navigating LGBTQ issues at work: an open thread

A while back, some readers requested a post where LGBTQ people could discuss work issues — anything from being out at work to advocating for transgender-inclusive health care coverage — and here it is.

Straight people: our role in this one is to listen, not to take a major role in the discussion.

{ 1,337 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A clarification of my request above: I’m asking straight people to let LGBTQ people talk with each other here, and so not to jump in to ask your own questions. There have been a couple of those below, and I’m not removing them because they all have a bunch of answers that people took the time to write out, but I wanted to clarify the request for anything further. Thank you.

    1. Janie*

      Can I suggest not using “straight” as the opposite of “queer”? People can be both.

      1. Emma*

        Ooh, there’s a interesting and nuanced discussion here about the distinction between straight as an orientation and Straight as a social status! But I should probably go to bed instead of getting into it, if I want to manage one day this week without wanting to take a nap under my desk (which I do)

      2. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

        …straight people cannot be queer. They are esentially opposites. Can you elaborate one why you think a person can be both?

        1. Emma*

          There are straight trans people, and some folks who use the split attraction model may be ‘straight’ on one axis but not the other.

          1. BekaAnne*

            This is one of the issues that I’ve always had. People who are cis-gendered and heterosexual have pre-defined definitions in their heads that haven’t moved since the 70’s and then when you explain to them how they are wrong or outdated, we get the “too d@%m complicated” and they disengage. :(

            1. TyphoidMary*

              yup, and another example of how these “threads for LGBTW+ people” end up containing actual hurtful (however unintentional) comments from “allies.”

              1. SaffyTaffy*

                Seriously. Here I was hoping we wouldn’t get any mockery, and it’s right under the pinned post.

        2. nott the brave*

          Someone who identifies as transgender may still be “straight” in that they only find interest in the opposite gender. The general assumption when “straight” is said is actually “straight cis” but that’s still noninclusive of those who are heterosexual while still belonging to the LGBT+ community.

          1. Really?*

            I would just say anybody not cisgender hetero should take a backseat in this discussion.

            1. Really?*

              And it’s not nice to give Alison crap for addressing this topic not quite precisely enough for some of you. It’s tiresome.

              1. The Other Chelsea*

                Making a language suggestion to be more inclusive is not “giving Alison crap.” Most people here are reasonable and would like to be inclusive, and I strongly suspect Alison falls in that category too. Why be trans exclusionary when you can easily change your language to be inclusive?

                1. Janie*

                  Tbh if “Really?” really wants me to be nitpicky, I could point out their definition there leaves out “allosexual” *sips tea*

              2. JulieCanCan*

                Beyond tiresome. Just…..appreciate all she does and bite your *%#% tongue for once, please. This goes for everyone who jumps down her throat after she tries being helpful and inclusive. About ANYTHING.

                Like I said. So very tiresome.

        3. Tetra*

          I realise my interpretation of ‘queer’ is a bit different to other people’s (I am gay but don’t identify with queer myself), but I don’t consider queer to be necessarily antonymous with ‘straight’, for the simple reason that it isn’t a synonym with ‘LGBT+ people’. If gay people aren’t necessarily queer, it stands to reason that straight people aren’t by necessity not.

          Gender fluid, GNC and (to an extent) drag and cross dressing straight cis people are among those I’d consider able to take the label ‘queer’. In part, but not exclusively, because they’re opening themselves up to the same homo/transphobia other queer people experience.

          1. Janie*

            So replace “queer” with whatever umbrella term for this thread you want. It is the term I use for myself and my community.

            And of course genderfluid people are queer if they choose to use that term. They aren’t cis.

            1. Tetra*

              Why would I do that? I’m not part of the queer community, I’m part of LGBT+ – of which queer is included. This thread is specifically talking about queer, not lgbt+. They are not synonyms. Queer is not an umbrella term, or at least it’s like using ‘gay’ as an umbrella term – it both includes and excludes specific people.

              You’re absolutely right that many (most?) genderfluid people don’t identify as cis. I think I was refering more to people who just have a fluid concept of gender, as opposed to those who identify as NB or gender fluid themselves, but I worded that absolutely terribly, my bad.

      3. JenRN*

        Plus the non-Western/European/settler interpretations and world views like —many Two Spirit— where sexuality and gender and roles are not mutually exclusive. Straight may work for them. The variations are endless.

        If your reaction is “it’s too complicated I quit” you are invited to not read the thread.

  2. SaffyTaffy*

    Here’s one: our workplace cafeteria is owned by Chik-Fil-A, and a few times a year they bring in actual Chik-Fil-A food, and it’s always a fun thing where some of us LGBT+ will say “oh I can’t, thanks, we’re not allowed to eat that.”
    But then at least one of us feels we shouldn’t be eating in the cafeteria at all, or at least be trying to get a different company involved.
    For myself, I feel like I just want to be queer and comfortable in my job- I’ve never really had that before. What would be a good way to say, “this isn’t the hill I want to die on”?

    1. Celeste*

      I think you can respect their choice, and still make your own. Can you be an ally in other ways? I’m not sure that every person can be an ally in all ways.

      1. Liberry Pie*

        SaffyTaffy has identified in this post as queer, not an ally. Other than that yes, ok to not fight every battle.

        1. SaffyTaffy*

          Liberry Pie, like, I know it’s not okay, but when somebody is being very passionate about an issue and I honestly just don’t want to be a part of it, it feels disrespectful and like “I’m being a bad gay”

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            How well do you know this person? I think it’s good to tell them you agree with their stance and support them if they want to try to change things, but if you know them moderately well it’s probably okay to straight-up tell someone you’re burned out on this kind of advocacy, or that your bandwidth for this kind of fight is low right now, or something. Maybe tell them that with all the stuff going on in the world you’re trying to be more selective about which problems you engage with to preserve your sanity.

            1. Bubbleon*

              Along these lines, I just had a conversation about this with a friend who is in your exact situation Saffy.

              Their go to has been to direct people to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equity Index (released annually) that scores companies on their policies and corporate culture, specifically including LGBTQ equality. There are a ton of common names on that list with relatively low scores (Snapple and H&M were two I remember off the top of my head), and that list alone is exhausting to read. Nearly everyone he’s talked to about it had no idea that it existed or what brands were on it, so he’s also had an opportunity to address some of the selective outrage and increase awareness of the wider issues. I’d think that would make you the opposite of a bad gay :)

              1. DArcy*

                As a trans person, I don’t trust the CEI because of how strongly it focuses on gay-specific issues. A company can be adamantly bigoted against trans people and still have a very high CEI score, or very trans friendly but have a relatively low CEI score.

                1. DreamingInPurple*

                  A company can also “game” their score by making resources available but realistically difficult to access.

                2. Bubbleon*

                  Just to clarify, I can’t speak to the validity of any of its results, positive or negative. Sorry if I implied otherwise! It’s just my understanding that the point my friend is making when bringing it up is that it’s difficult to keep track of the constantly changing list of good/bad actors and that Chick-fil-A isn’t the only bad one out there despite the press they get.

            2. BekaAnne*

              Sometimes it’s okay to just want the food and not the fight. I like Bob’s answer on this.

              I don’t actually get the Chik-Fil-A thing, I have to admit, but I’m not American. I know there’s controversy but not really details, and I’ve not had the bandwidth to pick it up but if it’s anything like the issues I have with the Salvation Army, then I don’t ask others to boycott it but rather I boycott it and try to raise awareness but if someone says “Beka, I don’t want to hear this!” I leave them to it. TBH, the news and the world at large is set up to make us anxious all the time so I have to respect the bandwidth available for other people.

              1. Polaris*

                Short answer from a queer: Chik-Fil-A leadership are hard right-wing Christians, and they donate extensively to anti-LGBTQ organizations.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  Including one whose members traveled to Uganda to help their parliament pass a “kill the gays” bill. That alone is why I’ll never eat there. Why should I give money that will end up in the pockets of an organization that wants to kill my friends?

          2. Someone Else*

            I think what you said in your original post is fine. You can literally say to your colleague “this isn’t the hill I want to die on” and leave it at that. If they’re reasonable, they won’t think of you as a “bad gay” just someone who wants to use their capital on something else.

    2. Elly*

      Does your workplace generally support LGBT+ issues/people? If so, then find out who owns the cafeteria contract, and then a couple of you sit down with them. Try to discuss things factually where possible, and ask how often the cafeteria contract is renewed. Ask if when the next time it is renewed, can they take into account the attitudes of the bidders towards LGBT+ people? You could be surprised how the contract owner may never have considered that before….

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        But SaffyTaffy doesn’t have to take that on if he or she doesn’t want to. It’s okay to sit this one out and let others deal with it.

      2. E*

        If you’re not comfortable with this level of involvement, what about just expressing to your manager or HR that it would be nice to see the cafeteria options change to some that are more supportive? Let the higher level folks do the legwork, but if they don’t hear any feedback directly it is hard to know a change is wanted.

      3. SaffyTaffy*

        Elly, I appreciate your advice, but my question is about how to avoid having to do all the work you just suggested, because this isn’t the hill I want to die on.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          SaffyTaffy (out of curiosity and not to derail, but is that a Steven Universe reference?), who are you trying to convey this to? Fellow LGBT+ people or work community at-large? If LGBT+ folk are specifically asking you to choose a side/act in a specific way, I think you may be able (depending on their pushiness-levels) to get away by just saying, “I appreciate (or ‘agree with’) what you’re doing, I’m just not in a place right now where I can be as vocal.”

            1. All The Names!*

              SaffyTaffy, I’m LGBTQ and I eat at Chick-Fil-A. Sometimes something can be a worthwhile cause to some, and it’s just not that hill for others…and that should be OK! Acceptance should be universal, not something that LGBTQ+ hold all the hetero people to, but that they themselves won’t bother to follow. As Alison often caveats, with *reasonable* people, this should be a non-issue. If they’re not reasonable, and it’s also not your hill…maybe take an actively passive stance, and be a good venting person, but fail to advocate past being a sounding board?

          1. SaffyTaffy*

            Oh Cringing 24/7 no, but I wish it were! It’s sort of a latent wish to have been named Saffron.

            1. Cringing 24/7*

              Oh, I LOVE the name Saffron! Wishing you the best of luck with everything at work!!!

    3. Mine Own Telemachus*

      I feel like the Chik-Fil-A thing is overblown, but then I remember when I was working at a religious evangelical ministry when that whole controversy started and our receptionist was like “Let’s support them!” and I felt like pushing back in that situation was important.

      In this? Naaaaah. If your coworkers feel differently about it, they’re allowed you, just as you’re allowed to not make rejection of one company amongst many a central part of your politics. Chik-Fil-A doesn’t dictate your company’s policies or treatment of your LGBTQ employees. They just feed people.

      1. 2ManyBugs*

        I think the biggest problem with Chik-Fil-A, unlike the other homophobic companies that just stick to lobbying in the US, is that they directly contribute to other countries to support the *death penalty* for queer people. That’s why I can’t bring myself to eat there, anyway. I get to the point of feeling like it’s overblown, and then I remember they provided the blood money to murder people like me, and then I go back to “not overblown”, if that makes sense.

        That said, my group is pretty split on the topic. I won’t eat at CFA, and neither will my partner, but some of my other gay and lesbian friends will. Even though they’re activists. Blows my mind, but I don’t yell at them about it either.

        1. The Mayor*

          Can you cite any sources for your statement above about C-F-A supporting the death penalty for queer people, please? I can’t believe any commercial business in the USA would financially support foreign death penalty statutes. You DID say “directly contribute”, did you not?

          1. 2ManyBugs*

            It’s from basically ten years ago – but look at their support of anti-gay, death penalty positive politics in Uganda and Exodus International, specifically. They did pull it back, but only because it caused controversy.

        2. JM60*

          Exactly this. They contribute money towards oppressing LGBT people (not hyperbole), and eating their food contributes to that.

        3. Wake up!*

          I’m sure Alison doesn’t hope for this post to turn into a debate about the ethics of eating at Chick-Fil-A. SaffyTaffy was very clear about what her question was and it was NOT “is it okay to eat at CFA”?

          1. Spockulon*

            I think it’s a topic worth discussing. I am a gay cismale in my 30’s. I work on an operations team in a large bank call center. Our manager is an older, Southern gay man. He buys Chik-fil-A all the time. My other gay cismale coworker feels upset about it. I don’t feel like I’m paying for it so it isn’t an issue.

            Interestingly… Our local Chik-fil-A sends out these free coupon gift cards. Maybe you’ve seen them, they usually give out a free item for the month. For a while I was collecting them from coworkers and neighbors and eating there for free as much as possible. I would never spend a cent, but was costing them money. That felt good.

        4. Anne Noise*

          I am not a CFA supporter, but to claim that their donation to the Family Research Council (FRC) directly supported the Ugandan death penalty legislation is a massive stretch. (They did contribute $25k to the FRC, who are evil, so there is that.) They have plenty of factually-accurate problems, we don’t need to water down our message with that kind of hyperbole.

          1. DArcy*

            It’s not a stretch at all. The FRC directly sponsored and provided two out of three keynote speakers at the anti-gay pastors’ conference where the Uganda death bill was presented. The sole purpose of that conference was to kick off the campaign to get the bill passed.

          2. Iconoclast in California*

            FRC is up-front anti-LGBT. That’s enough of a reason to dislike them. I figure that if they could push gay death penalties here, they would.

      2. Bandrs*

        Unless you are a member of the LGBTQ community (and you may well be) I would caution you against saying it’s overblown.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Honestly, the less of a big deal you make of it, the better. You’re entitled to decide that it isn’t your hill! I think quietly absenting yourself from the discussion without fanfare is the best way to go about it. If someone calls you out on it, you can shrug and say “this isn’t something I want to make a big deal out of.”

    5. Arctic*

      As a lesbian I’m excited that I have to drive out to a place that has a Chik-Fil-A early morning next week. I can have their breakfast!

          1. SaffyTaffy*

            Arctic, I think Temperance may be responding to the feeling that threads on this website often get derailed by sociable comments rather than substantive ones.

        1. Win*

          That there is not one side of the issue that any LGBT person must be on.

          A trans person would probably be better respected by the employees at CFA than any other fast food restaurant.

          1. Leishycat*

            Yeah uh I haven’t really noticed disrespect from employees of any fast food place. And like… How their front line employees behave and feel really doesn’t matter, when their owners give massive amounts of money to groups that want us dead.

    6. Foreign Octopus*

      I think you can say just that.

      “I understand that you feel strongly about this and I respect that but, for me, this isn’t where I want to focus my energies.”

      1. Anax*

        Ditto. If you wanted, you could probably say something like, “I don’t feel like I’m senior enough here to advocate for a different cafeteria company, and I’m pretty exhausted by individual boycotts. So many companies are problematic, and I’ve found that keeping a mental ‘bad company’ list takes a lot of energy I’d rather spend on other issues. By the way, Jane, how is the X project going?”

