Monday, September 6, 2010

Coming Out: At Work


I have been trying to find the time to write this post for a few weeks now, but since today is Labor Day, I thought it would be the perfect time to post this.

image This is not a story about coming out where I currently work, but about a place that I worked at a few years ago.  Coming out at my present place of employment is not really an option.  This, however, is a more pleasant experience.  I think this situation was so surprising because of my work environment.  My bosses were lying, cheating, scumbags who should be in jail for falsification of data.  They forced us to work 80-90 hours a week, but only paid us straight salary for 40 hours.  Supposedly, we were supposed to get comp time for our over hours, but they refused to give it.  In fact, for the most part, they refused to give us our vacation time period.  I have had miserable jobs, but this was by far the worse.  I won’t say anything more about the job except that it was at a lab and we tested some pretty gross and toxic stuff.

However, when I first went to work there, all of the people who worked their were religious right conservatives.  They all voted the straight Republican Party ticket. One guy had even been sent home from work for wearing a John Kerry for President t-shirt. In light of this, I kept my sexuality secret.  One other person who worked their knew and that is only because I had known her long before I went to work at this place.  She had actually helped me get the job, because she knew I was in desperate need at the time.

image There were two high school kids who also worked there, doing some of the grunt work, not that most everything there wasn’t grunt work, but some of the work was more so than most.  At some point, without my knowledge, they had begun to speculate whether or not I was gay.  Finally, one day one of the walked up to me and asked me pointblank, “Are you gay?”  To which I replied, “Yes, I am.”  Then he went back to his work.  From that point on, I knew it was pretty common knowledge.  I didn’t make a big deal about it, but I didn’t actively try to hide it either.  As it turned out, everyone was fine with it.  They liked me for who I was and didn’t care one way or another whether or not I was gay.  A few months later, I found out that the owner of the lab had called the kid into his office after he found out about him asking if I was gay and nearly fired him.  He basically told the kid that it was none of their fucking business if I was gay or not, and that him asking me was very rude and that he should fire him over it.  I always brushed it off as a joke and a learning lesson for the kid.  The two guys never took it as a joke and learned a lesson from it.  The longer I worked there, the more positive the experience of me being gay was.  Honestly, no one cared one way or the other.

imageIn fact, for me personally, it turned out to be a positive.   I got a promotion because they saw that I was capable and competent and gave me a supervisory position that they had only allowed women to have before.  I personally liked it better than working with the samples that were tested.  Also, the collection of the samples, which was really nasty business, they never once asked me to do, but all of the other men would have to go at least occasionally to collect samples.  Now, if you are reading this you are probably thinking that they were discriminating against me.  They gave me a woman’s job, but at other labs the same position was often held by men.  However, they people who ran this lab did not see paperwork as manly work.  Basically, I was sensitive enough to do this type of work.  For me, this was a plus because I was doing work I was better qualified for.  Secondly, they felt that I was too sensitive to go out into the field and collect samples.  This again did not bother me at all, since I didn’t want to go out into the field and sludge through sewage pits and go out into swamps, etc.

They may have felt that I wasn’t manly enough for some tasks, but they provided a safe and friendly environment for my sexuality.  It may not have been a safe and friendly environment physically, OSHA could have a field day with this place, but they made me feel accepted.  And though I may not like the owners personally, I am thankful for an enlightened workplace, especially from a bunch of conservative, right-wing nuts.


Anonymous said...

Conservative, right wing nuts defend your freedom of sexuality more than many liberal, left wing nuts. I bet the kids who did this were lefties but the man who defended you was right!

JoeBlow said...

The kids were immature stoners, plain and simple. They boss that defended me is a right wing nut.

I agree this is sometimes the case that it is the conservatives who defend us, especially if they are a true Christian and believe in Christian love and brotherhood. I also agree the left is not protecting our rights as they should be. It was Bill Clinton, the darling of the liberals, who signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act and the dreadful Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Our current president talks a good game, but has not done much in the way of action.

Anonymous said...

Joe, I really appreciated this story which shows that people can't be reduced to stereotypes. Demonstrations of tolerance in unlikely places give me a lot of hope.

JoeBlow said...

Thanks Mark, sometimes we do find things in life where they are least expected.