Further to my previous post, I’d like to delve into the politics of being out in the workplace.
For almost half of my life—since at least the onset of puberty—I identified as a gay man. This isn’t something I went out of my way to hide from my co-workers at the various jobs I’ve held. Some people, like the cashier at the 24-hour grocery store I worked at for a couple years, picked up on my sexuality from my effeminate mannerisms and occasionally over-expressive way of waving my hands around when I talk. Others, like my manager at that same job, figured it out when I booked time off for the Pride Parade, though he had to ask another manager (who coincidentally was also gay) why I was taking work off just to “be proud about something.”
I’ve always been welcomed at each of my workplaces—something that I’ve chalked up to my friendly demeanour and “will-do-anything-I-set-myself-to attitude,” as one supervisor put it. And yet, I find myself hyper-vigilant and constantly ready to defend myself in each employment I’ve been in. And I don’t know whether to attribute that sense of foreboding, that fear and anxiety of exposure, to just good old impostor syndrome or actually to my sexual orientation and gender identity.
For a bit of comic relief, here’s what being gay at work was not like:
I generate these fears and anxieties without a real-life counterpart to mirror them from, but rather from the potential I perceive, irrational as it is, that my co-workers and supervisors will treat me differently if and when I decide to come out as transgender.
There are some things that make me feel less worried, more rationally, about my current workplace. After almost a year of development, the B.C. Public Service released an internal guide for supporting transgender and gender diverse employees in the workplace. My current supervisor (the one I’m out to) read it when I prompted her to, and I hope my other co-workers will have it on their radar as I move further and further toward presenting as a woman.
But not everything about “transitioning to the workplace” has been as supported. In my next post, I’m talking benefits. Stay tuned!