        Substitute ‘other issues’ for something important to you, if there’s something you want to share – like say, getting out the vote, or volunteering, or just ‘doing a good job at work.’

        1. SaffyTaffy*

          Anax, I really like your wording here, thank you. Thank you, Foreign Octopus, for your fantastic username and your good advice. <3

      2. Jan*

        “I understand that you feel strongly about this and I respect that but, for me, this isn’t where I want to focus my energies.”

        ^^^ This. And if you feel any pushback, it’s reasonable to remind your coworker, AND YOURSELF, that we none of us have the power to work hard for righting every single freaking wrong in the world. We just can’t, and trying is a sure path to madness.

    7. Bad Gay*

      I’m a lesbian who regularly eats at CFA, and I claim the label of “bad gay.” For a while, I was making an equal $$ donation to HRC after eating some hate chicken.

      We are all complicated and I regularly say just that, that it’s not my hill to die on. I’ve also said, “ya know, avoiding CFA isn’t really my thing, instead I’m focused on supporting the queer community by __________.” I’m involved with our local LGBTQ youth center so that’s a natural redirection.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        My trans son loves (and eats) CFA, whereas I will not. It’s nice that we each get to define our own hills. There’s no One True Hill. (Wasn’t that a CW show a million years ago?)

    8. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      Slight aside: I’m wondering if this comment is why I’m getting Chick-Fil-A ads all over this thread?! I thought it was ironic until I saw this comment.

      1. AllTheThings*

        Hey, I can one-up this. My company just got an award from HRC for being a desirable place to work, and now we have a pop-up Chik-Fil-A. The LGBTQ+ ERG is not amused – it’s pretty tone-deaf. Letters are being written, so who knows what will happen. We’re a pretty collegial place, so it might change, it might not. But it was pretty bizarre to have this announcement two days after we got the award.

    9. VAP*

      As a queer person, I feel that it’s not reasonable to expect people from any marginalized group to take on the work of fixing things. Obviously, often nobody else ends up doing it, and I have huge amounts of respect for people who do decide to take on that work. But I don’t think it’s fair to make it an expectation. The responsibility is on the company to not support a company like Chick-fil-a, or on Chick-fil-a to be better, or whatever. It’s not fair to expect the affected people (who are often already under more stress just from being who they are!) to add on the work of never eating in the cafeteria, agitating for a change, etc. I’m not sure that’s an argument that you need to explain to your co-worker, but it helps me when I start to feel like a “bad gay” (for me, it’s usually more like, “I chose not to be out in this complicated situation, but maybe if they just knew that they knew gay people their views would change, so should I have been? etc).

      1. Crocheted familiar*

        As a queer Disabled person, I agree. I think it’s on those without the specific marginalisation to take on the work and make the changes, especially once an issue has been raised. Maybe it’s on marginalised people to go ‘hey, that’s a problem’ if it’s something that isn’t obvious, like maybe the Chick-Fil-A thing if you’re not paying attention to their problems (although I’m in the UK where the chain doesn’t exist and even I know about it) but marginalised people have enough work trying to survive in a hostile environment already. Allies aren’t just there to make themselves feel good; they’re there to do the work to make the environment and society less oppressive. OP, I want to validate your feelings that this isn’t a battle you want to fight: you’re allowed to feel like that. It’s a hard enough place already.

      2. Temperance*

        Yep. I feel like my duty as an ally is to be the person who will raise the issue. I should be the one using my political capital to remind people that we need to create and foster a safe environment for our LGBT colleagues, and that it’s not okay to financially support orgs that cause them harm.

      3. Thankful for AAM*

        It really helps to hear that non-LGBTQ+ allies should take on the work. I sometimes feel I am speaking for others in a way that could be seen as rescuing or speaking over another’s voice.

        It is also helpful to hear that there are many views on CFA.

    10. ArtsNerd*

      Queer woman who occasionally eats Chik-Fil-A checking in. I respect and support folks who want to take the stand of boycotting them but [all of the comments below] and [other nuances about capitalism] and at least their fricking labor practices are pretty good. Few entities are entirely good or entirely bad and it’s ok to pick your priorities.

      I also don’t like gatekeeping marginalized folks. (Adult Mom has an excellent song called “Survival” but the closing lyric “And maybe in a year, I will not feel like a bad queer” hits me straight in the heart.)

      1. Katastrophreak*

        Also queer woman who occasionally eats CFA.

        Our local one is independently owned by an independent franchisee who is black. He is making money in our community and supports many people with his business.

        Does some of that flow up to corporate for terrible purposes? Yes. Does some of it also stay here and help the local community in allllll the ways? Also yes.

        There’s no one right answer.

      2. Cakezilla*

        Also a queer woman who occasionally eats at CFA. My wife chooses not to eat at CFA, and we respect each other’s decisions.

        One of our local CFAs donates tons of meals to the nonprofit i work at so we can provide clients with dinner at our evening events. It doesn’t make the other stuff corporate does okay, but it’s complicated. The gatekeeping really gets on my nerves, especially when straight people start trying to shame me for eating there (which has happened more than once).

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          This to me is the worst. I’m straight but also LGTBQA+ (I’m the one no one remembers). I used to eat there. Now I try not to. But I don’t feel anyone else should be shaming me either way. Likewise I am a crafter, I try not to shop at hobby lobby but sometimes they are what’s nearby if I’m traveling. I’m not going to worry myself into a tizzy about it. I do the little things I can.

    11. [insert witty username here]*

      I’m not being snarky – can you literally just say “this isn’t an issue I have the bandwidth to deal with today” and/or add on “I have to leave that fight for another day.” (purposefully changing the phrase from “hill to die on” because some people might take that the wrong way, but this gets across the same message)

      Depending on the personalities you’re dealing with, I think that could signal to people that you acknowledge it IS actually an issue (more so to some people than to others and leaving people to decide for themselves) but that maybe it’s not the time or place that you personally choose to address it.

      Good luck!

    12. Mrs. H. Kenway*

      The thing is, you shouldn’t have to justify your decision to eat food to anyone. I don’t know if this is helpful–I hope it is, and am genuinely offering it with the desire to be, so please forgive me if it’s not–but this is America. You are fully entitled to not care about the politics of the company that makes the food you eat once a month. You are fully entitled to refuse to make the eating of chicken a political act. Chik-Fil-A is fully entitled to donate their money to whatever cause they like, and you are fully entitled to ignore it. The couple of hundred bucks or so a month they earn from your company is not the difference between failure and success for them.

      Let’s be honest here: Chik-Fil-A’s financial donations to whatever cause it is has not made a difference, or will not. I may be out of the loop here, but afaik the big issue was them donating to an anti-gay-marriage organization (again, there could be something else, so forgive me if I missed something). Gay marriage is now the law of the land. Nothing is going to change that. Afaik CFA doesn’t refuse service to people they know or suspect are LGB&c, so all they’re really doing is wasting money on a cause that won’t go anywhere. And they have the right to do so.

      Furthermore, you are a queer person. That’s enough. You don’t have to also be political about it (so to speak, and of course you *can* be as political as you like) and it is NO ONE’S place to tell you that you are somehow “doing it wrong” or “not being queer enough” because you’ve decided eh, you like the chicken and people have the right to feel how they like and donate their own money how they like. There is nothing wrong with deciding not to penalize a person or company for exercising their free speech rights, even if you disagree. (In fact, we used to consider such decisions open-minded, good, honorable, and right.)

      To sum it all up: Tell them you are pro-freedom for all people, and that not only includes freedom to be queer and proud, but freedom for CFA to donate how they like and for yourself to eat whatever you like. You’re not going to try to punish companies for their upper management having opinions that differ with yours, because you believe that’s the right thing to do–and you will continue working to do things that help and make daily life better for your fellow queer people who are in need, because that is also the right thing to do.

      Again, I don’t know if it helps, but I did want to especially make the point that you are not wrong or “not queer enough” or anything else for deciding to live and let live here. You are allowed to not care about CFA’s politics and choices. Not everything needs to be a political act.

      So…I genuinely hope that helps.

    13. SelinaKyle*

      You’ve gotten some great wording suggestions, I just wanted to commiserate and add in my own complaint.

      I work at a institution that is widely recognized as LGBT friendly. Like, national awards, articles written about us, perfect scores on LGBT friendly indexes, etc.

      They are replacing our on campus fast food with a Chick-Fil-A (we do have a separate cafeteria). Now, I’m not judging on an individual level if any of us eat there–we all have different hills, and avoiding Chick-Fil-A at all costs is not mine either.

      Supporting them at the institutional level feels different to me, though, and I can’t decide if that makes me hypocritical. Like, I understand why a hungry queer individual would get some nuggets and a fruit cup. I cannot understand administration looking around our LGBTQ+ friendly, committed to diversity and inclusion campus and deciding “You know what this place needs? a Chick-fil-A.” Surely there were better options

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        Big mood, SelinaKyle. That’s exactly what it’s like here. And yes, one does wonder if the C-level felt this was necessary to keep from alienating bigots.

      2. General Ginger*

        Mood. This is exactly how I feel. If I’m starving, and the only thing around is a Chick-Fil-A, I’m not making myself keep starving; I’ll eat the hate chicken. But if an organization I’m professionally invested in wants to do Chick-Fil-A-related things? UGH. Nope.

    14. Molly*

      I work at an LGBT organization. We go to Chick fil A. They actually employ a lot of queer folks. I would say don’t die on this hill, and enjoy the kale salad

    15. Iconoclast in California*

      If you don’t approve of the cafeteria ownership, which I understand full well (I wouldn’t eat there), then the option is to a) pack your own lunch (saves $$$), or b) go offsite.

    16. tinyhipsterboy*

      You could always do something like “I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with this today; I don’t support what Chick-Fil-A does, but the food is here and paid for,” though that might come off a little standoffish? If you don’t mind getting a little more into it, there’s also something like “I know they donate to anti-gay causes, but unfortunately, so do a lot of other companies we don’t hear as much about. The money that goes there also pays their employees, some of which are probably queer and can’t get another job right away; I’d also rather focus on people who cause active harm to our community rather than donate to organizations that are against us.” Of course, that’s assuming you a)agree with that and b)don’t mind getting into it a little at work.

      Since it’s an issue where Chik-Fil-A owns the cafeteria, and it’s your workplace, there’s also “I don’t have enough capital here to protest this, and I’d rather not open myself up to retaliation.”

    17. LiptonTeaForMe*

      Exactly what you just said, this isn’t the hill you want to die on. But keep in mind many of us older gay folks are very principled and want nothing to do with the companies that continue to oppress us, so you may get blow back on this at some point in your life.

    18. Kate H*

      It’s completely up to you if standing up to it or looking for alternatives is something you want to spend your emotional bandwidth on. You don’t have to avoid the food, or leave the cafeteria, or try to get a different company involved. If someone suggests that it should be your responsibility, it’s fine to say “I understand but I have a lot on my plate.”

      Chik-Fil-A is a popular lunch spot at my workplace, and more than one of our employees has a second job there or worked there in the past. It’s a low-grade fear of mine that I’m going to attend a mandatory work lunch with them catering. It’s been quite a few years now and I understand the desire to just let it go, but I can’t. I can’t forget the news coverage of lines out the door. I can’t forget my own brother bringing home Chik-fil-A because “I have gay friends but I don’t think they should be allowed to get married.”

  3. Mine Own Telemachus*

    Thanks for this Alison!

    I’m checking in here as a bisexual woman who has been in a relationship with a woman for a year and a half. I have the fortune of being out at work because I live in an area where gender identity and sexual orientation are protected classes, but I’ve had to be closeted in the past. Excited to discuss the pitfalls and stuff with y’all!

    1. Alexandra*

      Hi fellow bisexual!!

      I’m also out at work but it’s been frustrating having to come out every time. I can’t even be nonchalant about it because I’m currently in a relationship with someone of a different gender, and I present very traditionally femme, so I don’t read as “queer” to most people. It feels weird making it into “a thing” even though being out is important to me…

      Does anyone else feel frustrated about that aspect of coming out at work?

      1. Zap R.*

        Oh, god, the not reading as queer thing is rough. I just have to keep coming out all the time and it’s exhausting.

        1. Dragoning*

          I’m uncertain if I do or not–but man, when one of my coworkers came back from a work event with one of the magnets from the company LGBTQ org specifically for me, I felt.

          Outed? I’m not out at work.

        2. Rainy*

          “Actually, I’m bi.”

          “No, the ex I’m talking about wasn’t a dude named, for some bizarre reason, Angelica, but was in fact a woman. Yes, I’m bi.”

          “No, getting married doesn’t mean I picked a freaking side.”

          I feel you so so hard.

          1. Alexandra*


            Oh did you suddenly stop being heterosexual when you got married and just became “Karen-sexual”? No? Then neither did I.

            1. Rainy*

              Oh, and because words mean things to me, I identify as “bisexual” and for some purposes “queer”, but there was a period of time a few years ago when the “woke” among my acquaintance kept correcting me “you mean you’re pansexual” or “you mean you’re omnisexual” and it’s like no, I don’t, I don’t like those terms personally and would never use them. I said bisexual, I meant bisexual, stop policing my speech about who I’m attracted to.

              1. rldk*

                I know this isn’t the full purpose of this thread but OOF I feel this so hard! Yes, my definition of bisexual is functionally equivalent to pan! That doesn’t mean I’m incorrect for calling myself bi!

                1. Rainy*

                  My degrees are all in Latin and Greek, and I could never call myself pansexual or omnisexual because I know what those roots mean. :)

                2. SpiderLadyCEO*

                  This!!!! I picked the term because I heard it first and it resonated! Leave me alone!

                  Honestly at this point I figure my sexuality is 0% anyone’s business but my own, and I don’t talk about it like…at all. If queer topics come up, I might mention, “oh, yes, I’m queer/bi” but otherwise…I keep my mouth shut. I just don’t want to talk about it, my identification isn’t that important to me and it’s definitely not important at work. It’s just a fact about who I am: tall, woman, queer, catholic.

                3. Struggle bus is real*

                  I’m a bi cis woman who is prepping to come out this national coming out day (yay!!) I follow the “alike and different” definition most of the time, but the one time somebody mentioned it can mean attracted to any two genders, I mused “That would probably be female and fluid/non-binary for me, then.” My boyfriend, now husband was a touch concerned. I’ve just never felt the connection to “pansexual,” but friends saying I’m bi makes me feel like I’m understood and loved. (To be clear, I am mostly attracted to women and femme people, but there is enough of a sliver there that I ended up with a male partner. I blame living in the Midwest lol)

              2. Alexandra*

                Oh gosh I have gone back and forth between bi and pan a few times. I was bi, then I was “woke” and switched to pan, and then for visibility reasons I switched back to bi. To me it means that I am attracted to people of my own gender, and also of not my own gender. If to someone else that means I’m pan, well that’s nice, but I choose to identify as bi so don’t tell me what my identity is, thanks.

