Coming out of the closet is often seen as a once-off event but, as most LGBT people will know, coming out is actually a process that has to be repeated time and again. The experience can be particularly stressful when you start in a new office. While you’re not obliged to come out in your workplace, it will probably make your life easier and allow you to build better relationships with your co-workers. However, even if you believe that your colleagues will be supportive, it can be a daunting prospect. Here are a few tips for dealing with the situation.
1. Do it early
Let your colleagues know that you’re gay as soon as possible, so that as they get to know you better they already have a clear picture of who you are. This doesn’t mean coming into work dressed in rainbows, but rather finding a suitable time to make new colleagues aware of your sexuality. Very often people will be eager to welcome a new team member and will suggest lunches or introductory meetings. These might present good opportunities for officially coming out.
2, Do it subtly
While being lesbian, gay or bisexual is probably something you have come to terms with and are proud of, many people will be uncertain about how to respond when you tell them. So try to find a way that you can clearly tell them that you’re gay without creating an uncomfortable situation for them or for yourself. The easiest way to do this is to make casual reference to your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend in conversation. If you’re not in a relationship, you could refer to an ex-partner, or perhaps drop into conversation that your weekend plans include visiting a well-known gay bar with friends.
3, Be confident
In society today, most people will be completely welcoming and accepting of an LGBT colleague. They have probably gone through the situation before and, indeed, there are probably other gay staff members in your office. While most people are understandably cautious about disclosing their sexuality, you probably have nothing to worry about. Tell your colleagues openly and frankly, without suggesting that it’s something they might have a problem with with. Mentioning it as part of a funny story is a good way to communicate that it’s not a big deal to you and that they shouldn’t treat it that way either.
4, Be ready to answer questions
In some cases, straight colleagues will be surprised by your announcement and may be curious to know more. While this can be a little uncomfortable, as long as they don’t cross any lines, try to answer any questions in a relaxed and friendly manner. You could also return their questions. For example, if a straight male colleague asks how long you have been seeing your girlfriend, you can ask whether he is seeing anyone, or ask questions about his wife and family. This establishes that your relationship is no different than anyone else’s.
5, Report unacceptable behavior
While the vast majority of people will respond positively, we all know that there are exceptions to the rule. If someone responds in a way that makes you uncomfortable, whether with a discriminatory statement, a comment about how your sexuality might impact on your work, or an unacceptable question about your personal life, you are entitled to take action. Your workplace is obliged to protect its employees from discriminatory behaviour, so if you experience such behaviour you should report it to a manager or to the human resources department. They are in the wrong, not you, and you deserve to be appropriately treated.