“How do I deal with homophobic (and sexist and slightly racist) colleagues? I’m new to the job and so can’t really speak up. It wouldn’t go down well. Especially when it’s a small company with no HR department, I’m still in my probationary period, and the boss shares that horrible viewpoint. Should I just let it go? Because I really need this job.”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Your question isn’t complicated at all (I’m joking).
It’s actually consistent with a lot of the social difficulties I face on a daily basis. Here is my typical inner-dialogue, “Is this the right time for me to address what I perceive as a homophobic/racist/sexist statement? How will my speaking out about this perception impact my currently peaceful relationship with the verbal racist/homophobe/sexist standing in front of me? When is Happy Hour?” One of the challenges of being a sexual, racial, or gender minority is the constant reality of counting the cost of when to advocate for one’s self and when not to. There is no clear way forward at any given time. There are, however, a few ways of seeing yourself and others that might bring you peace in the midst of interpersonal chaos.
As you are probably already aware, there has been quite a bit of work done around micro aggressions, those subtle verbal indignities that take place in the everyday. Microaggressions can be racist, sexist, and homophobic in nature. No matter the frequency with which microaggressions occur, they have no place in your workplace, home, or relationships. It is within the best of the common good for those kinds of statements to be recognized for what they are: splinters in the fabric of human flourishing. This recognition, though, does not have to happen in a staff meeting or in the office of your boss. This recognition can occur on your terms. Be creative. Be proactive. Counter your office’s culture of microaggression by practicing microaffirmations.
Microaffirmations can range anywhere from silent phrases like, “I am enough. I beautiful. There is more to me than the eye can comprehend,” to verbal pronouncements like, “The joy of this day is shrouded in negativity. I will find the joy in this moment, no matter what.” To break out of the negativity of your coworkers and supervisor might make you look like a square, but it puts you in a respectable position. You will be letting the people around you know that you are a force to be reckoned with, a bitch of sorts. This self-differentiation is important. Push for clear boundaries. The point is not to be the bigger person. The point is to be the better person. When you encounter your offenders at staff meetings or around the water cooler, smile and nod. Your unwavering kindness is your best friend in this situation. To practice kindness in the face of injustice might be seen as a weakness, but it’s not. It takes immense strength to shower others with love. Just ask Martin Luther King, Jr.
The way you worded your question indicates to me that you are a thoughtful, introspective person. Guard your thoughtfulness and self-reflection. Do not allow your humanity to be stripped away by the thoughtlessness of others. Oppression, in whatever form it takes, does not happen in a vacuum. It devours the soul of the oppressor more than the oppressed. It damages relationships and tears down bridges. The reversal of that culture of oppression and aggression is in your hands. Remember that the people being waging these verbal assaults are not waging them against you alone. They are instruments of racist/homophobic/sexist systems much larger than any one person or group of people. We are all complicity in some way to these complex systems. With that in mind, I advise you to be patient and merciful as you sow seeds of a more gentle, kind future.
Your Fellow Struggler,
Click through to read more about Broderick and our other Second Opinions panelists!
"I’m thinking of taking a job (or at least, applying for one) that would have me very closeted, and living with my parents. If I got the position, I would probably take it—it is a lot more money than I am making right now, and it would be a good thing for my career in the long run. But how to maintain self-identity in the meantime?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
I, honestly, don’t completely understand the need to be out at work. Regardless of who I was dating or what their gender was, I was never the kind of person who constantly talked about my relationship with my co-workers. It’s always made me feel a little weird. I’m a pretty private person when it comes to my relationships, so NOT coming out never bothered me or made me feel like I was lying. PLUS, being gay isn’t the only part of my identity, you know?
HOWEVER, I understand that some people are not like me and they can’t just NOT talk about a part of them.
You and I are basically the same human bc I would take the job, too. Keeping work / personal life separate isn’t that difficult. I mean, after a while you start to make really good work friends and maybe you go out a few times, you get to know each other and they’re your one person who ACTUALLY knows you as a human. Make sure the people you’re hanging out with / dating know your stance on the situation, because if you’re out and you just introduce your girlfriend by name without saying she’s your girlfriend, you stand to really hurt her feelings. Just be open with the people you care about and you’ll be totally fine. PROMISE.
Dannielle and I are very different when it comes to keeping our feelings in. I have a really, really hard time being closeted in any capacity at the workplace, because I like to make a million friends and have long conversations and I always feel weird and like I am lying if I have to skirt around certain topics.
I certainly agree that it is no one’s obligation to be out ANYWHERE, and if you are like Dannielle, then perfect — the above will work wonderfully. If, however, you are more like me, then this could be a little more challenging for you. Putting myself in your shoes *slips on converse* I would say that the first step would be to look at this as a temporary, and ever-changing situation. You aren’t going to be living at home with your parents forever, and you aren’t going to have to closeted at work forever.
Second, I would talk to my close friends and my girlfriend, and explain that I was feeling really conflicted, but that it seemed like the right choice was to do this for now and see what came of it. Let them know you will need them even more as a support system, so that in those moments when you tell your coworker that you just “aren’t interested in dating right now,” you can go outside and call them up to tell them how weird it feels and how nothing is fair and you are angry, etcetera.