              3. Foreign Octopus*

                This is something that I’m kind of struggling with at the moment.

                Bi was the first time I really understood described me but then pansexual came in and I’ve gone back and forth between the two but, honestly, I just don’t like how pansexual sounds. I think bi covers it for me nicely because it functions the same as pan: I fall in love with the person and their gender doesn’t matter to me and I just feel like pan confuses me.

                1. Alexandra*

                  Then you do you!! I view bi as meaning being attracted to people of the same gender as me and of different genders to me.

                2. nicotene*

                  Yeah I think the issue with “bi” is supposed to be that it implies there are only two genders, but it’s not very kind to tell other people how they should identify.

                3. Bee*

                  Personally, I cannot deal with pan for myself because I’m a classics enthusiast who cannot stop hearing the “all” in pan, and while I know, I KNOW that most people who use it do not literally mean “all people,” it doesn’t feel resonant to me when my experience is more like “almost no one, but not based on gender.” It makes me so uncomfortable to apply that label to myself, though I totally get why other people prefer it. (I once heard someone joke that their sexuality was Picky, and like, just @ me next time, jeez.)

                4. SuspectedDragon*

                  This x1000! Bi was the language I had when I was figuring all this out. I generally prefer queer, but if someone insists on a specific word then bisexual describes me best.

                5. ArtsNerd*

                  BEE. ARE YOU ME.

                  (I’m anti-gender binarism but still use ‘bi’ with the working definition Alexandra has explained.)

                6. Karen from Finance*

                  I like the sentiment behind pan better but I find bi is easier to explain to people. I don’t really have a label for myself in my head, (I think identify as “*shrug*” in my heart) I just treat them as shorthand for talking to others.

                  I think queer does reflect the “shrug” better, but again, harder to explain to people who aren’t as aware of these topics and I don’t want to be bothered.

                7. One (1) Anon*

                  I tend to catalogue “bisexual” as “attracted to people of my own gender and people who aren’t”. It covers all the bases!

                8. Emily K*

                  I’m a mostly asexual bisexual/pansexual/whateversexual. Maybe because of my pagan background, I apparently can’t hear “pansexual” without an image of the god Pan and his nymphs popping into my head…something like this oil painting (NSF some Ws).

                9. pamela voorhees*

                  Just want to give a quick shoutout to Bee’s description of “it doesn’t feel resonant to me when my experience is more like “almost no one, but not based on gender.”” which is the most accurate description of how I feel that it’s almost uncanny.

                10. TheAssistant*

                  I feel this very hard. I don’t identify as pan, even though the technical definition fits me better. I use the term “gay” even though I’m a cis lady dating another cis lady. I like “gay”. If I must, I use “bi” but it isn’t my preferred term, and please do not for the love of god label me “pan”.

              4. Zap R.*

                Yeah, that’s a big part of the reason I stopped hanging out with “woke” people. The trouble is that hanging out with the “non-woke” means my sexuality gets erased in an entirely different way. There’s no winning.

              5. Banana Pancakes*

                I think the idea is that “bisexual” inherently splits the population into “men” and “women”, which excludes people who ID as genderqueer, NB, etc. I see “pansexual” as an attempt to acknowledge that people aren’t either/or.

                Personally, I think that “bisexual” has taken on a more complex meaning as non-binary identities have become more visible and accepted, but it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on. I mostly call myself queer, not bi or pan.

                1. Janie*

                  The nonbinary bisexual people I know would disagree with that. Everyone I know just defines it as “two or more”.

                2. anon today and tomorrow*

                  This has always been the argument against bisexual, but I’ve heard bisexual defined as “one or more genders” for decades. Pansexual came in from people who were trying to call bisexuals bigoted then defined bisexual identities for them and said if they wanted to be woke/promote equality, pan was the identity for them to choose.

                3. DArcy*

                  I switched terms from bi to pan because the local bi community where I was living wasdominared by older people who were horrendously toxic about non-binary genders, and literally no one I knew could even articulate a definition of bisexual that wasn’t “men and women” or “both sexes”.

                  I’ve switched back because I’m more confident with myself and hence am comfortable calling those sorts of people on their bullshit and working to run them out of the community if they won’t stop being toxic and bigoted.

                4. Not Rebee*

                  My original understanding was this, but my current understanding is that bisexuals are attracted to their own gender and to another gender (for a total of 2 genders out of the entire gender spectrum), while pansexuals are attracted to all genders. I think, like most things LGBT, the labels you use and how they’re defined is an extremely individual and personal thing and the variance between people is gigantic.

              6. General Ginger*

                I ID as bisexual and queer — queer as an overall umbrella, because it’s easier to say “queer” than “bi, in that I’m attracted to people my gender and people not my gender, except for generally not cis men, and I’m trans, and…”. I like bisexual for the same reason, it’s a comfortable label and I like to do my part to combat bi erasure. Pan and Omni don’t feel like my labels.

                1. jolene*

                  Bi means you are attracted to people of both sexes (not genders! The clue is in the name!), pan means you’re open to intersex, trans in stages, anything ‘between’ the two sexes. Honestly, the definitions of these words really ought to be clear. We’re not Humpty Dumpty.

                2. Anax*

                  Echoing the wtf jolene. That’s not a standard definition and definitely not how most people use it.

            2. 867-5309*

              Alexandra, This is my favorite-ever line in the entire universe. I would give you a prize if I knew you.

              “Oh did you suddenly stop being heterosexual when you got married and just became “Karen-sexual”? No? Then neither did I.”

          2. BekaAnne*

            I’m bisexual, my partner is female and asexual. I’m still in a bisexual relationship, she’s in an asexual relationship. Together we just define as queer. We don’t discuss our intimate lives with anyone because it’s not their business.

            I mean, if you want to get fully technical, I’m probably a demisexual homoromatic lady who identifies as bisexual (with the definition of bisexual as attraction to my gender and not by gender) and poly. But when I was in a relationship with guys, I was still the same person. When I had poly relationships, I was still faithful to my partners. I don’t subscribe to “greedy” or “promiscious” brands that some people label bisexuals with. My past relationships didn’t erase my identity. I’m marrying my long term partner who is female, and that doesn’t make me magically lesbian. (Although sometimes it’s easier to just nod and smile when someone makes that assumption).

          1. leya*

            i really, really hope you can hear the stifled peals of queer laughter coming from me as i read these comments at work

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              I’m thinking and thinking and thinking and…I got nothin’. Help a girl out?

              1. leya*

                okay, 100% not trying to gatekeep or be a jerk here: it’s kind of hard to explain why this a) is this funny b) rings as true as it does! if i really think about it, i just keep coming back to being Very Online, and having a lot of exposure to a particular kind of queer humor that was really prevalent on tumblr in the late 2000s/early 2010s. which i know is not a very satisfying answer! there’s not a particular reference that you’re not getting or anything like that; i just read something like this and think to myself “yep, that tracks, it really does Be Like That sometimes.” i wish i had a more satisfying answer for you, but it mostly comes down to the fact that my brain has been broken by the internet.

              2. Anax*

                “Alternative” or “counter-culture” coded clothing is often read as queer.

                For instance, emo culture in the early 2000s was pretty vocally queer-friendly and included a lot of androgynous or queer/queer-adjacent artists, and therefore folks – guys in particular – who dressed in emo style were more likely to be read as queer. (Eyeliner, skinny jeans, longer hair.)

                It’s also expected that outsiders will tend to band together, so people who visibly belong to an “outsider” counterculture – goths, historical re-enactors, theater geeks, etc. – are also more likely to be read as queer by folks familiar with those communities.

                Also, counterculture fashion and queer fashion often have a similar point – “I’m not trying to look pretty for YOU.” Defying “standard” beauty norms is often read as queer.

                So, uh. Guessing it’s some combination of those things. Lbr we all know a lady with flannel and an undercut is One Of Us, even before the rainbows come out.

                1. Anax*

                  Oh, also – we queers often want EACH OTHER to know we’re queer. For solidarity and community, but also, y’know, for dating purposes.

                  So there are some things that have just become coded queer within the community, because we’re actively trying to signal.

          2. OhGee*

            honestly i wear a lot of all black outfits at work (and always!) and i think it communicates the same thing

          3. Iconoclast in California*

            I wear purple or black and a fedora. Still people keep expecting me to be feminine.

            I’m enby and ace, married to another enby ace, both wallets say “female”. Annoying.

        3. Not Rebee*

          If you have a very casual and open minded workplace, I’ve found casual jokes about my sexuality work great for “outing” myself to new people. Alternatively, talking about things my gf and I did over the weekend, or trips we have planned, etc etc. Of course, this only works if you’re dating a woman – I’d imagine it’s much harder when you have equal chance of making a straight-seeming joke or reference as you do a gay-seeming one.

          1. BookishMiss*

            At my bookstore gig, managers ask at the end of the night if the shelves are straight. The standard reply from the staff who are some flavor of not-straight-cis is “straighter than I am.” It’s fantastic.

            1. JenRN*

              In our house direction are never given as “go straight on Queen St” it’s “go gaily forward on Queen St”

      2. Rainy*

        I’m bi, out at work, and married to a man. It’s occasionally a little tedious to remind people that I’m not straight, if only because I remember that stuff about people, but I also remind myself in the moment that my irritation is usually less because of the person I’m talking to and more because of the aggregate of the persistent bi erasure and biphobia I’ve encountered in my 20+ years of being out, and if the person I’m talking to isn’t actually engaging in those aggressions, they’re just forgetful, and that’s okay. I forget stuff too.

        I’ve had people say to me “why are you making this a thing, you’re straight now” and man, if it’s not a situation where I need to be civil I let those people have it. :)

        1. curly sue*

          “you’re straight now”

          Oh lord, I hate that so much. I tend to sass back (if it’s safe to do so) with “marrying a redhead wouldn’t mean you no longer like brunettes,” but that’s not helpful in the aggregate even if it does feel good in the moment.

          1. General Ginger*

            The “you’re straight now” thing drives me up the wall. No, I’m really not. Am I suddenly ace when I’m not in a relationship, by this logic?

        2. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I’m bisexual also (female) but in a relationship with a man. So I mean this in the sincerest way possible: why does your sexual identity matter so much? Are people making nasty comments to you about bi people at work?

          1. Rainy*

            Because it’s part of my identity and it matters to me that people not assume I’m straight.

            I don’t need a reason beyond that.

            1. Alexandra*

              Agreed. It’s part of my identity and it’s who I am and I want people to know. Why does it matter what other reasons there are?

              1. my little actuary*

                Yes, same. I also have a secondary reason in that I want to contribute to my workplace feeling like a safe place to come out to. I have a couple of queer coworkers and them being out was fundamental to my being able to come out without being afraid, and I want to pass that on.

            1. Karen from Finance*

              That was a good link, Alison, thank you. It made me feel seen, in much the way that I’m usually not.

          2. Foreign Octopus*

            I think it’s different shakes for different people.

            I don’t really talk about my sexuality unless it’s relevant i.e. I stopped dating a man and started dating a woman and people are like huh? but I do get Rainy wanting to have it understood by the people around them.

            No advice on how to get people to accept it though. I feel like I’ve been banging my head against a wall for years trying to get people to understand that I like both.

            “Oh, you’re gay now. How lovely.”

            “No, Susan, still very much bi.”

            1. Alexandra*

              I like responding with some variation of this:

              “Oh you’re single? You must be asexual now. That’s how it works, right? Your sexuality is who you are actively in a relationship with?”

              1. Wednesday*

                At the risk of sounding nitpicky, I would… maybe retire that line, or rephrase it somehow, since being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t actively in romantic relationships. (Source: am asexual, am happily in a committed romantic relationship!)

              2. Janie*

                I’m ace and I would prefer you not do that. Someone being asexual tells you nothing about their relationship status, romantic or sexual.

                1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

                  And there are people who actually miss-appropriate asexuality by claiming to be in an asexual stage because they’ve been single for a couple months.

                2. Tisiphone*

                  I hear ya! Aro-Ace here. I’ve had long conversations trying to explain the difference between asexual and celibate.

              3. Iconoclast in California*

                Ummmm, no. I’m an ace married to another ace. Asexual doesn’t mean single.

            2. Karen from Finance*

              People do this about fictional characters too and it makes me very angry.

              “Oh this character is gay now”. No they aren’t. This is not how this works, Stop.

          3. Lee*

            I am very, very glad you haven’t dealt with this, but I’ve heard ‘jokes’ about how lesbians/gays are okay but bi+ people can’t be trusted, or complaints about people who are “too gay,” or even gotten “complements” for not being that queer.
            Or on the other spectrum rolled eyes accompanied by “but are you really queer? You’re married to a guy.”

              1. JJ Bittenbinder*

                Besides addressing bi erasure in the moment, what can we allies do that would actually be helpful and not overstepping?

                1. kay bee*

                  Thank you for asking this question! I think that’s something that will vary from person to person/situation to situation, but some things that come to mind are:
                  1. checking in with the person later on if it feels appropriate
                  2. adopting as much gender-non-specific language as possible into your everyday speech patterns
                  3. maybe celebrating bi day of visibility with us (Sept. 23)? lots of workplaces are cool with putting up pride flags & there are waaaay more than just the rainbow one that help people feel seen and supported.

                  I’m really curious to hear what other people think on this question.

                2. pamela voorhees*

                  I would say having as little of an assumption as possible – even if you know Alice was dating a man, they broke up, and Alice is seeing someone new, don’t ask “Oh, what’s his name?” – say “what’s their name?” or “tell me about them!” or something that leaves open the possibility that Alice is dating someone of another gender. Even if Alice has dated fifteen men in a row, that doesn’t mean that the new person she dates will also be a man. Along the same lines, if Alice follows up with “her name is Bethany”, a visible reaction of shock or surprise (even if you mean it in a friendly way!) will make me regret sharing, because I assume what comes next will be something derogatory (“so you’re gay now!” or “oh, I didn’t know you were queer, you hide it so well!”). Treat it casually, and don’t let sexuality be the defining characteristic of that person from now on (nobody wants to be known as the Whatever Girl, but it’s particularly awkward to be known as the Bisexual/Lesbian/Queer/etc. Girl – it makes me think that that’s the only thing you think now when you look at me).

            1. OhGee*

              ^^^^^^^^^^^^ THIS, bi people can’t be trusted *eyeroll*. I (bisexual cis woman) have gotten this from at least one guy friend I had a crush on and from at least one woman friend who had a crush on me, not related to me or my trustworthiness at all. RUDE.

              1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

                Yeah, that’s akin to, “Oh, you deal in dollars and euros, depending upon the currency of the region you’re in? You obviously can’t be trusted with money!” That’s… not how it works.

            2. Lissa*

              Ugh yeah. I am bi and people think it means I am attracted to everyone. I am actually attracted to almost nobody, lol – so it’s not like it increases my odds that much! I really enjoyed the comparison I read to werewolves. They’re not sometimes only wolves and sometimes only human. They are werewolves all the time!

