Top 5 Tips For Coming Out At Work
Candy Bar girl Rachel Bowen gives her tips for coming out to your colleagues.
L + R
Coming out at work from day one
When I started working at the PR agency, I sensed it was a very accepting environment. It was a young agency with a diverse mix of people and there were a lot of gay men working there already. However as soon as those men walk into a room, clients or journalists can guess that they're gay, whereas everyone presumed I was another straight girl. I casually mentioned 'my girlfriend' in the first week to a few colleagues on my team. They looked a bit taken aback but they didn't say anything further, and then I just let the word spread that there was a lesbian in the office (which it did, very fast!). This allowed me to go into any conversation with new colleagues that I met in the coming weeks totally honestly rather than having to come out to everyone on a one-to-one basis.
Kids come in handy
Within the first month I brought my girlfriend at the time to a family-centric event the agency had organised and she brought her two adorable little cousins. Having kids there while she was introduced to my colleagues helped break the ice as the kids were a great distraction/focus point.
Because I've worked at the agency for two years now, most people in the office I would count more as friends than colleagues, it's like an extended family due to the nature of the work we do, so I chat about my nights out on the scene, arguments with a girlfriend and more recently, dates with girls in exactly the same way as the straight girls I work with talk about their lives, although there may be the occasional additional questions like 'What's the rule about which of you pays for a date when you're both girls?' 'Are arguments worse when you're both PMS-ing?' I always try and answer these though (within limits) because it normalises what is an otherwise unknown part of society to them.
There's a scene in 'Milk' where Harvey said "We have to let all those people out there know that they know one of us" which really stayed with me and I truly believe being open about your life challenges people's assumptions and can make a difference.
The nature of PR means we have a lot of new starters in the office on a relatively regular basis, so I have to do more one-to-one coming out with the newbies. The girls on my team are amazing and because we all chat about life stuff we have going on, this allows for the new people to hear the 'l' word early on. Once though, when we had a lot of newbies, my colleague took it upon herself to shout across the office 'Have you heard about the trans winner of Eurovision? She's quite hot, would you go there?' which certainly got the message out there! It was a novel way to come out to people I barely knew.
The trickier situation is with clients. I once name-dropped my ex girlfriend to a client who knew her in a professional capacity and the look of shock and lack of comprehension on his face when I said she was my ex said it all. I'm sure most clients couldn't care less who I sleep with, but a monthly client meeting is not the place to talk about my personal life the way I can with colleagues I sit with everyday, so I've learnt to use the blessed 'they' word around clients and it's the one area of my life where I'm not completely open about my sexuality.