I accidentally came out to the new girl at work this week during
a routine fire alarm. Someone shouted, "Everybody out", and I took
I'm not fond of telling new members of the team that I'm gay. It
has nothing to do with how I feel about it, but that I feel
responsible for managing their feelings. Coming out to new people
at work creates a moment of premature intimacy. It sounds like I've
made a personal revelation akin to, "My husband doesn't understand
me", when we're still at the level of "are a you tea or coffee
person?" But if I don't tell them I run the risk of them making
assumptions and then feeling foolish - it's a social
I've learned to delegate the task of telling new people to my
friend. Her technique is quick and painless - like ripping off a
Band-Aid. One lunch hour during their first week she'll sidle up to
the new person and say, "Sarah's a lesbian". She's in, and 'outed'
me before the ping of the microwave signals their jacket potato's
The fire alarm is sounding, and I'm standing on the pavement
talking to our new girl. My own alarm bells are ringing. I must not
out myself in this chat. I must stick to small talk about the
weather, the Olympics, or
the Olympic weather.
"I saw women's beach volleyball last night." What am I saying?
Women's beach volleyball?
"I hope you got to see the men's match too?"
Men play beach volleyball? That's news to me. But then I do
vaguely recall someone telling me that I was missing a men's match
as I stood in line for more rosé. "No, we didn't see any men
"Oh well at least your boyfriend enjoyed it." There's a sudden
pause and she says, "Oh sorry. Do you have a boyfriend?"
I could say, "no" and leave it at that. It wouldn't be lying. It's
a partial truth. I'm hurtling towards a conversational crossroads
and I can't decide which way to turn.
"Actually I have a girlfriend." I'm now rowing backwards faster
than Sir Steve Redgrave in an attempt to own the moment, and be
cool and confident.
"Oh, I'm sorry."
Is she sorry that I'm gay, or sorry that she'd made the assumption
that I was straight? The question mark is still hanging in the air
when the alarm stops. We're saved by the bell, and as quickly I had
come out I head back in.