              But. It also isn’t really something I bring up at work because I do often feel like a bad bi for being with a guy, or like I’m being performative – that’s all a ME issue and I never feel that way about others in the same boat as me – it’s something I’m still working on. It doesn’t help that I personally do not like to identify myself as queer – bi is the ONLY term I like for me. (and again that’s just about me myself and I, no other person! Me myself and bi? Ok, I’ll show myself out.)

          4. Banana Pancakes*

            For me, it’s the assumption that I’ve never experienced homophobia. Being queer is important to me not only because it’s who I am, but because I’ve had to deal with people yelling “F****t!” at me since puberty and the pain of those experiences is a part of me too.

            1. One (1) Anon*


              Being told that we don’t count as queer if we’re dating someone who’s not our own gender is cruel, but it’s also illogical if it invalidates the entire spectrum of our past experiences! Being bullied as a teen for kissing another girl, for years, shaped my understanding of queerness, social interaction, and romantic/sexual attraction for the rest of my life. It’s made my identity as a person, and who I’m dating at a given point in time is only part of that.

          5. SometimesALurker*

            Another bisexual in a straight-passing relationship chiming in:

            In our society, many, many people assume people are straight and allo (as in, not ace) unless otherwise stated. And, in our society, sexuality is politicized, whether I want it to be or not. In states not my own, I could be fired or evicted for being not straight.

            If people could not know I’m queer and assume *nothing* about my sexuality, I’d be fine with it. But in any given workplace, most people will assume I’m straight because to them, straight is the default and assuming someone’s straight feels like assuming nothing. Even if not all of the individuals feel that way, I’ve lived my whole life in a society where most of the people around me assume straight as default, and it’s uncomfortable for me that this is the assumption.

            And honestly? It’s tiring seeing people ask that question, even if it’s sincere and coming from other bisexual people. I’m not saying don’t ask it, and I’m not saying it’s tiring to answer (I certainly had the option of not responding, but to me it’s sometimes more tiring to not chime in), just that it’s tiring. Different identities and amounts of visibility are more and less important to different people.

            1. SometimesALurker*

              I should mention for clarity that I mentioned asexuality not as related to whether or not someone’s in a relationship, but as another example of an orientation-related assumption.

            2. aebhel*

              This. If people are just like ‘eh, IDK’, then I’m fine with it. It’s not really something they need to have an opinion on. But if it’s like, “oh, yeah, you’re definitely straight because the person you’re with right now is a guy,” then that’s infuriating.

        3. limenotapple*

          This is exactly where I am. I’m involved with the Spectrum Alliance on campus and feel like I would like to be out so our students know who on campus can support them, especially the bisexual students who might be feeling the same way I did when I was their age. This is really great advice. Biphobia is real, and being treated like I’m not a *real* queer person because I married a man really sucks. I find this to be a problem more with faculty than students. I would like to be more out but sometimes it’s just not worth it.

        4. Mimi Me*

          I’m bi and married to a man. I’m out to my friends and family, but, until recently, not to my co-workers. I was having a conversation with a co-worker about our similarly aged kids and mentioned that I was proud that my daughter was able to come out as bi-sexual without all the stigma that my coming out in college generated. My co-worker actually said “Oh no, get out of here! you’re not bi-sexual. You’re married to man. Stop that nonsense.” I was honestly at a loss for words and so filled with anger that I don’t think I could’ve gotten any out even I’d been able to think of anything to say. We haven’t spoken since beyond work related things.
          My being bi-sexual is not, and never has been, a phase.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            I’m enraged on your behalf, and also wondering if you work with my mom. I know it’s not an uncommon thing to say, but she trots out the “phase” thing and always has. First with me, now with my niece who she described as “still gay” the other day. Not sure why she thinks that needs a status update, like “still 5 feet tall” and “still Jewish”?

            1. JJL*

              I read a wonderfully sarcastic thing on tumblr that went “I hate when people ask me if I’m still gay. What am I supposed to say to that? “Not anymore, my gay card expired and I forgot to renew it”?”

              1. Sparkly Librarian*

                “Yeah, they remind me when I’m at the checkout register every time, but I never remember to renew until the next time I need a bulk assortment of herbal teas.”

              2. Database Developer Dude*

                JJL, that’s absolutely hilarious. May I share that with some of my friends who happen to be gay so they can use it too?

        5. Mr. Tyzik*

          I’m also bisexual and married to a man for two decades, with a child. He is also bisexual.

          I’m not out, but I don’t hide. I’ve mentioned girlfriends during conversations. I wonder sometimes how much things land as me being bisexual or how much I present as lesbian instead (we don’t wear wedding rings). People usually assume I’m lesbian before learning that I’m married with a kid, but I know some just assume I’m straight.

          I also use bisexual to include cis- and transgender. I don’t really care about the sexual characteristics, just the person, and I don’t like the connotations for pansexual.

          I sometimes wonder if I’m being a “bad bi” by not declaring my preferences more often, but I’m genuinely uncomfortable with “announcements”. I’m trying to see that other people feel differently and working on that hang-up. I don’t want people to assume I’m straight, but I don’t want people to think about me having sex in general.

        6. iglwif*

          I’m a woman in my 40s, have been married to a man for 20+ years, and only in the last … 5 years or so have started coming out / being out as bi.

          I get a lot of questions and comments that are clearly coming from a place of “but doesn’t being bi mean you want partners of “both” genders simultaneously??”, but a close second is “but why now?”

          And like … because I feel better about myself when I’m honest about who I am. Because if someone else is wondering if I’m safe to come out to, being out myself can help signal that. Because I want to do my tiny part in reminding the world that bi people exist. BECAUSE I WANT TO.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            iglwif: I get a lot of questions and comments that are clearly coming from a place of “but doesn’t being bi mean you want partners of “both” genders simultaneously??”

            The single most aggravating conversation I had with someone confused about bisexuality was someone (Christian) who, after having (finally!) been persuaded that God did indeed make homosexual people the way they are, and meant them to be that way, then said to me, “But if God made you love both* genders, aren’t you denying God’s will by only being partnered with one person of one gender?”

            Like, a person who just finally agreed gays and lesbians are not demonic and is still not all sure they should marry, is suddenly telling me I SHOULD be in a poly marriage and he’d be good with that because God’s will? Where was that willingness to let women marry each other 20 minutes ago?

            * Apologies to all non-binary folks. The binary was their assumption, not my definition. There was enough WTFery and exhaustion happening in the discussion that I did not feel like also fighting regarding the whole gender spectrum.

      3. Alianora*

        YES. I feel like I have “straight-passing privilege” (which is a flawed concept, but it’s still in the back of my mind) so I shouldn’t make a big thing about being special because I’m bisexual. But at the same time I feel a little bit like I’m lying/that I’m not being true to myself when I let people assume I’m straight.

        1. Alexandra*

          I had a really hard time reconciling “straight passing privilege” with my own feelings. I have a lot of negative feelings towards that concept because it doesn’t really feel like I’m passing or that it’s a privilege because all that’s happening is my identity is being erased and ignored, and it makes me feel like I don’t have the right to be in queer spaces because I’m not visibly queer enough for them.

          1. Rainy*

            Yeah. It doesn’t really feel like a “privilege” to me either for exactly those reasons.

            And the biphobia from other queer people is exhausting and often feels particularly destructive emotionally just because it’s coming from people you’d expect to get it.

            1. Alexandra*

              That was the most hurtful part for me when I came out, was being rejected from my own community for not being queer enough, or for being seen as a “barstool bi” or just experimenting.

              If I am experimenting or am only comfortable letting my queerness out while drinking, let me have the space to feel all my queer oats!!! This kind of behaviour keeps people closeted and prevents people from challenging their own ideas about their sexuality.

              1. Lissa*

                totally. I often feel when around other LGBT people that I need to make sure to mention my ex-girlfriends to get “credit” which is bad for several reasons the most obvious being someone doesn’t need to have dated someone of any gender to be a particular sexuality! But that’s just how it is in my brain. UGH.

            2. Nobby Nobbs*

              As far as I’m concerned, “straight-passing” is just another word for “closeted.” And being in the closet isn’t a privilege, it sucks.

            3. Nobody Here by That Name*

              To say nothing of bi-erasure. As long as we’re bringing up things that exhaust us. This bi person is so tired of how quickly bisexuals are dismissed or labeled gay/lesbian even in media where they identify as bi.

              1. RJ the Newbie*

                I experienced this to a very large degree at my workplace about 15 years ago and since that time I’m private. I’m not closeted nor do I keep the fact I’m bi from people I’m close to, but I felt so rejected that it still stings. It really was erasure of self because I didn’t (and don’t) fit a label.

            4. bonkerballs*

              That’s because passing (whether that’s straight passing, white passing, cis passing, able-bodied passing, whatever) is not and never will be privilege. Passing comes with its own bundle of issues and dangers. I am bisexual, I am not someone who people usually read as queer until I tell them, and I have more than once been in a situation where a man assumed I was straight because I didn’t not immediately announce my sexuality upon meeting them and who then got aggressive or even violent when they found out I wasn’t.

          2. Shad*

            Yes, it’s such a privilege that internalized homophobia lets me “pass” /s.
            At least, that’s how I feel about passing privilege for myself—for a long time, internalized homophobia kept me from even considering other women from that perspective and still makes it hard not to twist that to fetish territory (super not cool and I try not to). I probably still would have ended up with fiancé without the homophobia—I fell in love with an internet person before I knew what he looked like or anything about his body. But I would have been able to experience more/differently without the homophobia.

        2. milksnake*

          I’m also in a “straight-passing” relationship as a bisexual, dating another bisexual. We specifically use the term Partner (as opposed to any gender specific relationship title) so people don’t automatically assume we’re straight.

        3. General Ginger*

          Passing really isn’t privilege when it’s erasing your identity, and forcing you into the closet, imho.

          1. Alianora*

            No, I don’t actually think it’s privilege either, but it still gets in my head. IMO if you’re LGBQ+, you’re not privileged over other LGBQ+ people on the basis of sexuality.

          1. Margaret*

            Bi lady here- I’ve heard it called ‘passing privilege.’

            The fact of the matter is my life is easier when I date men. I won’t be fired for or looked down on for it, I can bring my partner around the office, I’m not at risk for physical violence or sexual harassment when we walk around in public together. The pain of erasure is a real pain, but I don’t have to live with the social consequences and stigma unless I choose to out myself.

        4. Nox*

          That’s why I’m closeted. The last time I dared to have a conversation to try to understand my sexuality I was accused of queerbaiting and how dare I sit there and claim I’m pan but be married to be a man.

          This is often why I clam up when I’m asked at planned parenthood what my orientation is. Because I felt like anytime I had tried to discuss it I was always piled on. Deep down I know what I am but I’m afraid to talk about it.

        5. Kettles*

          The flip side of ‘straight passing privilege’ is that bisexual women are more likely to be assaulted, experience domestic violence and experience mental health problems (due to discrimination from both the gay and straight communities).

      4. Anax*

        Oh, jeez, I FEEL that. I’m female-to-male transgender, and I don’t look it – which means I need to correct pronouns and explain that I’m trans constantly when I meet new people. It’s not what I want to be remembered for, but it almost HAS to be the first conversation I have with people, or things get super confusing.

        (I wear men’s clothing and have a masculine haircut, but I’m pretty femme and, uh, endowed, so people read me as a woman almost 100% of the time. Hormones are a no-go for various medical reasons.)

        1. Dragoning*

          Ah, yes, apparently having a C cup or larger means you’re a woman forever.

          -signed, an enby suffering the same problem

          1. Anax*

            SUCH suffering. Do you also have the thing where you look bustier when binding than when wearing a properly fitting sports bra? The ‘squish downward’ does me NO favors – putting things in the appropriate pectoral position actually looks better.

            (Nevermind, y’know, the horrible rib cramps and trouble breathing. It’s hard to find things that fit appropriately.)

            1. Dragoning*

              I don’t bind, actually, because PAINFUL and “that seems like a lot of damn work and I still wouldn’t be flat.”

              1. EH*

                Same here, Dragoning! The only kind of binding that makes me look like I have pecs is a full on male corset, and while I love it, it’s not very suited to environments that aren’t fancypants/queer/witchy.

              2. Alton*

                Same here. I’ve always felt like I’m “supposed” to bind and that the results should be worth the discomfort, but it doesn’t help me pass at all and the discomfort makes me 1000% more aware of my chest.

                1. Queer Professor X*

                  BIG MOOD, my chest made it extremely hard for me to present masculine, and my awareness that it “wouldn’t work anyway” kept me from trying and left me hopeless. Binders never worked for me (they just aren’t made for a 30H chest), but wearing a Title 9 Frog Bra + loose-fitting dark-colored button-down shirts + blazers helped getting me flatterISH without a ton of pain. But honestly the only thing that really worked for my dysphoria and allowed me to ever be gendered correctly was top surgery.

                2. Anax*

                  Oh, relatable, Queer Professor X. (Love the name.)

                  I’m at like a 38K, and it’s so hot and heavy and miserable, even without the dysphoria – which doesn’t help.

            2. General Ginger*

              I did look bustier when binding, unless I really mashed everything to the sides in a particularly painful way. It was awful (I’ve since had top surgery). Much sympathy to you.

              1. Anax*

                Thanks. Top surgery is hopefully a year or two away – I’m in a job with health insurance that covers it, now, and I have BF+GF who will help me with the physical recovery. I just need to get the paperwork set up, and plan the timing. I’m SO excited.

                1. General Ginger*

                  Excited for you! And glad you’ll have double the help; you’ll definitely appreciate it. I would call my recovery pretty uncomplicated, as far as surgery recovery goes, but boy, did I need my friend for just about everything, ranging from “please reach all the things” to “hey, man, turns out I kinda need assistance standing up from the toilet” (not trying to scare you — that was only once, on the very first day)

                2. Anax*

                  I am SO glad that I’ll have them there to help, and that we’ve lived together for long enough now that we can handle the awkwardness. And I work in IT, so that’ll make life much simpler – I can work propped up in bed if I feel like it.

          2. Jessen*

            My DDD’s sympathize.

            Plus honestly, I’d read as female even without breasts. I have, shall we say, a very delicate frame and a soft face. I still use compression tops to downplay things a bit.

          3. Iconoclast in California*

            Oh God, I hear this so hard!

            I am enby, I dress masculine, but with a G cup people EXPECT feminine behavior and communication styles, including vocal fry and questions not statements from me.

            It is exhausting, aggravating, and makes me feel erased by my coworkers and managers.

            I can’t wear binder for more than a couple hours (and it doesn’t help much), I can’t take hormones, and I can’t afford a breast reduction/elimination.

