The Daily Muse

<p>“I’m glad that you write about being bisexual,” a colleague said to me over beers one recent evening. She shared that she hasn’t been out to anyone at work in years and how that decision had been unintentional, but also made her feel incomplete. “But,” she said, “the way you talk about your sexuality makes me feel like I can be out.”</p> <p>Before that moment, I hadn’t known that my colleague-turned-friend was bisexual. Without even meaning to, without ever knowing she was waiting for it, I’d created space for her to be her, just by being me.</p> <p>My path to being out at work hasn’t always been easy. When I was first hired at one organization, before I was out to anyone there, I was interviewed to be featured in an article for my organization’s publication. As I spoke about how my commitment to social justice was connected to my bisexuality, the interviewer seemed confused. The next day I got an email saying the piece wouldn’t run. Her explanation was flimsy. It felt like an excuse. Coming out in that scenario was certainly a risk and it didn’t exactly go well, but I knew that leaving my sexuality out of the equation felt like leaving a part of myself behind.</p> <p><br/></p> <div class="quote"> <div class="quote-text"><blockquote> <p>Without even meaning to, without ever knowing she was waiting for it, I’d created space for her to be her, just by being me.</p></p> </blockquote></div> <div class="quote-source"></div> </div> <p><br/></p> <p>I was disappointed but not entirely surprised. By then I’d accepted that this was sometimes the cost of being out, particularly as a bisexual person. One <a href="https://link.springer.com/epdf/10.1007/s11121-017-0804-2?author_access_token=HmXzCxYOGPXlpyLFkEh2Sfe4RwlQNchNByi7wbcMAY69fGsGy82K2F-qKswjcCp_4lquu_M_wYRCb68kZNDamLFIvZBapABKj2WauzK0QwYj51DicENdDF4V1osJGNKNJ7f4EV4qD7AeKrzNK6d3Ww==" target="_blank">recent study</a> noted that bisexual+ people—a term referring to the collection of identities that includes bisexual, queer, sexually fluid, and other non-monosexual folks—experience double discrimination from both queer and straight communities. Furthermore, the authors note that bisexual people “are at higher risk for poor mental health outcomes compared to heterosexual as well as lesbian and gay individuals.” The costs of erasure of and discrimination against bisexual+ people in the workplace, to infer from the research, might include a decrease in mental and physical wellness, lowered productivity, high turnover rates, and compromised morale. </p> <p>While many people don’t come out in the workplace, and for good reason, I’ve found that being open about my sexuality has helped me feel more connected to my work and colleagues. If you’re passionate about your organization or your field, you may be spending a significant portion of your time with these people. And I knew that I wanted my colleagues to understand that my bisexuality is a part of me and that being out fuels my work.</p> <p>Since I’ve been out at my most recent job, I’ve listened as co-workers disclosed their sexual identities to me, hosted a queer pride party that my supervisor came to, and felt more fully present at work, even if it makes some conversations more awkward.</p> <p>So yes, coming out as bisexual at work can be risky, but to me it’s totally worth it. And after doing it at 11 different jobs, I’ve learned a few things about what works. </p> <p><br/></p> <h2>Test the Waters</h2> <p>If you’re not sure where to begin, you might want to start small. Try indicating your identity in a subtle way to gauge your colleagues’ reactions.</p> <p>One day while I was working at the admissions office of a small liberal arts college, I decided to wear something a little queer. I donned a black button-down tucked into a black skirt and added the stark white tie my new girlfriend had just given me. Trust me, I looked <em>sharp</em> and felt confident. When I got to work, my supervisor stopped me, looked me up and down, and told me how bold my choice was. </p> <p>Sure, it might have been a throwaway comment, but the way he said it made it clear to me that I was under a magnifying glass—and felt like a sign that my sexuality might not be welcome. I decided I wouldn’t be coming out to most of my colleagues, and certainly not to my supervisor, because I didn’t know how safe I was.</p> <p><br/></p> <div class="quote"> <div class="quote-text"><blockquote> <p>We have every right to exist in a world where our bisexuality is not just accepted, but celebrated. Sadly, though, that’s not possible in every office.</p></p> </blockquote></div> <div class="quote-source"></div> </div> <p><br/></p> <p>But three years later and two thousand miles away, I stood listening to a co-worker talk about her girlfriend. I had just moved across the country and started working at a small café. I asked my fellow barista about how she met her girlfriend, to which she replied, “The only place to meet lesbians in this town is online.”</p> <p>“Well,” I said, “what if I wanted to meet everybody?”</p> <p>“There’s a setting for that,” she said and continued extolling the virtues of online dating. I had been afraid to come out, but her simple acceptance of my sexuality in this small gesture made me feel safer to tell the other café staff I was bisexual. What I found was a warm and welcoming community of queer and straight folks, all of whom I had been working alongside for weeks in trepidation.</p> <p>We all deserve to live under a glorious rainbow of love and acceptance. We have every right to exist in a world where our bisexuality is not just accepted, but celebrated. Sadly, though, that’s not possible in every office. You probably already know this, but I’m going to reiterate it just in case: <em>It is appropriate, and smart, to decide not to come out at work if you don’t feel safe.</em></p> <p><br/></p> <h2>Prepare and Practice Versions of Coming Out</h2> <p>When you’re coming out at work, you don’t need to prepare a formal statement, but you don’t want to wing it, either. Take the time to think of a few coming out options suited to different audiences or occasions and practice them either on your own or with a trusted friend (who you’re out to!).