Like the colors of the rainbow, people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I learned a long time ago that you shouldn’t stress about things that are out of your control. I also learned that if people don’t like what you have to say, what you wear, how you walk, or who you love, then it is their problem, not yours. We all learn about ourselves as we grow. We may change over time, but this is how we become our genuine selves.
When I was a kid, around 7, I knew I was different. I knew I liked boys in a different way. I remember once when I was 10 and with a bunch of school kids, there was a guy walking on the opposite side of the street, and he was swaying a bit. One of the schoolkids made jokes and yelled profanities at him. I didn’t say much, but I was thinking, “Good for this kid, being himself, no matter what others think.” As kids, we often get bullied in school, called names, and sometimes even get treated differently. We get through it. In high school, there were a handful of classmates who were gay, and we all knew about each other. It might have been because we were in the theater group, but who knows!
As a young adult, my tolerance was very low for people who made it a point to isolate us and call us out, or ask stupid questions. Once, at work, a colleague asked if I had even seen the show, “Queer as Folk.” I said that I had. His feigned interest was a poor attempt at trying to get to know me and build a working relationship.
Other comments followed. “Is the show an accurate reflection of the gay community in San Francisco?” “Do men really run around without their shirts all the time?” “Is sex as rampant as the show depicts?”
My response has always been consistent: These questions are inappropriate in the workplace and have nothing to do with work! My boss found out and terminated my colleague. While he was straight, my boss was emotional about the whole thing. He knew right from wrong. It just goes to show that there can be compassion from some, whereas others lack it altogether.
During my career, I haven’t hidden the fact that I am gay, nor that I am married. Many times in conversations at work, it comes up. So I answer the question. Most people aren’t swayed, yet some are embarrassed by my response. A small minority like to antagonize and say something like, “Oh, it’s legal for gays to get married now?” People will have their opinions, beliefs, ideologies, and so on. So be it. They are being themselves, and that is great. But I am committed to being myself, too. I refuse to let others affect me, change me, modify my behavior, or silence me. I am out of the closet… for good.