        2. JJL*

          FtM big guy here too! I’m hopefully going to be getting on hormones later this year but top surgery is realistically several years away. I use sports bras or basic compression tank tops but yeah, it’s gonna be a long time before my body might ever read as masculine. Sadly no advice to give but saying hi for solidaritys sake :)

        3. Róisín*

          Having to explain who and what and how you are immediately to every single person you meet sounds like the most exhausting thing in the world and I am so sorry.

          I recently had the massive realization that I’m not just a woman who gets randomly pissy about having hair and breasts and shaving… I’m a genderqueer fluid person who is sometimes a man or enby. That’s been super super fun exploring on my own and with the trusted inner circle of Team Me, but coming out more publicly and having to deal with the pronoun thing is… I’m not looking forward to that one.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I came to this realization while pregnant with and nursing my baby… I had always felt androgynous even though I look female (short, big boobs before BFing even, wide hips) but all of a sudden I hated almost everything about my body and wanted to be enby. It royally did a number on my PPA and PPD that I’m still unraveling.

            1. JenRN*

              My big trans identity epiphany was around fertility treatments and the what if’s. Holy shit the dysphoria and the confusion of “I love womanly bodies why can’t I love the idea of mine being that way”. One thing it did do was solidify my research focus into looking at the difference between the body and the self. Interesting I’m not sure if it was worth the heartache and depression…

      5. V*

        I have a little vase of flags on my desk – rainbow, bi, and trans pride – because I am old and tired and this close to writing “yo I am not straight” across my forehead in sharpie. It’s so tiring.

      6. BiBiBaby*

        I’ve thought about this so often. I’m bisexual, but in a relationship and living with a guy. My bisexuality is an important part of my identity, but I don’t see the point in coming out to my colleagues/not close friends if they’re never going to be ‘confronted’ (for the lack of a better term) with my bisexuality anyway. It feels like i’m just trying to drop it into conversation to be ‘cool’ or something.

        That said, I have most definitely come out to people at 2am work drinks before, which reads even MORE like that, so maybe the more sensible thing to do would be to address it nonchalantly in the daytime!

        Interested to see other people’s perspectives.

        1. Aud*

          I think of myself as “mostly het,” because it feels like an honest way to acknowledge that I’m definitely into men but not sure how much my interest in women is attraction vs appreciation. I’ve found my person and it’s a cis guy, so the fear of coming across as trying to look cool and work my way into safe spaces where I may not belong is THE deciding factor in me just… never bringing it up, socially or at work. Heck, I’m even worried about this comment taking up space that isn’t for me.

          1. Sophie before she was cool*

            I feel similarly. I happened to marry the first person I was in a relationship with, who is a straight man. I self-identify as somewhere between bi and ace, but I’ve never really brought it up with other people because I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to claim those labels.

            1. weeblewobble*

              I’m similar @sophie except married a woman and now 20 years later starting to identify as bi.

          2. Róisín*

            I’ve known I’m attracted to my sex (women) for… :squints at calendar: oh god, a decade now. That’s a space I knew I belonged in. But I 100% recognize the “do I belong in this safe space whose door I am HEAVILY LEANING ON or am I taking up space that isn’t mine??” feeling because my identity as genderqueer is like… four months old. I actually confessed to my best friend (a trans lady) that, “I’m not sure if this is real or if I just know enough trans and otherwise non-cis-gendered people that I wanna be special too” and she answered that I’m the only person who is allowed to answer that question and I’d need to figure it out for myself.

            So, Aud and anyone else who needs it, consider this permission to claim that safe space, if you feel that space is somewhere you fit. You don’t need to prove it. There aren’t membership cards. If it’s where you belong, it’s where you belong. No one else gets to make that call for you.

            1. NewAce*

              Thank you! I’m just starting to come out as ace, and the “leaning on the door” is SUCH a relatable feeling! Like, do I actually get to claim a space for myself? So it’s lovely hearing this from you.

        2. All The Names!*

          This is exactly where I fall. I haven’t come “out” to people as bi, unless it’s come up organically in conversation, because it feels weird to sexualize something…that FEELS to me like I’m saying it just to say it. Like, my coworker doesn’t need to know I’m attracted to men and women any more than my extended family does. I’m not at all AGAINST coming out (my oldest son recently told me he’s bi, as well, and I informed him that I am, too, at that time, because it was appropriate then, but hadn’t been before). But I struggle often with “Am I hiding who I am b/c I don’t “come out” to people? Am I holding up the progress being made because I don’t feel like telling everyone I have semi-regular contact with that I’m bisexual?” I’ve just not felt the need to “come out”, except on a case-by-case basis. But I always worry if I’m doing it “wrong”.

        3. Joielle*

          Same here – bi lady, married to a bi man. It’s not a secret, but I’ve never come up with a nonchalant way to mention it to coworkers. I’ve never had occasion to mention exes of different genders. The best I’ve been able to do is get a really queer haircut and assume that gets the message across, at least to some people.

          For various reasons, anything even vaguely “political” is a no-go at my office, but if I was able to, I’d probably have a little bi flag in a pen cup or something.

      7. Eyeball*

        Yo. I, too, am a femme-presenting queer person engaged to a regular straight man, but I apparently have enough “lesbian markers” that I read as queer to people in the know. That’s all well and good, but one woman at work makes snide and/or suggestive comments about my relationship or me every time we see each other. They’re subtle enough that a trip to HR seems like overkill, but I clock them.

        We work different shifts so I see her maybe 5 hours a week, and it’s not huge because I know who I am and she doesn’t, but it’s definitely a reminder that judgement comes from all sides.

          1. Eyeball*

            Exactly that, kind of a *scoff*, “suuure” vibe. Ugh! I hate it but it’s the kind of place where making a Thing out of it would be High Entertainment for others and I do Not want that.

      8. Kelsi*

        Yes. I’m an ace and queer woman, currently in a relationship with a (queer) man, and the number of times I uncomfortably waffle over whether I should bother outing myself….

        I’ve started referring to him as my partner, both because I hate the word boyfriend, and because people are less likely to assume shit when they don’t know my partner’s gender.

      9. Jessica*

        Hi Alexandra,
        SAME!!! I agree, it’s frustrating and time consuming to come out over and over again at work. My husband and I have been married for 13 years this year, so i also don’t get read correctly. I’ve finally posted a “Bi Pride” pin on my cubicle wall, in a prominent location.

      10. Louise*

        Another bi woman here and I’ve been super lucky so far — when I started at my org I’d been in a LTR with a cis guy which ended and these days I’m dating an absolutely lovely woman. I’m pretty close with a few folks in my office and everyone that I’ve mentioned it to has not so much as batted an eyelash. I think that’s the benefits of having an org split between the Bay Area and New York!

        I also never really officially “came out” at work, though I guess talking about dating another woman sort of qualifies as that, and I am in our lgbtq+ slack channel so I guess folks who care to see know that I’m queer. I’ve been pretty openly out since I was about 16 and I guess I’ve been lucky that I’ve never lived in an area where it needs to be like, a whole conversation.

        But also I *totally* feel the whole not-presenting-queer thing; especially after being in a long relationship with a cis guy and as someone who presents pretty femme (though I like to think I wear enough denim shirts and combat boots to come off as bi to those in the know ;) ) I’ve often felt like I had to justify my queerness. While being in a more visibly queer relationship has its challenges of course, it’s nice to have that part of my identity feel more seen.

      11. Ros*

        In short: yes, I felt it (queer woman married to a straight dude…), and then I became the director at my current company.

        Background of the company: no turnover for 15 years, so the older employees are basically small-town vaguely-conservative been-here-for-20-years-and-nothing-has-ever-changed (and think that lesbianism is a HUGE JOKE, for some reason??). And then a hiring spree happened for junior positions, and a lot of my younger employees are LGBT (or have partners who are), so… a bit of a culture shock. And I got a LOT of mileage from the long-term employees when they were trying to defend bigoted statements by doubling down and saying things like ‘but people LIKE THAT are blahblah’ and I could just fix them wiht a stare and say ‘to be clear: when you say ‘people like that’ you are talking about PEOPLE LIKE ME. Would you like to go on, or take the opportunity to reassess your position?’ And maaaaaan did I get a lot of stuttering and people backing RIGHT DOWN. Somehow, defending bigoted statements to someone who is part of that group and has a certain degree of authority is a whole different ballgame.

        So, in short: for me, being out was a really great way of taking the homophobic attitudes and cutting it right out (because being an ass to your boss about their sexuality has a different social connotation than being an ass to the data entry guy about his, even if it shouldn’t), and… y’know. I live in Canada, I’m in a straight-seeming relationship, I have the bandwidth to handle some homophobia in a way that people who face it every day don’t necessarily (and shouldn’t have to). It’s not the right decision for everyone, but it madea really great impact here.

      12. Janet Snakehole*

        I’m bi and am sort of, more-or-less, ishly out at work. I don’t think I’ve specifically said the words “I am bisexual”, but I don’t try to inhibit my speech or hide any part of myself. Plus, I have a giant rainbow quilt on my wall.

        I still have a lot of anxiety about whether or not I should officially come out, especially because I’m in a long-term relationship with an opposite gender partner. I waffle back and forth almost daily it seems like. On one hand, it’s not their business, if they’re paying attention they’ll know anyone, why does it matter, it would only cause unnecessary awkwardness… but on the other hand, it could go a long way with visibility, it would certainly clear things up for some people, I work with some members of the queer population… And around and around.

        It’s weirdly comforting to know that other bisexual individuals struggle with navigating coming out at work.

      13. Story Nurse*

        YES. It got so much easier after a) I came out as trans and b) my AFAB partner moved in with me and my AMAB partner. Before that it was really challenging to find the line between being inadvertently closeted and being ~gay as a day in May~.

        My favorite:

        SN: I’m a judge for this big queer award in our industry.
        Colleague: I didn’t know they let straight people judge that.
        SN: …they don’t.

        And then I waited until the penny dropped. The colleague did apologize for her assumption.

        My AFAB partner isn’t comfortable being out at work as agender and polyam, and doesn’t really want to talk about me being nonbinary… so we’re “closeted” as a nice monogamous lesbian couple. I think this is hilarious, mostly because I don’t hang out with their coworkers very much. It’s honestly easier to be closeted by choice than constantly put into the cishet box when I have never claimed to be either.

      14. GS*

        Fellow not-straight person (and not precisely cis but pretty gender-conforming-presenting for this industry) in a relationship with someone of a different gender. I also work in a traditionally toxic-masculinity-dominated industry. My boss and his boss are not perfect but completely go to bat for my ability to be out.

        I completely get that feeling around having to come out every time. Some days I will wear rainbow gear to work, because fuck it. Those days I just feel the need to dare someone to say something.

        And then other days I just meet with my contractors and let that shit roll over me and past and away because, yes, exhausted.

      15. B*

        I’m not out at work for this very reason: it’s never come up, and a handy opportunity hasn’t presented itself either. I would come out if that happened, but I don’t want to ‘make a big deal’ out of it, which it would feel like if I brought this up.
        I work for an organisation that shares facilities with a much larger sister organisation, and I went to one of their LGBTQ+ meet-ups once. It felt really awkward because some people there knew I’m married… to a guy. So everyone assumed I was there as an ally (and for the free beer and pizza). I felt so invisible and stupid, I haven’t gone back since.

      16. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        YES, this is so frustrating. I’m out but not loud. Like, if it comes up in conversation I’m open about being bi but I’m married to an opposite-gender partner so it doesn’t come up so much. And I don’t proactively say “by the way I’m bi, nice to meet you.”
        My boss is queer, and they know I am. I hadn’t thought, before this, it would feel much different to have people realize I was queer at work but it honestly does. And I want it more. Our workplace is big and support varies between departments, but there’s kind of a queer semi-underground and I feel glad when I’m welcomed into it.
        I’ve liked the ideas about cube decoration. For myself, well, I’ve found a haircut helped. I’ve gone a lot less femme all over– which is in line with our work culture. I still don’t think I read as queer as I’d like to straight people, but I certainly do to queer people and that’s helped.

      17. Oregano*

        I (bi person in opposite-sex relationship) have solved this problem by periodically wearing a shirt that says, “Queer and proud of it!”

      18. I'm Not Phyllis*

        YES. I’m not generally out at work (except for a few instances where it has come up) but it’s not … on purpose? It just feels awkward to tell people when I’m in a relationship with someone of a different gender. It’s something I struggle with a lot.

      19. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        Very much. I’m asexual, and panromantic, and somewhat genderfluid, though I’m cis-female and present that way. However, I’m married to a man who is graysexual or ace (he doesn’t really claim either label but has said they fit him) and we have a baby. We also have a third, but she is part of our triad for me, not my husband. She is also asexual but hetero romantic, cis-female, and femme.

        I work in a position where it is best if I don’t give out too much personal information, and it’s always felt wrong to know that people were thinking of me as cis/straight/female/sexual but also it felt wrong to make it a big coming out thing. Being ace and gender fluid still means a lot to of passing privilege and I know it. Why should I expect people to give a shit when there are people facing real discrimination for real issues?

        Still. It is so fucking hard to define our family in a way that won’t weird people out. People who don’t need to know get told she’s my sister, or my nonbio sister…. The daycare has her signed up as the other mother…. Hubs calls her my best friend or sometimes my partner, or our roommate…. We are not a triangle, we are a chevron with me at the center. Poly friends of mine never understood because hubs doesn’t have a second and we don’t all fit together. A gay friend I knew since college occasionally told me to pick a side. I’ve been told many times that, “A is for Ally” or that asexuality is a medical or mental issue and doesn’t exist. When I have opened up about it to the rare coworker, I get asked how I had a baby if I’m ace and don’t feel like a woman. I had him the old fashioned way and being pregnant was what really proved to me that I’ve never really felt like a woman but I also am not a man.

      20. Roz*

        Yay for the bi ladies!

        I’m bi, not quite out at work and married to a man. I have a girlfriend on the other side of the country who is also married to a man and it’s sometimes hard to navigate the “what did you do this weekend” or “who’s that card from” or “where did you get that” when the answers are”I’m meeting my girlfriend for Pride weekend” or “She sent me a gift box and it had this adorable blah blah blah in it”. We’ve both been suffering through miscarriages and send each other little pick me ups and I like to keep them at work to remind me I’m not alone since I’m surrounded by all these pregnant women, but I feel like I’m not being true to myself and my situation by not being forthcoming about all the important people in my life. I’d love to have a picture of her and her husband on my desk next to the picture of me and my husband, but I am also such a private person that I don’t want to field the inquiries.

        It’s even weirder because I was raised by 2 queer women in a very queer community and so I am not shy about sharing my parental/family situation, but society isn’t really there yet in understanding the married bi women with other partners set-up. And I am super femme and do not present as anything but straight until you talk to me for more than an hour. So… Yeah I feel like I was out my whole life and now I’m in this weird closet and it’s odd.

        That said, now that I’m in my 30s I care a lot less and don’t have any qualms about dropping hints, so if anyone is paying attention they likely have put it together.