</p> <p><br/></p> <h3>The Casual Reveal</h3> <p>Think of a simple, comfortable way to allude to your sexuality. For example, you can mention your involvement with a bisexual organization.</p> <p><br/></p> <h3>The Clarification</h3> <p>If you’re being misidentified as gay or straight on a recurring basis, decide on a quick, clear clarification you feel comfortable using—it can be as simple as, “Oh, actually I’m bisexual.” If you’ve tried the casual reveal or a clarification already and people continue to misidentify you, you may want to say more strongly, “Actually, I’m bisexual and I need you to respect that.”</p> <p><br/></p> <h3>The Conversation</h3> <p>There may be some people, especially authority figures, who you feel merit a more formal conversation (before you bring a date to the company event, for example). Think about what you’d like to say and maybe write some notes down for yourself.</p> <p><br/></p> <p>While working for the state of Colorado, I found that many people made assumptions about my sexuality. I worked slowly to rectify these assumptions in one-on-one conversations, often by casually mentioning an ex or explicitly saying, “I’m bisexual.” I even once blurted it out to the Lieutenant Governor, who oversaw our office. It wasn’t my most gracious moment, but the ambiguity of some people knowing and others not felt overwhelming. I just wanted everyone to know already.</p> <p>But if you want to be out to only a few colleagues, go for it. Just make it clear to those folks that you are <em>not</em> out to everyone at the office and that you’d like them not to disclose your identity to anyone else. </p> <p><br/></p> <h2>Answer Only the Questions You Want to Answer</h2> <p>Depending on your work environment, you may find that many people are accepting and curious about your sexuality. While it’s a compliment to know that others are interested in you, curiosity can turn into prying. Decide in advance how much you want to share and stick to your boundaries. It’s always okay to say, “That’s a very personal question and I don’t think it’s appropriate for the workplace.”</p> <p><br/></p> <div class="quote"> <div class="quote-text"><blockquote> <p>It’s always okay to say, ‘That’s a very personal question and I don’t think it’s appropriate for the workplace.’</p></p> </blockquote></div> <div class="quote-source"></div> </div> <p><br/></p> <p>Your colleagues may also start seeing you as their resident queer expert and want to ask you about everything queer under the sun. I’ve learned to answer questions I feel my colleagues have asked in good faith, if I have time. When I’m too busy? I remind them that we live in an age of unfettered access to information and suggest they ask the internet instead. </p> <p>And when questions are an invitation to a debate, rather than a thoughtful inquiry so that someone might get to know me better, I don’t take the bait. Instead, I suggest the individual do some reading by writers who are bisexual.</p> <p><br/></p> <h2>Know Your Rights</h2> <p>While you shouldn’t have to brace yourself for being discriminated against, you have every right to fight for your place in the world if you’re not treated fairly. And, the workplace is no different. </p> <p>So before you come out, research your company policies and <a href="https://www.hrc.org/state-maps/employment" target="_blank">city and state laws</a> in terms of sexual and gender identity protections. While policies will vary company to company, some cities and states have explicit laws to protect employees from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Human Rights Campaign has compiled <a href="https://www.hrc.org/resources/lgbt-employee-resources" target="_blank">a list</a> of resources for LGBTQ employees that you may want to review prior to coming out.</p> <p><br/></p> <div class="quote"> <div class="quote-text"><blockquote> <p>While you shouldn’t have to brace yourself for being discriminated against, you have every right to fight for your place in the world if you’re not treated fairly. And, the workplace is no different.</p></p> </blockquote></div> <div class="quote-source"></div> </div> <p><br/></p> <p>Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, including but not limited to being passed over for promotion, being fired, having your office vandalized, and experiencing physical or verbal abuse. If you face discrimination due to your sexual identity, consider seeking professional legal advice. (Here are some <a href="https://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/article/workplace-resources" target="_blank">resources from Lambda Legal</a> you can start with.) </p> <p>If you’re harassed in any way—such as if people are making overly sexual comments or consistently questioning your sexuality—document it, and consider filing a complaint with human resources. If you have a supportive supervisor, ask for their assistance.</p> <p>It can be intimidating to take action—most of us just want to do our jobs and live our lives—but I can tell you from personal experience that it can also be incredibly healing to confront people who are abusing their power.</p> <p><br/></p> <p>I’ve found that being out has allowed me to more fully engage with my work, connect to colleagues and clients who are LGBTQ+, and envision a career for myself that not only allows me to be out, but also provides me the opportunity to market myself as being bisexual. </p> <p>And I can’t stop thinking about the colleague who told me how much it meant to her that I was out. She looked at me as if I were some kind of hero, as if <em>my</em> decision made <em>her</em> world better. </p> <p>So I certainly don’t regret my choice. But remember that you get to control if, when, how, and to whom you come out. Don’t feel pressured by friends, family, colleagues—or even articles like this one. No one can decide what’s right for you except you. The choice is in your hands, because coming out can only be liberating if you do so of your own free will.</p> <p><br/></p>

