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AIBU to not come out at work?

(37 Posts)
IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:08:23

I work for a large company. Later this week there's a large LGBT+ event to launch a new support network for LGBT+ employees. I'm bi. I assume everyone at work thinks I'm straight as my DP is male and I have a child.

TBH, most people I know probably assume I'm straight, because it's pretty hard to casually introduce your sexuality into conversation when you don't have an easy social way to do it. If I was gay or dating a woman I'd be able to mention a girlfriend, but it sounds a bit crazy to say 'My boyfriend, but don't forget, I also like women!'.

I wasn't going to go to the event, because I kinda felt like I'd be taking up space and resources that would be better given to someone who doesn't get the 'benefit' of being assumed to be straight. However, I was in a meeting this morning when this event was mentioned and people were being a bit off about it - one person said they didn't see why 'people who wanted to keep things like that secret would attend' and 'shouldn't this event be for everyone'. I did respond generally that I thought that the company presumed that people didn't want to keep it a secret and that actually it's sometimes good that there are events for people who face challenges that other people don't face and that that's not exclusionary. There was a general tone (only from one or two) that felt, if unintentionally, a bit judgy. I like these people and I've worked with many of them for years, and I did find it a bit upsetting.

I am now undecided about whether to attend and put my queer cards on the table as it were. I almost feel like I ought to go, to demonstrate that I don't believe there's anything to be ashamed or reserved about and that being more open would help de-stigmatise. I do, however, worry that as a bi-woman in a hetero relationship I'd be seen as 'playing' at being part of the queer community, which I don't want to do, I just happen to fancy men and women and feel that being matter of fact about that might be a good thing to do.

It also feels odd, as it's not something I make a big deal of in my personal life, to make more of a deal about it at work. But then, my personal life is full of laid back and accepting folk, so I don't feel a need to bang any kind of drum.

DailyFail1 Mon 09-Jan-17 10:12:28

I'm pan and though I have a husband I still go to lgbt events. Being with a man doesn't change your sexuality!

FinallyHere Mon 09-Jan-17 10:17:20

Is it an event aimed at LGBT people, or to raise awareness/ show solidarity with the LGBT community?
I think it makes a difference. At collage I went to events to show solidarity, and would do so too at current employer if the events weren't already very well attended, sold out and uber-trendy.

PuntCuffin Mon 09-Jan-17 10:21:30

Sounds like they want to have a nose at who all their LGBT colleagues are, either out of idle curiosity or because they are bigots who want to avoid those individuals in future.

But, in answer to the question of your title, no YANBU. You are under no obligation to out yourself anywhere unless you choose to do so.

PuntCuffin Mon 09-Jan-17 10:23:44

My workplace LGBT network invites all to attend their events. I go along as a straight person when workload allows, to help me to understand the issues others face and learn what I can do to better support.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:27:17

Finally - it's a LGBT+ event as far as I can tell. To provide support and opportunities for people to share their experience.

Punt - yes, it felt fairly prurient in tone. It was odd. I think it was the expectation that everyone would have the same feelings and also that everyone they were talking to was straight that kinda put my back up. And made me feel that maybe I ought to be more out, just to challenge that sort of thinking.

DailyFail - I don't feel that it's changed my sexuality, but I do feel that my current setup benefits from inherent straight privilege (sorry for the P-word), than if I was mentioning a girlfriend at work IYSWIM. Then I realised I was quite hurt by the othering in the team meeting and then thought maybe I do have a place at the event.

WorraLiberty Mon 09-Jan-17 10:27:38

If it's to launch a support network, I don't see why it's not open to everyone who wants to go along to show their support?

I think that would be much better than people worrying about whether they should go along and put their 'queer cards on the table'.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:29:00

I think this will probably translate into some more open events, and I hope it will, but this is sort of the initial meet and greet and on reading the invitation is aimed at LGBT+ employees.

Waitingfordolly Mon 09-Jan-17 10:29:08

I'm in the same position as you, other than I don't work for someone else and I don't have a conference to go to! I have found it really difficult in the past to transition from relationships with men to relationships with women and then back again and I lost friends and it massively disrupted my life, so now everyone pretty much assumes I'm heterosexual, though I'm single at the moment. Some people know I'm bi. I perhaps wouldn't attend the event for the reasons you mention, at the moment I do feel as though I live a heterosexual life, though that cuts out huge aspects of my past, and I wouldn't say that I wouldn't be with a woman in the future. It's deeply confusing. On the one hand you might want to show support and stand up and be counted, on the other your support might not be welcome by some.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:32:47

If it's to launch a support network, I don't see why it's not open to everyone who wants to go along to show their support?

Because sometimes it's worthwhile having spaces that are for minority groups to freely express their experiences? I think there's a place for broader education and celebration, but sometimes people whose experience isn't mainstream do need a space that is just for them. I didn't think that was controversial, but part of the conversation in the meeting this morning seemed to make it seem that it was.

