis of a 40 hour week relationship. Whether you like it or not, youíre expected to participate in conversations and divulge secrets about yourself that some people might potentially find off putting. And Iím not even talking about the dirty little bedroom secrets we all have.
That bottle of KY Jelly you keep on your nightstand right next to your leather handcuffs and whip might not be anyoneís business, but you can bet almost everything else is. And if youíre in an uncomfortable environment, any sort of prying, however harmless and appropriate it may be, puts you at a disadvantage. Itís hard to establish a connection with someone if you canít be honest.
If thereís one thing I know, itís that there is no way for you to move up the corporate ladder without first getting in with the boss. And how gay men and women can expect to do that without being able to share anecdotes about little Jack and little Jill and dinner with the Jonesí is a unique challenge. So little of office politics has to do with right and wrong that itís not unlikely for employers to play favorites. That promotion you were eyeing? Yeah, it just went to Joe Blow with the brown nose over there.
When youíre forced to play in an uneven playing field, the question isnít how you can go about leveling it. Rather, the question becomes how you can make yourself a better player. So while the work may be strictly white collar, you can still get down and dirty with the game.
by Philip Wong on May 17, 2008