    2. bananaboat*

      Hi fellow bi lady! I’m out at certain bits of my work (I work in edication so staff know but kids don’t). we have quite a few gay members of staff which is nice.the only issue is one of the other bi staff members thinking we are the same (she likes to talk about her quite kinky sex life and i don’t) it makes thing pretty awkward!!

    3. Anonymeece*

      I dithered over coming out or not at my work. I live in the South and while it’s pretty urban and diverse, and my office especially is pretty liberal, I worked with a few people who mentioned going to church and I tend to be gun-shy about that (not that I am against religion! I know some churches that are great, but I really don’t want to play the #NotAllChurches game with friendships that I enjoyed). I was never really hugely out of the closet, but I also never hid it, and always go to Gay Pride in my city and all that. But for this job, I switched pronouns while talking about dates and such and now it feels awkward to come out! I’m also in a long-term relationship with a guy now so I can’t even just casually mention, “Oh, yes, I went on a date with someone last night and she was lovely…”

      Has anyone ever come out belatedly?

      1. Senior_Wrangler*

        Hi. I work in a crazy conservative environment (very much a ‘Good Old Boys” management and FOX News playing in the cafeteria) and have come out belatedly. I won’t say I haven’t experienced issues. I’ve been explicitly not invited on some projects. I’ve dealt with some snide comments. A dent appeared on my car after a veiled warning. But on the whole went much better than expected. I’d label it a great experience. And I wouldn’t go back.

        One day I just stopped switching pronouns. When somebody pointed it out, I just casually and non-dramatically came out to them. I figured the Work Gossip Mill would take it from there. And it did. It took a while but everybody—even the managers! (!)—ask about my partner now. I can join in on the “What’re your weekend plans?” conversations without stress. It feels great.

        Sometimes quietly reminding coworkers that gay people are everywhere, living and working among them can be very effective v

    4. cleo*

      I’m a bi woman married to a cis man (for 18 years) and I’ve definitely struggled with how to be out at work. I’m really happy with my current, low-key approach. I’m a contractor so I’ve had the chance to practice this at several placements.

      I’ve learned that I prefer to be low-key out. So far at least, I’ve found that to be comfortable, I need at least a couple of my colleagues to know that I’m bi / queer, but that I really don’t need the whole place to know.

      I’ve found that wearing pride pins at work, especially the first week, works well for me. That way my LGBTQ+ coworkers can clock me as some flavor of queer but I don’t have to necessarily say anything (which is good, because I am terrible at verbally coming out). I’m relatively involved in the larger LGBTQ+ community so when I talk about my life during office small talk, I’ll mention things like volunteering at a queer youth program or reading a book for my queer book group. I’m thinking about bringing in a photo of me with my bi meet up group at Pride at my next gig. Many cis/het people tend to sort of miss that I’m signaling them / coming out to them. And that’s OK with me.

      Previously I worked at the same job (higher ed) for 16 years and was not out – at first it was because I was single and didn’t think my dating life was anyone’s business, then it was because I’d just gotten married and didn’t think it was anyone’s business and then, after 15 years I realized that I was really uncomfortable with the fact that all of my long term colleagues assumed that I was straight. So I embarked on my second coming out. I got laid off before I could figure out how to come out to my long term colleagues and for the last 5 years I’ve been living the freelance / contractor life. In my last 2 or 3 placements I’ve been experimenting with how to be out and how out to be.

      1. aebhel*

        I’ve been thinking about getting pride pins, or maybe a ring or something. I’ve actually been at my current job for 5+ years and I’m reasonably sure that everyone would be supportive, but there’s really just… no… non-awkward way to start that conversation. Like ‘hey, btw! I’m bisexual!’ I mean, my current relationship is with a man, and while we’re not entirely monogamous that’s an entirely different kettle of fish that I REALLY don’t want to get into.

        1. cleo*

          Yeah, the coming out to existing coworkers is daunting.

          Definitely start with pride pins, bi pride jewelry, etc. I was super self conscious about it at first and then I realized that it was way more important to me than it was to most people, who barely registered it. And it may help you connect with other LGBTQ+ colleagues.

    5. Forestdweller*

      I’m a lesbian who presents “very straight,” even when I’m making every effort not to do so! I’m also an HR manager at a manufacturing facility in an extremely rural and conservative part of Kentucky. For me, being out is important all the time because my area desperately needs LGBTQ visibility. My partner and i are out EVERYWHERE- work, our kid’s school, girl scout meetings, 4H events. More than a few people have told us that knowing/seeing us helped them come out/accept a gay loved one/change their heart towards gay people, which for me underscores the importance of being out well beyond just feeling comfortable and confident in my skin. I think it is also important as someone in HR. Me just being out is a sign to team members that diversity is valued and that harassment or unprofessional behavior on account of someone’s identity won’t be tolerated. We don’t have a lot of protections here, so those things wouldn’t always be guaranteed.

      While I know discussing one’s sexual preference in an interview is shaky ground (and I would, obviously, never, ever ask a candidate anything about that), for the last 2 positions I was offered, I made it obvious that I was a lesbian in the interviewing stage by mentioning my partner (in ways that were natural and not weird or unprofessional. . . I think. Like, “yes, my partner, Cathy, and I have lived in the area since 2010). That way, I knew the people who hired me were fine with a) gay people and b) gay people who are out. It also meant that by the time I started working, word had kind of gotten around and I had to do less coming out. That may not work for everybody, and I recognize that I have been fortunate in that should me outing myself be a problem in those interviews, I wasn’t in a position where I would be devastated by not getting the job.

      1. Forestdweller*

        Sorry, I meant to bring this back around to the topic- I think it is so important to have bi-visibility, because I do see a ton of people even in the LGBTQ community try to downplay the B as if it isn’t really a thing. The things that work for me as a lesbian-and the importance I see in being out- could work well for someone who is bi, also.

    6. iglwif*

      Hello, other bi lady! :)

      I’m an Old (mid-40s) and have just very recently started coming out as bi to anyone, including co-workers. I’ve been married to a man for 20+ years, so a reaction I get a lot is some variation on “does Spouse know that?” or “how does Spouse feel about that?” It is … very tiring.

      (It also turns out I’ve been the subject of back-channel convos between childhood friends, along the lines of “iglwif is bi? wait, does that mean she and Spouse aren’t together anymore??” So I’m guessing some similar conversations happened among some co-workers at ExJob and I was just blissfully unaware of them ;))

      Semi-seriously considering getting business cards printed that say something like “Yes, I am bi. No, that does not I am not polyamorous, although some bi people are, just like some straight people and some gay people. Yes, I am a cis woman married to a cis man. No, that doesn’t make me straight. Here are some links, please stop talking to me now” etc.

      I’m very lucky right now to be working with a lot of people my age and younger, some of whom are also LGBTQ+ and none of whom ask those kinds of questions.

      1. Lissa*

        “Does Spouse know that” I hate that! Like, no, Frank, I definitely decided to tell my random coworkers something about myself but not the person I’m married to.

  4. transtrender*

    Can we talk about best practices for coming out as transgender at work? I’ve already navigated it, but some of my younger trans friends are still figuring it out. How should we approach the challenge?

    1. Anonymous Trans Guy*

      Oh, I’d super appreciate that. I’m planning to come out once I’ve got a few ducks in a row wrt to insurance and HRT, but I’m already putting together links and documents to share with my coworkers.

      Here’s the ones I’ve pulled so far!

      To share with team
      • Managing Gender Transition in the Workplace, the Society for Human Resource Management
      • Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines, Human Rights Campaign
      ○ Recommended Practices and Policies:

      To share with coworkers

      • Tips For Working With Transgender Coworkers, by the Transgender Law Center
      • Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace, HRC
      • What to Do When Your Colleague Comes Out as Transgender, Harvard Business Review

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        These are such great resources! I’m just a cis lesbian, but I’m a trans ally and I work in cultural competency and definitely will definitely read up on these!

      2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Hey, thank you for these.

        I’m aiming to do some document updates for our company procedures here, and I was wondering how best to bring pronoun usage in where it hasn’t been a topic before. These links are a great help!

      3. General Ginger*

        What a great set of links! I gave the HRC ones to my boss when I came out at work.

        FWIW, my actual coming-out experience was fairly simple. I told my boss in a one-on-one; boss was a little unsure how to handle it, asked me for resources, which I provided, and wanted to have a department-wide meeting where my colleagues could ask me questions. I shut down the idea, and asked the boss to send an e-mail with my pronouns and a “trans 101” link, also from HRC.

        Re: coworkers actually respecting my pronouns, it could be better, but for the most part, it’s all right.

        1. Story Nurse*

          > and wanted to have a department-wide meeting where my colleagues could ask me questions

          *scream emoji x 1000*

          I’m really happy to be The Expert on All Things Trans at work, but having this kind of Q&A about myself would send me shrieking into the night.

          1. General Ginger*

            I said I’d gladly provide helpful links, or recommend a professional facilitator if they were interested in having a meeting with questions, but absolutely no way, no how, would I be OK having a Q&A meeting with me about me.

      4. Kelly*

        Another suggestion is that for workplaces is that there is some accountability and action taken to respect people’s preferred pronouns when they have colleagues that are trans and/or gender non binary. If you have people that don’t use the preferred pronoun even after being corrected and reminded multiple times that one person prefers they/them instead of she/he/hers/him, then the manager/supervisor needs to start taking disciplinary action with the people doing the misgendering and not respecting pronouns.

      1. Sean*

        yes, thank you for sharing this! I remember reading this when it first came out in 2017 and am happy to see the story shared in this forum!

        1. Paige Flanagan*

          I really like Boylan’s two memoirs about transitioning. Well written, and for me it was both informative and pleasure reading!

    2. Grayson*

      *waves* Non-binary transgender human here. I present as transmasculine about 80% of the time. My pronouns and my name pronunciation are in my e-mail signature. I tell my boss and my coworkers around the same time which is day 1 or 2 when I get in. It’s always weird to tack on “Oh by the way, my pronouns are male.” People get confused, and I explain there’s really no good way to introduce “Oh btw I’m trans.”

      1. Anax*

        God, yeah. And the right words to use are so situational! Not everyone understands the phrase “pronoun preference”, and then there’s the eternal “so… which way?”.

        I like to explain it early and explicitly too.

      2. Dragoning*

        I just…let everyone call me “she” and “ladies” and “woman” and deal with it because I have no idea how to explain it.

        I think my coworker of the same age might have twigged to it, though, because I never refer to myself with gendered terms.

        1. A Tired Queer*

          Gosh, I feel this so hard. I have my pronouns on my name sign at my cubicle (started with “she/they”, ended up switching to “they” recently) but I don’t know how/when/if I can navigate verbally asking for pronoun changes when everyone uses “she”. It doesn’t hurt my heart to be included in “ladies”, but it is getting progressively more annoying.

        2. Alton*

          Same here. I’m not very confrontational, so the idea of correcting people, even nicely, makes me feel bad. I also feel like there’s some stigma that being gendered correctly is something you have to “earn,” and it’s easy to internalize that.

          I’ve found that some people are really good at picking up on things like me having my pronouns in my signature and others just aren’t.

          1. Story Nurse*

            Do you feel comfortable wearing a pronoun pin? I’ve done that at professional meetings and it’s helped a lot.

            1. Dragoning*

              I own those, but I’m not out at work, which is why I let them keep doing it. I wouldn’t wear one in a meeting.

            2. Alton*

              I do have one and wear it occasionally. Most of the issues I encounter are over the phone or email, though.

              1. JJL*

                It’s the phone thing that I think I’m worried about more, I work in a small company with a couple of out gay co-workers so I’m sure that when I announce my transition it should go over ok. But all of our client interactions are by phone and we have regular clients who know all of our staff by name/voice so I don’t know what it’ll be like to navigate that.

    3. Anax*

      First of all, it’s really useful to get buy-in from your manager if at all possible. They can talk to people quietly and help navigate things, and that’s helpful.

      After that, uh. Honestly, I just sent a mass email to the effect of “Hey, I’m actually transgender so I’m going to be going by ‘John’ and using male pronouns (he/him) from now on. Just wanted to let you know!”

      1. Anax*

        For clarity – ‘things’ includes stuff like ‘helping get your email address changed to your preferred name’, and other technical and HR stuff. A good manager will make this seamless – name changes aren’t that unusual, so there should be a process in place.

    4. King Friday XIII*

      So I freelanced for a while and then just started my next job with “by the way I go by King Friday and he/him pronouns” at orientation. I experimented some with just showing up in a suit for the interview, and I think that helped me weed out places that wouldn’t have been good fits (like the one where I showed up, they left me in the lobby for half an hour, asked one question, and sent me on my way). Fortunately I live in a pretty liberal area and this hasn’t been a huge issue, and now that my name and paperwork is all changed I expect next time I change jobs it’ll be easier… but now I have to navigate outing myself when I mostly pass, which is a totally new set of awkwardness. XD

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I totally want your name to actually be King Friday.

        My son is too young for a job yet, so we’re trying to do all the name change stuff now, so he’ll only be known as ChosenName. He mostly passes as well, so he is fortunate enough to be able to choose most of the time when he comes out.

    5. AdventureArden*

      Oh man, I just concluded job searching mid medical transition. I’m ftm but still look female and it was a nightmare. If you’re job searching, even in a state where you’re protected, it can still be a pain. Usually I’d just ask for the men’s room (specifying the men’s room) and correct people’s pronouns.

    6. Alton*

      I wish there were more resources specifically for people who are non-binary and/or are not medically or legally transitioning in a noticeable way. When I was grappling with this, a lot of the resources I found were geared toward people who were starting to medically transition or who were changing their gender presentation in a major way. That’s hugely important, but didn’t apply to me. I’ve never been comfortable going out of my way to talk to my manager or coworkers about being non-binary when I’m not informing them of any big changes like a name change. But there are still many workplaces where simply doing stuff like using they/them pronouns without explaining it might confuse people. I recognize that I have some privilege in that I’m not always visibly trans, but that can make coming out more challenging in some ways.

      1. Crocheted familiar*

        I’m trying to work out the same thing (I’m non-binary but my body is frequently gendered a certain way and I’m not planning to medically transition due to a million other health things, which makes navigating being trans and constant misgendering very difficult), so if you can share any strategies or tips that worked for you, I’d find it really helpful to hear them.

        1. cryptid*

          Hard same. I’m gendered as my asab close to 100% of the time from people outside my immediate family/friends, despite repeated reminders about my pronouns and gender. Hell, I’m in a specific academic program partly because I’m trans and they still fuck it up constantly. I’ve done some medical transition stuff, too – what in the world would it take to get others to give me the bare minimum amount of respect?

          1. Crocheted familiar*

            Yeah, I get this. I’ve kind of semi-accidentally done a tiny amount of medical transition (nothing obvious, nothing you’d know without taking a blood sample or something to specifically look for it) due to a different medical issue, and outside my friends – not even by my family, except my brother – I’m 100% gendered as my asab. I haven’t really got any more to add, but I see and acknowledge the struggle you’re dealing with.

