Social Question

serenityNOW's avatar

Gay jellies! Have you ever been out of the closet, and then thrust back in?

Asked by serenityNOW (3419 points ) July 6th, 2012

I have a new job; possibly a new career. I work in a residence for the Developmntally Disabled. It’s a tight-nit group of coworkers, and they’re very biased toward gays. So, I’ve kept my mouth shut. Ultimately, I’ve ended up saying I have a girlfriend, because I’ve found it easier to “fly-under-the-radar”. Or something. (It seemed like a good idea at the time. It keeps them quiet and placated.)
It’s in no way altering my comfort with being gay; it just seems appropriate. I want to keep my job and further my career. Still, I’m interested in knowing any other jellies who’ve been in this situation? Did it hurt your esteem/pride/quality of life?

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17 Answers

_Whitetigress's avatar

I’m not gay, but I think it’s a big mistake to have lied and said you have a GF. I can’t fathom what’s wrong with being gay? As long as you have the job it’s fine and set I believe.

serenityNOW's avatar

@_Whitetigress – Hi White.
I don’t know that it’s necessarily a big mistake, or if it’s a mistake at all. Lapse in judgement, perhaps, but even still…. I just want to keep my head down, do what’s expected of me, and keep my job: it’s a good stepping stone. If it entails having a “beard”, so be it.
(As for not “fathoming what’s wrong with being gay…”, do you live in America? I find it appalling, sometimes, that straight people who are standing on the sidelines find it so easy to say things like that, when it’s a huge personal decision to come to terms with, let alone embrace and be proud, but that’s a different discussion, altogether.)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I haven’t faced this challenge yet, and I hope I never do. I came out later than a lot of people (35), and I can’t imagine the horror of having to go back in. I’m sorry, you’re in this situation.

I honestly don’t know what I would do.

serenityNOW's avatar

Funny, @Hawaii_Jake – I just turned 35, and came back “in”. Odd, eh…

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@serenityNOW : The Twilight Zone music just came on.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Sort of. I mean, heteronormativity is really so entrenched that pretty much every new setting I’m in assumes I’m straight, save for queer spaces. There’s not really any such thing as being permanently out of the closet unless you get some forehead tattoo. I’ve had workplaces where I never really corrected people about that assumption, partly because it’s often not really worth it to risk my crappy entry-level job if I don’t really know it’ll be well-received. But I’m also pretty adverse to sharing my romantic life with anyone other than my closest friends; I’m also a young women who has worked almost exclusively in settings where almost all of my co-workers were other women, so the assumption has been that I’m dying to talk about all my relationship ups and downs and share all my boyfriend stories and spend about half of the time I’m getting paid to work gossiping about boys. Even if I was straight, I can’t really say that I’d be spending much time talking about my partners, or bringing them around to parties; I’m fairly of the “none of your damn business” variety on that one. And since many people don’t stop making homophobic comments just because they know you are gay and can hear them, I’m more in favor of calling them out on principle (or, technicality, since STFU about politics in the workplace) than putting on some tedious production that centers my sexuality as the defining characteristic of my identity.

bookish1's avatar

@serenityNOW : I’m sorry that your new job is like that :-/ I know how that feels. At least such situations are becoming somewhat abnormal in some places, rather than absolutely to be expected… In the 1950s in the U.S., more people were fired from government jobs (including the postal service, military, different departments, and contractors) as a result of suspicions of being gay than on suspicion of being a Communist!

I have voluntarily gone back in the closet while I’m traveling for work this summer. I’m trans first off, so it is much more important to me that people see me as a guy. I don’t need people to also know that I’m mostly gay, which often makes people’s heads explode because they can’t understand that gay trans people exist.

I wouldn’t say it has hurt my self esteem, but it is just a pain in the ass on a practical level. For instance, I have to hide stuff in my room because other people might come in to clean, and it means I have to censor myself when I am talking with neighbors or people at work. Although one of my coworkers recently asked me if I went to Gay Pride, and I had no idea if that meant she thought I was gay or just that I was an American looking for a good party.

And GA for your response to @_Whitetigress . It really is not for straight people, who move through a world of presumed heterosexuality that is built by and for them, to judge queer people for the decisions they make. In 29 states in the U.S., there are no workplace discrimination protections for LGB people, and in 34 states in the U.S., trans people can be fired with no protections. And that’s not even speaking about the disdain, discrimination, and hatred you can encounter even in supposedly ‘safe’ workplaces.

Hopefully you won’t have to keep making up more lies about your imaginary girlfriend, but I have certainly done similar things myself just to keep people off my back at certain points.

Kayak8's avatar

When I was about 21, Mr. Smith—a good friend of my parents’ who worked for the CIA, commented to my mother and I that I would be a good candidate for the organization. About a month later, my Mom asked me if I had followed up with Mr. Smith. I informed her that the CIA didn’t want people like me. She looked at me with a puzzled expression and I told her that the Army and CIA etc. didn’t want gay people. She said that it sounded stupid to her, and asked why they had such a dumb rule. I explained that the purported concern at the time was that we could be blackmailed.

