The other day on “Job Talk,” Uncle David told a story about coming out during a final job interview in the 90s during the Internet boom. The company was called Deja.com and the job was to basically be the automobile section editor. If memory serves, the site did something like rate and rank products—like Consumer Reports. Needless to say, it was a very testosterone-driven environment. Though it was based in New York City, this was still pre-partner privileges and pre-gay marriage—and boys will be boys, be it in TriBeCa, Tinseltown, or in Texas circa now.
On air, David told me how scared he was when I demanded that he go in and require domestic partner benefits—like health insurance—for me.
While I might have had right on my side, he had fear ripping through his. I never knew it at the time. Why? Because I don’t have my own “coming out at work” story. Why? Have ya met me?! At the risk of stereotyping myself, I am by all standards a little cliché—three snaps up and all.
So everywhere I ever worked, one of two things was true: You either just knew, or you were a moron. On the other hand, unless Uncle David is going on and on about Night of a Thousand Stevies or American Horror Story: Coven (both involving his beloved Welsh Witch Stevie Nicks), he can pretty much pass for straight. (He fooled his ex-girlfriend—for years, that beotch. #IWillCutHer.)
But being able to “pass” didn’t help him, his team at Deja, or later at Individual Investor magazine. I feel horrible that he was scared, but being the elegant, powerful man that he is, he looked across the radio booth at me and said “Thank you. Thank you for pushing me to come out at work, whatever the reason.” He went on to say that in that moment during the interview, everything shifted—for him. Turned out, the boss didn’t care and, in the years that followed, he would often ask David about me… just like any co-worker might ask about a wife.
What a shock! Gays are people too. And everyone needs to be able to share a little bit of the personal during the professional. After all, work and life collide. It’s just that simple. Mixing the personal and the professional makes for better teams, coworkers, and companies. It makes the bottom line better for everyone. Even me. Uncle David got promotion after promotion, recommendation after recommendation, and went to the next job out and proud. (And he bought me a condo in Brooklyn.)
Here are some reasons why it’s so important to come out at work:
- Honesty is the best policy. One lie just leads to three. How long can you keep coming up with reasons not to be fixed up with the boss’s niece when you’re currently dating his nephew? How do you keep that story together? And why are you and Paul constantly hanging out on the weekends? Why did you both show up at the rodeo together—without dates? What a tangled web we weave, etc., Shakespeare quote yadayada. It’s just tiring. Isn’t your job hard enough? Do you really need to moonlight as a different person?
- Worry time eats up work time. If you’re worried, you can’t do your job well. As Wayne Dyer said: “…The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.” (Who’s Wayne Dyer? I don’t know, but thank you Google.) Whoever he is, his words ring true.
- When you come out, everybody comes out. About everything. There will be a giant sigh of relief among your coworkers, your project team, the boss. And then everyone can get out of your business and attend to the business of doing business. That means mo’ money fo’ everyone.
- The life you save may not be your own. One of your coworkers is struggling with this too. It may even be your boss. Yes, just like NFL football players, bosses are gay people too. And what if your coming out meant your boss had someone he or she could talk to? Now who’s getting promoted? Jews keep it in the family, so do Asians, so do African-Americans—why not LGBTI? #sorrynotsorry
I get it. It’s not New York City everywhere—not even in NYC. And not everyone’s gonna be okay with it. You might be living in Baytown, Texas, where Uncle David grew up—and you might be a middle-school teacher in a very Christian world where being gay is something that can be “cured.” (Homophobia is far from over.) I know you’re afraid you’re going to get fired. And that’s a real concern. But that’s when bravery comes into this picture. There’s a little boy or girl in that class or in your town who needs you to be brave so that they don’t end up as the one in five teens who commit suicide because he’s gay (or has a brother who’s gay). You might have just given rise to the next Michael Sam—especially in Texas.
– Auntie Evan
Follow Auntie Evan on Twitter: @AuntieEvanSays
Hear Auntie Evan on the radio: Job Talk Daily Live