    7. Story Nurse*

      I have to preface this by saying that it’s quite dangerous for some people to be out as trans, and if you don’t feel you can come out safely, you are still really trans and you aren’t letting the side down or anything. Being stealth or closeted is a valid choice. You have to read the room and make the decision that’s right for you.

      What worked really well for me:

      1) Coming out to my direct boss in person.

      2) Coming out to the company president next, via email. It’s a small company, and the president is gay, so I felt pretty comfortable with this.

      3) Drafting an email for the president to send around to all hands, with basic info about how to address me (“My pronouns are they/them; please use them regardless of whether I’m wearing a dress or a button-down; if you forget, just correct yourself and move on, don’t make a big thing of it”), what to expect (“I will continue to look the way I always have, though my fashion choices will change from time to time”), some links for further reading, and a cheery “I know you’re all going to be great about this, thanks so much in advance!” closing. The president put his own note at the top saying “I’m so thrilled that Story Nurse feels comfortable coming out here, and I know I can count on you all to treat them respectfully”.

      4) Putting my pronouns and salutation in my email signature: “Story Nurse (Mx., they/them)”. Requesting them on my business cards the next time I had reason to have cards printed.

      5) Accepting that I will be correcting people on my pronouns until the end of time, and being okay with that as long as they make a good-faith effort, which they do.

      It went pretty well. I think the only weird question I got was a sincere “So do you say ‘us’ and ‘we’ for yourself instead of ‘I’ and ‘me’?”.

      One colleague, a longtime feminist activist with TERFy tendencies, really struggled with singular they, and when I asked her to rewrite her LinkedIn recommendation of me with the correct pronouns, she rephrased it to only use my name. But she did rewrite it, and the last time I corrected her on my pronouns, she apologized sincerely. I have some hope that being a trans person she knows and likes and respects will shift her views a bit.

    8. Another J Name (she/her)*

      I transitioned just a few months ago, at a workplace I’ve been for several years. We have thousands of employees (not hundreds and not tens of thousands), and I’m in California, so I have strong legal protections. I’m a binary trans woman.

      I started by *very quietly* meeting up with a couple of out trans employees in my workplace, who were quite reassuring about how things were likely to go. After that, I met first with somebody from HR, second with my great-grandboss (who I’ve known since I was hired) and my former manager (who I trust), and third with my direct manager. In the live meetings, I focused on communicating a few things: my name and pronouns were changing, here’s my timeline for changing my presentation, I want help communicating and I don’t want to do “trans 101” education by myself, I need help with the computer systems. Everything went over very well.

      After that, I left on a several week vacation during which I went full time. (While visiting my immediate family, who are blessedly supportive.) On the day I left for vacation, my great-grandboss sent an email which she, HR, and I had all collaborated on. We have an email list that’s used to announce new hires and promotions, and I suggested that the email be sent to that list. It worked wonderfully. Some features of that email: My new name was used earlier in the email than my former name, “J, your colleague whom you’ve formerly known as J.” It specified my pronouns, that my presentation would be changing, and then went into 101 educational mode and linked out to some resources (similar to those from Anonymous Trans Guy above), and specified who they should contact for more info and that they shoudn’t be grilling *me* with overly personal questions. On the day I came back from vacation, I was presenting as a woman 100% and have continued that ever since.

      The people at my workplace have been fantastic about my name and pronouns, even people who have known me for years. They’ve been second only to my (awesome) immediate family, and substantially more consistent than my friends group. The computer systems and processes… have not gone as smoothly as I’d like. My manager eventually needed to step in because I was spending hours a week for *ten weeks* trying to get helpdesk to fix all the problems, and it’s still not quite wrapped up.

      There is at least one nonbinary person who came out recently without changing their presentation much, but I don’t know much about their process other than notifying people about their pronouns. They’re at a different office than I am.

    9. Also FtM*

      I sort-of dropped in on my boss my first day. I’ve been in medical transition for over a decade, and to all appearances look male. (I even have facial hair.) However, I lost my Social Security card with my new legal name, so when I delivered my documents to prove I am legally allowed to work in the US, I had to use my birth certificate (with my birth name, which is clearly female).

      My boss, sub-boss, and office manager were all cool with it. My office manager outed me to a now-former co-worker once (in the context of a MtF client), but said now-former co-worker is so naive that I am not 100% sure she got what the office manager told her.

    10. MB*

      I came out at my job (fed contractor) about 2.5 years ago. I spoke one-on-one with my boss, who then looped in HR. The first issue HR addressed was the bathroom–that I’d be expected to use the ladies’ room and I could send anyone who had beef straight to them :)

      They did NOT make a big deal out of it. Nobody in my building outside HR and my little four-person office, including my boss, was told (I didn’t have regular interaction with many other folks in my building at all, so that wasn’t a huge deal). I took about a month afterward getting my name change made official and my documents updated, then everything was ready to go. I sent an email to some other colleagues with whom I worked regularly, and that was pretty much it. It was the most anti-climactic thing ever–my workplace handled it REALLY well. A few congratulations, not a single negative word, and everyone used my new name and pronouns right away with no slip-ups or questions asked.

      So, I’d start with the immediate supervisor and take it from there. They’ll ask lots of questions, mostly out of curiosity and empathy (btw, you do NOT have to answer whether you plan to have surgery–that’s none of their business). Have a timeline and firm plan in mind. Good luck!

    11. Erin*

      I came out as nonbinary at work recently (I’m an academic librarian).

      Told my boss first (who told senior management), then told my direct reports, then the folks I work most closely with – then I sent a letter out to my coworkers, and posted it out on our staff intranet too. Now my pronouns are in my signature and everywhere else, and it’s been going okay!

      Here’s my letter:

    12. Alli*

      Thanks for putting this out there for the thread to cover. As someone who’s in the process of working through this, I really appreciate it!

  5. GinnyPig*

    How does one decide how/if to come out at work? I am a gay woman (mid 40s) and have been happily with my same-sex partner for many years. I have recently moved to a new team and now people keep asking if I am married or if I have children. I usually awkwardly reply that I’m not married and I don’t have children so they assume I am a straight single looking out for a man. I am happy with my sexuality but I don’t think it is relevant for people who I work with to know about my private life. However the endless assumptions are beginning to drag me down. How, readers, would you handle this?

    1. Mae*

      I casually drop “my wife and I went to the movies” or whatever we did when someone asks about my weekend. I just say it like it’s normal and most of the time people will do a surprise face then recover quickly. I haven’t experienced any aggressive homophobia with this method (just microaggressions in other contexts). I’m a children’s librarian in a conservative-ish area, so patrons don’t know, but I don’t hide it from coworkers.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        This is how a good many of my coworkers over the years have handled it. It allows for a nice, smooth response from the other person. “Did you like the movie? Did she?” It’s a good way to acknowledge that you heard someone without going, “OH MY GOD! A WIFE??!!”

      2. Else*

        Yeah, the same. I’ve lived in the rural south and midwest for my entire professional life, and that’s how my wife and I roll. People have gotten less surprised as time has gone on, and there have been some definite remarks of a type straight people wouldn’t have to deal with, but it’s mostly been pretty chill. We are expecting our first baby – it’ll be interesting to see how it goes now, as we have to start disclosing more outside of normal professional settings to people I’d otherwise prefer to avoid.

        1. Forestdweller*

          For what it’s worth, my partner and I (cis gender lesbians) have an 11 year old we’re raising in rural Kentucky, and we have had very few issues come up. We’re the leaders of her girl scout troop and volunteer with school and 4H and we are totally out, so the opportunity has been there. I’m sure there are people who have said nasty things behind out backs or chosen not to join our troop because of the gay mom leaders, but i honestly can’t think of many ugly things that have been said to us or our daughter. Occasionally a kid at school will inform her that his church thinks being gay is bad, but my daughter just shrugs and tells him his church can think whatever they want. Congrats on the first baby! Hoping your experience is as smooth-sailing as ours has been!

      3. GinnyPig*

        Thanks, I think it is the microaggressions that get me too. I hadn’t really realised it until reading of the experiences and options that others have outlined here.

    2. The Original K.*

      Would you be comfortable saying you’re in a relationship? I would make a distinction between single/solo and coupled-but-not-married regardless of the genders of the people involved. Like right now, I’m not in an exclusive relationship (dating around) so if someone asked if I were single, I’d say yes. When I’ve had boyfriends and I’m asked if I’m single, the answer is yes in the “how do you file your taxes” sense but not in the day to day sense, so I say I’m in a relationship. That way at least the assumptions that you’re looking for someone would stop, and you could make your own call about whether to tell people that your relationship is same-sex.

      1. GinnyPig*

        I had been worried that this would open up the gates for more questions that I feel intrusive, but I’m not happy about denying such a big part of my life so maybe I will be brave and talk about it a bit more. It might take the assumptions that I am looking for a man off the table.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          If you’re willing to answer “are you married?” with “I have a partner,” it can clue people in to the possibility that your partner may not be male without actually saying so. A lot of straight people who are not legally married but in a stable relationship use the term partner now, but it came out of the queer community, and so it tends to remind people of the possibility without necessarily telling them what your own individual situation is. You will get some of them asking followup questions, but I’ve generally had good luck on this not being too common, at least in that direction. They’ll sometimes ask if we have kids or how long we’ve been together (occasionally the nosier ones will ask if we’re planning to get married, now that that’s a possibility no matter what the gender permutations may be), but I’ve never gotten a question about the gender of my partner when I’ve done this. (By now, I *am* married, so my use of this form is a few years out of date, but I don’t think it’s been long enough to have radically changed in usage.)

    3. Alianora*

      I’m single and bisexual, and most people assume I’m straight. I basically don’t hide my sexuality from anyone, but I also don’t bring it up unless it’s relevant to the conversation — which it rarely is, especially since my dating history is only straight. Sometimes I wish I weren’t attracted to guys just so it would be simpler to come out.

      In your case, I think you unfortunately have to make a decision. Either you can correct peoples’ assumptions, or you can let them continue to assume you’re straight. I guess you could also say, “I’m not married but I’m in a long-term relationship,” but that would probably invite more questions about your “boyfriend,” and you’d have to decide between coming out or lying about your partner’s gender.

      1. Alexandra*

        Hey fellow bisexual!!
        I’m in the same boat sort of (in a different gender relationship) and it’s so frustrating for me to be read as straight all the time, especially since I present really femme so I “make sense” as being straight(????) to most people. I totally get what you mean about wishing it was simpler to come out. Just wanted you to know that you’re not alone in that feeling.

        1. B*

          So much this! In my case it’s compounded by the fact that I (a woman) am married to a man. I wonder if I’ll ever get my moment to just casually come out, without it becoming “a thing”. I feel ya…

          1. cleo*

            I’ve finally come to a place where I can kind of do the casual coming out thing. – which is a good thing, because I’m terrible at coming out conversations.

            I’m a bi woman married to a man (18 years). After 10 ~ 12 years of marriage I realized that I’d accidentally let myself become bi-erased and it felt really uncomfortable. So I worked really hard to find LGBTQ+ and especially bi+ community, first online and then IRL. And now, when I need to casually come out to someone new, I talk about volunteering at my local queer youth program or what I’m reading for one of my queer book groups, etc. I also make a point of wearing a rainbow flag pin when I’m in public and a bi-pride pin when I’m in LGBTQ+ spaces so that my people can find me more easily and I can find them.

            Some cis-het people will of course completely miss my subtle coming out to them and I’m mostly OK with that.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, there was a letter here a while back from someone whose boss knew that he was engaged, but thought he was engaged to a woman, and he was in a bind where he kind of had to come out but didn’t want the entire office to know. If you don’t want to be out, don’t mention the partner at all. Change her to a roommate if you want to be able to mention her in conversation.

        1. Triplestep*

          I was thinking about this, too, on reading GinnyPig’s post. I think assumptions are more difficult to correct the longer they go on, and then you’re trying to manage the embarrassment people feel when they realize they’ve had it wrong all that time. No that it’s your job, but I think it does come back to bite.

          My only experience with this is back when I (cis, female, straight) was with the father of my children. People at work assumed were were married and they’d refer to him as my husband. It was always awkward when it came out one way or another that we were not married, but partnered with kids – not as common for straight couples to make that choice 30 years ago.

          Anyway, if you’re comfortable I would refer to your partner as just that, and then use pronouns. People will just get it after a while.

          1. GinnyPig*

            Yes, the embarrassment of having not corrected people previously and making it into a Big Thing is a factor for me as well.

            I love how people are both so kind and so good at picking out the things which I then realise are a worry!

      3. inlovewithwords*

        *waves!* Totally feel you on the hard to come out when you’re bi and have only been in hetero relationships and feeling it’d be simpler if guys weren’t a factor.

        And yeah, I think I agree about just having to make a decision, which kind of sucks. GinnyPig, possibly you could just get away with “I’m not looking for a new relationship right now and don’t want to talk about this at work,” if they’re not the kind of people who would push the issue. But maybe the overt hinting is the best way to go.

        (Also, Alianora, I love love love your screenname! Love Enchanted Forest, when I was a kid my best friend and I used to pretend we were Alianora and Cimorene–I was Cimorene. So well met XD)

        1. Alianora*

          Thanks about the username! I used to comment under my real name, but it’s common enough that I think there were a couple other regulars here who were using the same name, so I switched :) It was one of my favorite series as a kid too. I found the first two at used bookstores and would always look for the sequels there, until I found them online.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      What part of the country do you live in and what’s the culture of your company like in general? I’m a married lesbian with kids and at this point I can’t imagine being closeted at work, but kids really do make it harder to stay in the closet. But I live in a very liberal city and my agency is pretty good on the diversity front, so it was no big deal to be out at work from the start of this job. When I was younger, less at ease with being gay, and in a more conservative industry I just stayed in the closet.

      In a perfect world it wouldn’t be something that felt like it was “telling coworkers about your private life” any more than other innocuous stuff like your coworkers knowing which neighborhood you live in or whether you have kids or a dog or are on a soccer team on the weekends. But I know that’s not the world we live in.

      If you do decide to, the how that’s worked best for me is to treat it matter-of-factly in conversation when it comes up naturally. “Are you married?” “No, but Susan and I have been together for quite a while now.” Or “What did you do over the weekend?” “Oh, my partner Susan and I went to check out the new exhibit at the museum. It’s really good – do you like modern art?”

      1. GinnyPig*

        Thank you for your helpful comments!

        When I was younger I was much outer than I am now (if that’s a thing) but these days I just want to be left alone to live my life and not be faced with prejudices or kindly intended but ultimately offensive comments.

    5. iceclown*

      I dropped it into conversation a few times in sentences that were about something else (e.g. on the day I started my job, I somehow got into a conversation about those alarm clocks that keep track of Daylight Savings Time, and I was like “Haha, my partner has one of those and she hates it”). I’m extremely private too, but I decided that I would rather be perceived as the boring lesbian that I am rather than the person who conspicuously refuses to talk about any personal aspect of herself. If you feel that your team is unlikely to react badly, you might try just mentioning her in passing to test the waters.

