In my first professional job after college, I was incredibly nervous and shy to share anything about my personal life with colleagues at work. It's so natural for heterosexual people to talk about who they're dating or who they're married to in the office. Yet for those of us who are gay, it can be an internal battle to share these personal details due to the fears of rejection or embarrassment.
What will my colleagues think if they know I like guys?
What will my co-workers do when I introduce them to my boyfriend?
How will my professional reputation unfold once people know I like guys?
These questions use to swim around my head all of the time, until I asked myself the question: so what? So what if my colleagues know I like guys? So what if I introduce them to a person I truly and deeply care about? So what if people know I'm gay?
Once I framed my fears with the words "so what," my mentality at work shifted dramatically. I wasn't so afraid to tell colleagues who I was hanging out with after work or tell them about my quirky interests that tend to be associated with gay men, such as musical theatre, dance, and art.
When I did this, my colleagues embraced my identity and my thoughts with open arms. I'm very thankful for this circumstance, yet I understand it's not like this for everyone.
Not everyone is understanding or accepting of gay men, so that's why it can be a challenge for those of us who still struggle to express their thoughts openly and freely in the workplace.
That's why it's important to engage in work environments that accept and appreciate diversity.
With that said, it's our responsibility to prioritize the quality of work we contribute to the marketplace. If our personal lives and the need to express gay pride take precedent in the workplace, then there's a high likelihood we'll get attention for the wrong reasons and face unwanted retaliation.
If it's important for you to tell your colleagues about your personal life, it's best to tell them off work hours over happy hour or during company retreats.
Don't be offended, but most people these days have a pretty decent "gay-dar." Meaning we can tell whether or not other people are gay. If you sense that others treat you unfairly or inappropriately because you're gay, I recommend reporting any abuse or retaliation to human resources or people higher up in your organization. Some cases may even qualify you to file a lawsuit.
I believe we live in a day and age where it's important to feel like you can be yourself in the workplace because we typically spend 40+ a week of our lives in these environments. If you feel like you're hiding an important part of yourself to appease others, it may be an appropriate time to reassess your place of employment or career choice.
Expressing yourself openly and freely is our right as human beings. When we have the ability to communicate our stories, experiences, and identity with others who we spend a lot of time around, we feel much more connected to ourselves and our purpose in the world. This type of communication eases our suffering in the workplace and allows us to have more compassion, empathy and love toward ourselves.
Max DuBowy is the author of the Ultimate Guide to Self Care for gay men who are ready to break from stress and anxiety. Are you ready to be confident, make friends and love yourself unconditionally? INSTANTLY DOWNLOAD A COPY OF HIS FREE GUIDE HERE.