Yoarchie Mon 09-Jan-17 10:32:47

I can't see how the event itself will help anybody. Perhaps the support network might, but if I was a lesbian in the workplace and I had an issue where I wanted support, I'd go to my best work friend, who didn't happen to be a lesbian. Just because another (further random) person is a lesbian doesn't mean two people will get on just because they are both lesbians. I don't know if I've put that very well. I kind of think that the whole event would be better if it included everyone as discrimination would be more likely to come fro,m a straight person. In your position I'd feel really weird going and saying you were bi. Firstly because wtf is it to do with anyone confused and secondly because once you are in a happy family unit with a child, you are living a straight life (in your case) and presumably this was a permanent choice Well that was garbled.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:34:42

Not garbled at all Yoarchie. Well, only if my thought processes are also garbled. Um. Well. Sorry, maybe just a little garbled.... smile

Justme3 Mon 09-Jan-17 10:34:50

If you think it'd launching a support network and you would like to join that then I'd go.
If you don't and you're fine as you are and the event itself is making you feel uneasy I don't think you should feel obliged to just because you're bi.

WorraLiberty Mon 09-Jan-17 10:35:51

But all this event will do is put people in a goldfish bowl for people to gawp at, surely?

Also, I'm not sure how well you'd be received.

I mean whether you'd be received a Bi Woman with a male DP and a child, or as a 'gawper', with a fear of missing out?

I don't know but I expect you'll have a clearer idea.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:36:07

'seemed to make it seem'

Christ. The poor English language has done nothing to deserve that. Maybe I should go back to bed.

DailyFail1 Mon 09-Jan-17 10:36:34

I agree that lgbt events should be welcome to all otherwise whats the point of them? They exist to raise awareness and you can only do that by counting straight people in the audience too.

WorraLiberty Mon 09-Jan-17 10:38:15

Actually I think Justme3 has the solution.

Go if you need to use the network.

If you don't, then there's really no more need for you to go than for others who don't need to use the network because they're straight.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 10:40:05

Also, I'm not sure how well you'd be received. I mean whether you'd be received a Bi Woman with a male DP and a child, or as a 'gawper', with a fear of missing out?

That about sums my concerns up and what made me initially decide not to attend. But then I felt shitty this morning, and thought maybe part of the point of this is to make LGBT+ people feel able to be open and in being open make more people aware of their LGBT+ colleagues and in not going I'm partially saying I'm ashamed of myself.

I don't know but I expect you'll have a clearer idea.

There are some people who I can talk to ask more about the event. I know one of them reasonably well so I might speak to them honestly and see what they say.

WorraLiberty Mon 09-Jan-17 10:50:34

I can see the dilemma.

Yes, good idea to speak to them and see what they say.

Good luck with it thanks

Justme3 Mon 09-Jan-17 10:53:19

Please excuse my ignorance here but I am genuinely wondering - why would it not be ok to be bi and have a husband ? If you are attracted to both sexes then surely it's ok to be in a relationship with one or the other? If you're also monogamous, then you would have to just choose one gender at once to partner with?

I am so sorry this isn't meant to be offensive in anyway

You have as much right as anyone else to go along - being in a relationship with a man doesn't make you any less bisexual smile

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 11:03:28

Justme3 - you're not being offensive at all!

It obviously works for me to be in a hetero relationship and have a child, and be bi. I just happened to fall in love with a lovely man, it could easily have been a lovely woman. However, it does change my day-to-day life experience. When I talk about my partner and people assume him to be a man, they're right, and I don't have to correct it, and they make the assumption that I'm straight. So, in effect, I'm not doing that constant coming out that gay people and bi people in same sex relationships are doing.

So, I feel, when it comes to events for LGBT+ people, that I don't (or haven't for a long time) face the same challenges that lots of other people attending will have faced and face every day. That makes me feel a bit of a fraud. It also makes me wonder if I have a place at an event like that.

I do face a much smaller, and less important, challenge of being assumed to be something I'm not, and finding it hard or just unnecessary to correct people when they do.

I don't know. I think currently I fall between two stools. I also don't want anyone to think it's curiosity or prurience that means an ostensibly straight seeming person is muscling in on a LGBT+ event.

IdBuyThatForADollar Mon 09-Jan-17 11:03:52

Sorry, so long and SO navel-gazing.

museumum Mon 09-Jan-17 11:04:46

Everything g you've said makes sense and is important. People assume you to be heterosexual so you are party to hearing hurtful and prejudiced comments.
It's like lighter skinned mixed race people who are told "not you, we don't mean you, we mean those others".
I think they ought to welcome you if you go along with the knowledge that you benefit from being inadvertently in the closest but you are happy to be more "out" and take the consequences- whatever they may be.

PuntCuffin Mon 09-Jan-17 11:06:15

I am sure it will make some people feel able to be more open. It won't work for everyone. Even those who don't feel able to attend because they are ready or don't want to, hopefully begin to feel that the organisation is one which welcomes and encourages diversity and gives people a place to go for advice and support if they face discrimination at any time.

Do you know any of the organisers well enough to speak to them? They should understand your concerns.

Don't feel under pressure to out yourself just to challenge people's thinking, only do it if you want to. You can still question and challenge them without having refer to yourself, just in more general terms. That said, if it is an organisation with support networks, HR should be on board with stamping on discrimination if you choose to be more open and encounter issues subsequently.

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