Third, I would urge you to take this day by day with yourself. I am sure that the job is a good one, and important to your future… but that NEVER, EVER means you should be hurting yourself deeply on a daily basis. If this is something that, after you begin it, finds a rhythm and you have moments of frustration but are feeling content overall, then okay. If you find that it is weighing on you and causing you a lot of stress, you have to re-evaluate the importance of things. You being depressed and angry all the time and feeling trapped will affect your relationships and your life as a whole. If that is how this begins to affect your life, you should consider making choices that will allow you to be you. Period.
"I’m a teacher on tumblr and have students on tumblr. I found a student’s tumblr and discovered ze prefers gender-neutral pronouns. The school is very accepting and all zir’s teachers would be willing to educate themselves about it. However, I don’t want to out the student (without permission, in general, etc.), especially since I haven’t been told directly (nor asked to inform others!). What do you think is the best course of action?"
-Question submitted by Anonymous
OKAY LISTEN. I don’t know what the actual right thing to do is, but I’m going to tell you what I would do and like, you don’t have to listen to me if you don’t wanna.
So, if I were in your position I would talk to WATERBOTTLE (student name) after class. I would literally say, “Listen WATERBOTTLE, I accidentally came across your tumblr and noticed you prefer gender-neutral pronouns, is that something you’d prefer in school, too, or do you keep school/after school separate on purpose?”
Chances are ze will be ELATED that you (1) care enough to ask AND (2) are super into the idea of being respectful and considerate of their wants/needs.
HOWEVER, I would absolutely not approach other teachers before you’ve had this conversation. You just never know. There was a long period of time where I was totally out to my friends and family, but I didn’t feel like having that conversation at work. It’s just a different environment and I wasn’t completely comfortable just yet. This could totally be the case with WATERBOTTLE, so check in before you spread the word.
GOOD LUCK AND ALSO I’M SO GRATEFUL THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE YOU IN THE WORLD IT MAKES MY HEART SWELL. YOU ARE THE MOST.
I agree. Talk to the student one on one and let them know you are cool with whatever they’d like, take it from there, and – obviously – don’t out the student to others.
Or you could simply start referring them as WATERBOTTLE and see if they are an Everyone Is Gay fan, and then you won’t even need to have the conversation because they’ve already read this and so they know you know and you now know they know you know they know.
Also, no big deal, but we checked in with our friend Zak over atThe Art of Transliness to see what he’d do in this situation, and turns out his advice was spot on with Dannielle’s! Here is what Zak advised:
Do your students know you follow them on Tumblr? If so, this particular student might have partially been putting that information out there in hopes that you’d see it. If it wouldn’t be too awkward, perhaps you could take zir aside and let zie know that you found zir blog and/or saw that zie preferred gender neutral pronouns and just ask if zie would like you to start using those pronouns or talk to other people about it for zir. Just letting the student know that you are supportive and that you want to help would be nice.
Zak is pretty amazing, and if you don’t already – you should check out The Art of Transliness!
"So, I got offered the perfect internship this summer but, if I take it, I would be far away from my serious boyfriend. I’m studying abroad right now, so we’ve already been apart since November and it’s really hard for both of us. So do I choose love or career? Decisions are so hard guys!"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
You have, like, 80 years of life left and you can be in love for all of those, but this internship will happen ONCE for TWO MONTHS. I always, always, always vote career in these situations.
I sound like the biggest asshole, but the thing is, you want to be with someone who will support your success and who loves when you’re offered cool shit. I mean, love is love you guys and if it’s supposed to work it, it absolutely will. I have friends who were long distance for 6 years, but they made it work and now they’ve been married and in the same home for 5 years. So, IT WORKED OUT.
The bottom line: If you don’t take the internship ONLY because of love, you’ll end up resenting your booboo for holding you back. I didn’t go on tour with Katy Perry bc of someone I was dating and I’m STILL PISSED.
YOU COULD HAVE GONE ON TOUR WITH KATY PERRY?!
**calls Dannielle for details*
Personally, I do not think Dannielle sounds like an asshole at all. You take the internship. If this were something where you would be away for an exceptionally long period of time then perhaps I would say, “talk it over with your boo, weigh the pros and cons, etcetera,” but this is NOT a long period of time. I know, I know, I am aware of how long even a few days feels without the person you love – but a few months where you are doing something brilliant will fly by. Trust. Me.
What’s more, I have found that time away from your boo can actually be really wonderful for your relationship. Missing someone is healthy. Planning Skype dates and sending pictures of your adventures or your boobs to each other – those are fun things that don’t happen as much when you are in the same city.
Take the internship.
"I work at a library, and this really cute girl comes in every so often, and last time I saw her, she was wearing one of your "make the yuletide gay" hats. Is it inappropriate to give her my number while I’m at work?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
If anyone you have a crush on watches/reads Everyone Is Gay… ask them out. ASK. THEM. OUT.
Literally say “hey Kristin and Dannielle would punch me in the throat if I didn’t ask you out, so you in?”
You’re welcome for the dates,
Dannielle & Kristin