Read more >

Published on Dec 14, 2018

MORE PEOPLE STORIES

JOIN THE COMPANY THAT REVOLUTIONIZED THE FLOORING BUSINESS.

Floor & Decor is like no other flooring company. Founded in 2000 in Atlanta, we have quickly become one of the country’s leading flooring retailers, with dozens of stores nationwide – and more to come. A strong entrepreneurial spirit flows through our young company.

 TIME, TALENT & TEAMWORK

The remarkable success we have enjoyed could not have happened without the time, talent, and teamwork of our extremely dedicated associates. Working with equal amounts of passion and grit, we’ve become the “category killer of flooring” by revolutionizing the way people buy flooring. Our customers enjoy the largest in-stock selection of tile, wood, stone, and flooring accessories at prices no one can beat.

OPPORTUNITIES TO ADVANCE

To continue our amazing growth, Floor & Decor is actively seeking gifted people with a solid work ethic and a real passion for helping others. Are you ready to make a difference at a truly groundbreaking company?

Shop
People, Person

WHY WORK FOR US?


Floor & Decor is like no other flooring company. Founded in 2000 in Atlanta, we have quickly become one of the country’s leading flooring retailers, with dozens of stores nationwide – and more to come. A strong entrepreneurial spirit flows through our young company. The remarkable success we have enjoyed could not have happened without the time, talent, and teamwork of our extremely dedicated associates. Working with equal amounts of passion and grit, we’ve become the “category killer of flooring” by revolutionizing the way people buy flooring. Our customers enjoy the largest in-stock selection of tile, wood, stone, and flooring accessories at prices no one can beat.

Learn More   See All Jobs

NOT READY TO APPLY?

Joining our Talent Network will enhance your job search and application process. Whether you choose to apply or just leave your information, we look forward to staying connected with you.