Hiding in Plain Sight

Posted on October 11, 2019

coming out poster

Note from Pam Davis, CivicPRIDE Chair:

Happy National Coming Out Day! Today is a day the celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community and the unique experiences we have coming into ourselves and then out to the world. One of the most powerful tools for social change is the ongoing relationship-building between people of diverse identities. When people know someone who is LGBTQIA+, they are far more likely to support equality under the law.

Today it is equally important to acknowledge that many people, including many local government professionals, are unable to come out, for fear of their safety, economic or housing security, or loss of family support. To that end, one of our friends at CivicPRIDE has submitted the below anonymous blog post to capture the challenge and of hiding who they are because they do not work in an organizational culture that is openly inclusive of LGBTQIA+ employees.

“My sexuality doesn’t define me.”

I’ve lived by this adage since I was outed in junior high.

At the time I wanted to save face. Defy expectation. Minimize my differences.

Still, many decided to disassociate with me – validating my fear of not fitting-in. This was only exacerbated by my parents’ ultimatum:  pick up the phone and disclose my “lifestyle” to every member of our family or they would do so themselves. I rejected their offer and found my family distancing themselves from me. To this day, some members still contend they only wanted to shelter themselves from “poor influences”. And I still find myself distancing myself from my sexuality.

However, now I recognize that while my sexuality is not the central aspect of my experience, it is ultimately an immutable one.

So then, why am I still hesitant to be open about my identity and experiences?

Why do I still feel the need to be selective in who I share them with?

Because after all of these years I’m still afraid of how others will let it define me.

I am the gay coworker that my colleagues don’t know about. I sit yards away from them, and they don’t really know me.

I work for a city lacking an inclusive culture. A place where it’s still okay to deride men you don’t like with homophobic slurs, dismiss transgender teenagers as mentally ill and to refer to black men as thugs in passing. These remarks and many others along these lines do not give me faith that my sexuality would be well received. In fact, I’d anticipate that I would be subjected to unfair treatment if I was forward with it. How do I know this? Because by tolerating these behaviors, my leadership is sending a clear message that they are appropriate.

The father of a former partner of mine passed away a month ago. Having been in my relationship for 4 years, I was very close to his family and had to take some time off work to help prepare for the funeral. At work, I felt like I had to dance around the details with my supervisor to avoid lying about why I needed time off while still communicating the severity of the event. It was already a rough time that was impacting my focus at work and needing to withhold the truth about my relationship made it that much harder. But I didn’t feel comfortable being fully honest.

Someday I hope to work in an environment where I can be myself. Where I do not feel others’ perception of my character would be made by who I choose to love. Until then I will continue to tell myself that my sexuality does not define me.

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