Last night while making dinner, my wife turns to me and says, “I’m going to have to come out to [my coworker] because she constantly refers to my husband.” TJ’s not in the closet and hasn’t been there for many, many years. Unlike me, she rarely discusses her personal life at work. She’s used to working with people who are so focused on the job they’re doing that none of them talk about their non-work lives. With her new job, that’s changed a bit.
This is another aspect of being in a gay or lesbian relationship that straight people really don’t have to deal with. I’m a very out woman. I don’t advertise but when conversations are going on about family or anything else that deals with home life, I always refer to “my wife” and never, ever, play the pronoun game. I’ve had some co-workers stop talking to me completely but, in nearly every case, the response has been positive or non-existant. I actually prefer non-existant and when it is, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come.
Even those of us who really don’t give a shit about what others think about us and our personal relationships can be freaked out by having to repeatedly come out to people who make assumptions about our orientation. Personally, I always feel a tightness in my chest when forced to say something along the lines of “actually, I don’t have a husband, I have a wife.” Which, by the way, I said word for word to a co-worker a few years ago after being in the same position TJ finds herself in now.
It’s not that I really care if that person will still like me or talk to me or whatever, it’s the fact that I don’t want to deal with a confrontation or feel the need to defend myself or my family or the LGBTQ community, in general. I know that I can walk away or, if it’s a work situation, head off to our HR department if it gets too bad but, shit, I just hate those few moments while I wait to see what the reaction is going to be. I feel so vulnerable and out of control of the situation and it’s a terrible feeling. And it happens too often since there are always new people introduced to a work environment.
I’m lucky enough to have worked in the same place for nearly a decade and have plenty of friends who know and love my wife. I’m actually a little nervous for new people to respond negatively simply because my friends would take them to task. I love my friends.
So, send a little virtual love TJ’s way while she deals with this.