My Experience on Being Openly Gay in the Workplace
Baggage- Even If It's 2021
I would like to think of myself as a genuinely happy person- or at least tell myself that’s what I am. Throughout my life, coming out, was a fairly easy process for me. I wasn’t judged, I was completely accepted by my family and friends, and I found myself proving to those against the LGBT+ community that we’re just people who love people.
I wouldn’t currently label myself as a person whom someone would look at and say “oh, she’s a lesbian”- I always get reactions like “what? I didn’t know you’re a lesbian, you can’t even tell”, or “you don’t look like you’d be gay”. I wouldn’t say I’m closeted because if sexuality comes up in conversation I have no problem telling anyone I’m gay, but I also don’t go around introducing myself like “Hi, I’m a big ole’ lesbian”- because I don’t believe who I love defines me, or my character in anyway. The only place in the WORLD I find myself constantly struggling with people having concerns, questions, or confusion about my sexuality is in the workplace.
To make the longest story short, I’m 26 years old, and I’ve only 2 jobs in my life- one in fast food, and the one that I’m currently working now. I loved my past job, but it’s the job I held when I started coming out, and when the women there found out I was a lesbian, I felt as if I couldn’t tell one of them hello without them assuming I had a crush on them. I started to become depressed from judgement, and was genuinely unhappy with accusations being made about me, and others. It was extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable for not only me, but for the straight female that would be picked on for the “crush” I had on them- when in fact I didn’t have a crush on them at all. It seemed as if being lesbian, meant that I liked every girl that walked past me; and for years, I felt as if I had to constantly prove I didn’t like somebody, so I decided to quit. I wanted a fresh start at another job, but this time have nobody know that I was a lesbian.
I set all my social media to private, grew my hair out, started wearing makeup, changed my (at the time) “butch” wardrobe, lost weight, painted my nails- anything that would disassociate myself from the stereotypical “lesbian”. I started at the bottom of the barrel in the job I’m currently working today- and I was happy, well, for only a moment. Another lesbian who worked for the company saw my profile on Tinder, and started telling everyone that they’d be shocked to know I was a lesbian. Like it was everyone’s business, right? She even started telling the customers, and I filed a complaint with the manager, crying that my secret had been released without my permission- and in return the company let the worker go. As if that was to suppose to make me feel any better- she might have been gone, but I knew what she told everyone would stick around for the long term.
As soon as word got around, the accusations started all over again. The first victim? My current best friend. Before anyone knew anything about me, we were seen as just that- best friends. After learning about my secretly it was instantly “do you think they have something more going on between them?”, and “I can tell by the way Kennedy looks at her, she has a crush on her”. Luckily, I have the MOST supportive friend in the entire world, and together we decided to ignore the gossip- people got bored, and the topic was dropped. It didn’t end there though- because once everyone realized we were in fact just friends, with no crush attached, my work life became another joke of saying hi to someone, and then being accused of liking that individual.
I ignored all accusations, and continued to work up the corporate ladder. I became management relief, and then finally got offered a management position- which is where things got super interesting.
Having a “crush” on a coworker turned into “just be careful, you don’t want the associates to think you like them, because it could get you “in trouble””. Of course, being on different pay levels, I wasn’t allowed to hangout with anyone who wasn’t one of the 4 managers we had rotated every couple of years- which was fine with me, but any female associate that I talked to was turned into “I think Kennedy and [insert associate name] are secretly hanging out, they totally like each other”. I was even told that it looked “sketchy” that another female manager and I were hanging out, and that we needed to stop; even though we were hanging out at her house with her HUSBAND and KIDS. Which in my mind, made me feel like they wanted me to stop talking to any female altogether.
I’m honestly disgusted with the way I have been treated by others being an openly gay employee (whether I’m at the bottom or top of the company). Reality has slapped me hard that being a gay employee will always come with baggage- and I’m constantly fighting a battle of wanting to go back into the closet in the workplace, for the comfort of others. Although I love what I do, I don’t find it worth it to constantly have to watch my back on what people would find “suspicious”, or to have someone claim that I have a crush on every female that works for me. The slogan for the company I work for is diversity, but the fight for diversity and equality in the workplace ANYWHERE is going to be a struggle for me when I’m not your typical heterosexual.