Again, she gave me the puzzled face. I said that if a spy from the other side found out I was gay, they could threaten to blackmail me (get state secrets, etc) by threatening to tell other people I was gay. My Mom didn’t miss a beat and said, “well, who doesn’t already know?” as if it were obvious to anyone.

That said, I have been out from teen years (in the 1970s), and am so out I could never go back into the closet. I gave up my spy career for a lifetime of just being myself and found a career that better fit my real self.

bolwerk's avatar

I’m inclined to agree with @serenityNOW about it not being a mistake. In fact, it’s not anybody’s business.

@Kayak8: J. Edgar Hoover (not the CIA, I know) was never blackmailed.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ultimately, psychologically speaking, being unable to be who you are and having to dicotomize yourself will be very tiring. You already had to make up one lie. You will have to lie time and time again to keep your secret.

Are you prepared to make up a lie every time the topic of your personal life is raised? What if you meet someone? Are you prepared to deny your love, deny the person you love?

I live in L.A., and being out isn’t very hard, but I’ve been discriminated against when people realize I’m in a same-sex relationship. IMO, idiots who would debase me and others like me are not worth sacrificing my happiness for. What should we let them win?

And don’t forget, acceptance of LGBTQ people comes from knowing us and learning that we are just like everyone else. Don’t work against your own freedom.

Sunny2's avatar

Some places are so biased that it’s easier to pretend on some issues than make a statement. This is true of places where, if you’re not Christian, you’re scorned; if your skin is not the “correct” color, you’re treated differently. Smaller communities are more prone to this kind of prejudiced attitude than large cities are. Do what makes you comfortable. The experience you are getting in your new job may lead to other jobs in the same field in a more open minded community.

JLeslie's avatar

I am not gay, but I can understand why you chose to do what you did. I think saying you have a girlfriend might make it more complicated, because now it is a lie, rather than just not saying anything regarding romantic relationships. Although, if you are in a relationship, I can also understand wanting to be able to share stories with coworkers without revealing the person’s gender.

I don’t know the specific group of people you work with, but I will put this out there. I am a straight married woman living in a place that tends to be in my opinion rather antigay in that most are against gay marriage, I am in the bible belt, and people seem to just not “get it” when for me I don’t see why anyone has to get anything. I don’t understand the big deal, why can’t every adult choose for themselves who they want to have a realtionship with (and when I say choose, I mean in the sense of it is none of anyone else’s business). Here’s the thing, these same people who vote to outlaw gay marriage, and believe it is against God, well, when they know someone gay they seem fine with it. They show them the same amount of respect at work, I never hear anything bad said behind their backs, it really seems to be no problem. It is only a problem if the gay person wants the same civil rights, but assuming politcis does not come up at work, all good.

Having said that, it probably is not true everywhere. Sometimes people are so close minded, I would go as far as to say they are homophobic and horrible, that once they know a person is gay they treat them differently. It’s hard to know what will be the case probably. Especially as a gay person, I think most likely you are going to assume the worst, understandable. It’s like for me if someone says something that seems antisemitic, are they antisemetic? Or, are they just stereotyping, but don’t really think what they said about all Jewish people. I actually rarely worry about it regarding being Jewish, but I do as an atheist.

My husband and I hear people say stupid offensive things about Mexicans, and we don’t assume they will treat my husband differnlty when they find out he is Mexican. It’s tricky.

Anyway, I see nothing qrong with you keeping it to yourself if it makes you more comfortable. If it makes you less comfortable, then I think it becomes a problem for your own happiness.

Bellatrix's avatar

I’m not gay but I can see why you have made the decision you have. Given the field you work in and the stigma people with disabilities regularly face, how ironic that these workers feel it is okay to be so narrow-minded and bigoted about sexuality. I think it’s sad that in 2012 you have to hide who you are because your job and future prospects may be negatively affected if you don’t.

jca's avatar

I’m not gay so this type of decision is one I’ve never had to make, but if you feel that your coworkers would not understand you or your lifestyle, then it might just be easier to let them think you’re straight. It’s definitely unfortunate that someone has to do that to get by, but if you feel it helps you, then you gotta do what you gotta do.

serenityNOW's avatar

Thanks for the great answers, everyone!
@tinyfaery – you wrote, “Are you prepared to deny your love, deny the person you love?”. I’m not sure if that’s a factor, necessarily. If I meet someone, and they’re worthwhile, I’ll cherish that individual; never in a million years would I deny them, or myself, the love we share. (And I do hope that happens.). I just want to “placate” my coworkers, if that’s the right term. It’s a, “Yes, I have a girlfriend, let’s move on”, kind of thing.
Trust me, all, it stings. And to those who’ve expressed the idea that being out, and just projecting that we’re – gays – just normal people, like everyone else, I’m all aboard. Just, not yet. Not for me. Like I said, it stings. But sometimes we have to suck it up, for our own good, for others, for opportunities and to just “fit-in.”. I don’t wish I was straight, but I do wish it was a bit easier.

JLeslie's avatar

@serenityNOW I think @tinyfaery is saying verbally deny your love for your partner to your coworkers.

tinyfaery's avatar

I was saying that eventually you will find yourself denying the person you love to keep your lies.

It’s only because people had courage that we are where we are today in regards to gay rights. People suffered and still suffer so that you might be free. Don’t ever forget that.

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