when i started this job 5 years ago, on my 1st day, my co-workers played the usual ice-breaker/getting-to-know you Q & A session. when we got to the inevitable "girlfriend?", i laughed and said "no...boyfriend" and that was that. there were no repercussions, no bad vibes, no condemnations. my closer co-workers even came to our wedding, 4 years later. as you may expect, i'm not the only gay guy at work. i am, however, the only out gay guy. our wedding picture sits on my desk, i've got an HRC post-it note block, a rainbow in my e-mail signature and, quite frequently, a pretty damn gay desktop theme on my PC. i talk about stephen openly to anyone who inquires, and when new people see my ring and ask about my wife, i tell them that i've got a husband and a yorkie.
all the other gay guys around here operate pretty much under the radar. when talking to their co-workers, they refer to their "roommate" or "friend" or not at all. nothing is ever discussed, out loud. the other day a guy, from another department on another floor, who i know is gay and who knows that i know (but has never said anything outright), asked me about my weekend and i told him that the huz and i went...wherever we had gone...and he looked surprised. when i inquired about his, he got all conspiratorial and whispered that he had gotten married in Boston...to his boyfriend of 5 years. i congratulated him and he whispered all the details to me and then i told him about ours. when i left his desk, i was left with the distinct impression that none of his co-workers knew he had gotten hitched that weekend; that one of the biggest events in his life was swept under the rug and went unacknowledged by the people he spends a minimum of forty hours a week with. this made me feel both incredibly sad and very lucky...
i've been out since college. not completely, mind you, but out nonetheless. the 1st person i told was one of my closest girlfriends (who happened to be dating my very best guy friend, at the time) whom i'd known all through high school. i wrote her a letter, as was our custom, and waited on tenterhooks till she responded; her affirming response (which inadvertently outed me to my mother) left me feeling relieved and comforted and though she and my friend stopped dating, we remained fairly close for several more years. since my 1st experience was (largely) positive, it was a domino effect from there; i told almost all my other friends, one by one, and they all remained supportive (except, ironically, my best guy friend but that's another story). after about four or five years of being out to everyone but he, i came out to the last person on my list, my father and, all things considered, that went pretty damn well too. coming out to him, though, in short, the entire "coming out" experience was a good one for me and, since i started out pretty early, i've made my way through the world (ok, through my itsy-bitsy corner of the world, which is basically the 5 boroughs and some bits of New Jersey) as "a gay man". as such, i haven't switched a pronoun or "pretended" since the early '90's, and can honestly say that i've never met even the smallest amount of opposition or bigotry. i don't know what people might say behind my back or when i'm not there, but it's all sunshine, lollipops and kittens when i'm there.
i find it hard to believe that my experiences, in both the workplace and in general, are the that uncommon. i'm, quite honestly, flummoxed why more people aren't out . the amount of time we spend with co-workers is quadruple what we spend with husbands/lovers/"roommates" in a week. it boggles my mind why, in this age of Proposition 8 and Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Dark Ages of Bush, you'd choose to remain invisible. Visibility and honesty are what breed tolerance, acceptance and support. no?