      1. GinnyPig*

        Thank you, good advice! I am not sure how they will react in all honesty. My boss did ask me who I lived with once so I thought she had realised that I was probably a lesbian, but when I said I lived with my partner, [woman’s name], she was visibly shocked (but then covered it well and wasn’t weird about it at all afterwards). She is the only person who ‘knows’ but I wonder if she might have told anyone else (if she has then they haven’t mentioned it to me).

      2. Sally*

        This is what I usually do when I start working with a new team. It’s important to me to be known for who I am, and that includes being a lesbian. Most people assume I’m straight based on my appearance, and I don’t like it, so I do my best to clue people in.

    6. Foreign Octopus*

      I would just drop “my partner and I” into conversations.

      I know that some straight people are also using the word partner to describe their relationships but it’s still viewed as an LGBTQ thing. If you say it, at the very least it might make them think twice.

        1. BookishMiss*

          I use “spouse creature” pretty frequently. In one workplace, I am out and it’s just kind of the norm there (bookstore, pretty liberal staff, large proportion of us are some flavor of not straight). In my other, they’d be accepting I’m sure, but it’s easier right now to just not address it. Spouse creature works pretty well for both places.

        2. CoffeeLover*

          True, but I also think it’s a good way to casually broach the subject.

          As in:
          “Are you married?”
          “No, but I’ve been with my partner for 5 years”
          “Oh, what does he do?”
          “It’s ‘she’ actually. She works as a designer.”


          “I’m not married, but I’m in a homosexual relationship with my gay partner… who is a woman”. Hahaha ( couldn’t resist ;) – but seriously it can be awkward to jump right into it. Or to just say you’re not married and have everyone assume you’re single.

          “Partner” is a great word… In my (progressive) part of the world everyone uses the word partner regardless of gender. The convo I described above is very common and doesn’t feel like an “announcement”, which is why I like it.

          1. TheAssistant*

            I used partner once in an email to an apartment broker and he responded talking about my husband – and I just never replied to the email, because what a leap to assume both a gender and a legal status from a word that intentionally uses neither.

            I love partner. Girlfriend always sounds a little juvenile to me and doesn’t capture what is a serious, non-wedded relationship. Plus I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with talking about “my girlfriend” and then everyone assumes I’m just talking about a very good pal.

        3. Mrs. H. Kenway*

          This is one reason I am annoyed by, and correct, people to refer to my husband as my “partner.” I don’t have a partner. I have a husband. If gay people want to use “my partner” as an easy, low-key way to come out without having to make a big deal of it or explain it further, I’m not taking that word to describe a relationship that already has a perfectly fine legal and societal definition. (Additionally, I feel like if I were gay I’d be annoyed to have my spouse described as an unmarried partner instead, after years of wanting them to be a spouse and not being allowed to have them be.)

          1. Else*

            I use both more or less interchangeably – but I only started to use wife years after we legally married. I only even bother with it because I moved somewhere that is way more rigid in its norms, and they’re happier if we look more like them. I don’t think most people mind having their spouse referred to as partner, as long as it doesn’t look like an attempt to diminish the relationship or something.

          2. General Ginger*

            Please consider that when people are using the word “partner” to refer to your husband, they’re normalizing the use of the word “partner”, and making it easier for LGBTQ+ folks to use.

            1. Lucy*

              This is what I’ve been taught as an ally – that if I refer to my opp-sex lover as “partner” or “spouse” it contributes to a culture where the gender of the person is irrelevant (which in most work situations it would be) and meaning ultimately that someone in a same-sex relationship doesn’t have to out themselves in every single conversation. In the UK marriage has been equal for a while so the genders of partners are irrelevant to legal status.

              Preferring ungendered language for romantic and sexual partners is part of a wider equality drive where we try not to specify gender wherever it’s relevant (eg using “people” or “children” rather than “men”/”women”/”boys”/”girls”).

              Does that feel right to those commenting?

            2. toomanybooks*

              ~as a lesbian~ the word partner irritates me at this point. I used to be weirded out when straight people used it and felt like it was appropriation. Same-sex couples were “partners” instead of spouses because they legally couldn’t get married and had to be in a “domestic partnership” (or civil union) instead. The 90s were full of jokes where a gay man introduced husband partner and the straight guy he was talking was like “in law? Do you run a business together?” etc.

              I’m now married to my wife and would never call her my partner. She’s my wife. The distinction is very important to me.

              As for straight people using it, my feeling now is “keep it.” It’s theirs now, I guess. We don’t need it anymore.

              (I know polyamorous folks who make use of the word partner too, but that’s a separate topic, I guess)

              1. toomanybooks*

                Whoops there’s a weird mistake in here, the sentence was supposed to be “where a gay man introduced his partner” (meaning, of course, romantic partner)

              2. Coldbrewinacup*

                Yes! I am with you. I married my wife seven years ago before it was legal in the US (went to Canada), and she’s my wife. We don’t play tennis together, we don’t own a business together. We’re married. We’re not “partners.” To me, it’s so dismissive and condescending to refer to her as my “partner.”

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  I treat ‘partner’ as a gender neutral term for the person with whom one is in a committed but unmarried relationship. If you marry them, they’re your spouse, husband or wife, depending on their gender (or lack thereof) and the context. I do think the term has value for both queer and straight people for that purpose, but it doesn’t need to be a substitute for husband or wife for people who can’t legally marry due to gender permutations, since at least in most western countries, we can now. So it works the same way regardless of the genders involved: if you’re living as a couple (whatever that looks like to you) but not married, they’re your partner, and if you’ve had a wedding they’re your wife, husband, or spouse. I don’t really mind other people calling their spouses partners, but I’d never do it.

          3. Janie*

            Ngl that’s an odd stance.

            Also like maybe don’t use “gay” as an umbrella term for queer people? It’s not a good one.

            1. iceclown*

              I would love it if “queer” wasn’t an umbrella term either, tbh. That word is still really painful for a lot of people in the community and many of us haven’t reclaimed it yet.

              1. Janie*

                Use whatever umbrella term you want then, but “gay” is not an umbrella. It does not describe me.

                Much like Queer History courses and Queer Eye, I will use the term I choose to describe the community I am, which is a queer community.

                1. iceclown*

                  Nowhere in my reply did I ask you to stop calling yourself that, and I also didn’t suggest that “gay” is a suitable umbrella term. I’m alerting you to a potential source of pain for people who aren’t you.

                2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  Iceclown is absolutely right. Many older LGBT people hate the term because it was used heavily against them.

                3. Janie*

                  I’m aware.

                  I am not saying they have to use it. I am describing myself, who is queer, and my community, which is a queer community. If they don’t feel part of that (because boyHOWDY do I not feel part of anything that uses “LGBT” uncritically), then they don’t have to be.

                  Can we stop telling me things I have yelled at me everytime I describe my identity now?

              2. tinyhipsterboy*

                To be fair, there’s also a large history of “queer” being reclaimed by our community; there’s been a recent resurgence of sentiment against the term, but it often leaves out that “gay” also started out as a slur toward us, with “queer” becoming reclaimed as far back as 1910 before “gay” was popularized as a reclaimed word. “Queer” is also often a better umbrella term to many, given that “gay” generally refers to people who are attracted to their same gender.

                I don’t mention this to invalidate your feelings toward the term–if you don’t want to use it for yourself, that’s 1000% okay, especially because it DOES get used as a slur even nowadays. When it comes to identities and labels, it’s a very personal choice, and unless said choice actively harms others (using other cultures to define yourself with no connection to them; invalidating others’ identities; etc.), I would never want to restrict the usage of a word for identity. I just also think it’s important to note context when it comes to something as difficult as this issue–part of the recent resurgence of the dislike of “queer” comes from TERFs that want to restrict the use of the word in order to invalidate trans and non-binary identities.

                This post that I reblogged includes some historical context (including primary sources), if you’d like to take a look at it. Just as a warning, some of the responses in the post are particularly angry about people disliking the term “queer”.

            2. Alianora*

              TBH if I saw a straight woman get annoyed that people referred to her husband as her partner, and make a big point of correcting them, I would think there was a possibility she was homophobic and didn’t want people to think she was a lesbian.

              Not faulting Ms. Kenway for preferring “husband,” just saying I would be a little more wary of someone who reacted that way.

              1. Anonymouse*

                ^ This was honestly my first reaction when reading Mrs. Kenway’s post.

                I call the straight cis man I’m legally married to my husband some of the time, but use partner or spouse just as often.

                Calling husband the only “perfectly fine legal and societal definition” for his role in my life erases the consideration that I might or might not identify as his wife — even if I come across as a straight cis woman. Or that he might not identify as a husband 100% of the time.

                It’s fine to prefer husband for a spouse (well, one hopes only if he agrees), but implying that it’s the only societally correct way of referring to a man you’re married to perpetuates discrimination.

                1. Joielle*

                  Same here. “Husband” is technically an accurate term for the guy I’m married to, and I do use both terms, but I find myself using “spouse” more and more often these days. Partly because both of us are queer, partly because “husband” and “wife” just sound old fashioned to me… “spouse” just feels more comfortable.

                  Unless one of us is calling the other “my wiiiiiiife” in the Borat voice. That’ll always be acceptable too. :D

            3. LiptonTeaForMe*

              Janie, when I was growing up in the 60’s & 70’s, the word “queer” was extremely derogatory and used on us frequently. Back then, it meant something completely different than it does now. The terms/words everyone wants to use to describe themselves with are always going to be changing as we age from year to year and the young’uns begin coming out. Back then, “gay” was male and “lesbian” was female and there was a huge issue with how we all dressed because none of us wanted to be labeled a “bulldyke” for being too “masculine”. I used to call them the “Lesbian Police”. I have been sitting here reading all the posts and come to understand that I have no idea what many of you folks are talking about with all the labels, but that for me is a part of aging too. My terminology is now Gay, Trans or Bi and I am sorry if that ticks anyone off, but reading this post has been like a crash course in a foreign language!

              1. Janie*

                I’m aware. I am not saying they have to use it. I am describing myself, who is queer, and my community, which is a queer community. Can we stop telling me things I have yelled at me everytime I describe my identity now?

                Also I am not gay, I am not bi, and I am not trans (…probably). So deepest apologies for not using a term that completely erases and excludes me, but I’m probably gonna stick with the one that does. Thank.

            4. Brick House*

              The first part is an odd stance and sounds a little homophobic but at least for me (cis lesbian), shes actually right in the second part – I’m really insistent that my wife be referred to as my wife, we used to be in a registered domestic partnership and it’s huge for us that we were married in 2016. I live in a very conservative state in a moderately progressive town and it infuriates me when this exchange happens:
              me: ‘my wife and I..’
              them: ‘your partner?’
              me: ‘no, my wife’
              them: ‘your partner?’

              This happened at my doctor’s office recently! And then the nurse tried to convince me that technically, same sex marriage isn’t legal in my state…. my point is that among the LGBTQIA+ community and allies, using the term partner is inclusive. Among homophobes, it’s a subtle tactic for delegitimizing same sex marriage.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Your nurse seriously thinks there’s anywhere in the United States in which same sex marriage isn’t legal still? Wow, I knew some people tried to live in the past, but this is ridiculous!

          4. McFly*

            Queer here. I’m a woman married to another woman, and we use the term partner exclusively. We love it, it’s the term that best describes our relationship and to us implies equality. I also have plenty of friends/family in hetero relationships that also use the term, some who are legally married and others who are not. So in my world at least, it’s not considered a lesser or exclusively queer term by any means. I would also use it to describe your relationship, until you made it clear you prefer the term ‘husband’. Kind of like using they/them pronouns until being told otherwise.

            1. smoke tree*

              Yeah, I think people in all types of relationships are finding it a good fit for them, so it’s being adopted more widely. I’m all for more gender-neutral language in general, and I think it’s a good alternative for people who are in long-term, non-married relationships and find the terms “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” don’t really sound serious enough.

          5. new alias for this*

            As a middle-aged bisexual person who does not tend to come out to people without prior clues that the person is likely to be accepting, I take “my partner” as one of those clues. If I find out that the person identified as “my partner” is of opposite (kinda hate that term!) sex, it’s still a clue, because usually they are making a conscious choice to say that.

            I want to say “my partner” WITHOUT it being an easy low-key way to come out, except as coming out as a tolerant progressive inclusive person. I’m single right now, and not out at work, but I say “my former partner” and “my grown stepkids”.

          6. The New Wanderer*

            That’s a tricky one (I’m cis-het female and married). I think for me it depends on context – if someone asks if I have a partner or referred to my partner in a “looking for confirmation” way, I’d clarify that I have a husband because that’s the legal relationship we have and I’m kind of pedantic that way. I personally do not refer to my husband as my partner because that’s not how I label it for myself. But, if someone uses “partner” to refer to my spouse, that’s okay with me because to me that’s them referring to the social/emotional relationship in a broader sense.

            In my head, partner is the uber-category, under which you can have the gendered or ungendered boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, fiancé/fiancée, and husband/wife/spouse categories.

          7. Kettles*

            I say partner because it’s gender neutral. I consider it respectful because it avoids assuming that people are in a heterosexual monogamous relationship. Also, plenty of people nowadays are in relationships and not married, and referring to someone as a ‘boyfriend/ girlfriend’ can feel a bit silly when you’ve been together for decades.

          8. tinyhipsterboy*

            I don’t think that’s completely kind, to be honest. There are a lot of people who use the gender-neutral term for a variety of reasons.

            -They might not want to assume your husband’s gender identity. This is particularly relevant when a spouse is going to/has transitioned and doesn’t want to out themselves.
            -They might not know you’re legally married; it’s a way to refer to a significant relationship without using terms that people might take less seriously (like “boyfriend”).
            -Using it even for opposite-sex couples helps to normalize gender-neutral terminology, making it less of an issue for queer folks to stay under the radar if needs be; it also helps to normalize the fact that some people don’t ascribe to either of our society’s typical gender roles and therefore might not be either a husband or a wife.

            With the use of “partner” for gay people, it’s slightly more contentious. On one hand, it’s used to dismiss or downplay serious romantic relationships and make them more “palatable”; it can seem really sterile. I personally tend to use “boyfriend” and will likely use “husband” more often than not because of that, but will continue to use “partner” with most other people, especially if they’ve used it first. That being said, “partner” doesn’t indicate “unmarried”, either; when we use it, it indicates a serious romantic relationship but also normalizes gender-neutral language, as I mentioned above.

            You’re more than welcome to use “husband” for your husband! I don’t think anyone is disputing that; the issue is the frustration you seem to have with the term “partner”. All you have to do is change the word. Someone comes up and asks if he’s your partner? Your response can be as easy as “yeah, this is my husband Jack!”. “Partner” can refer to a husband or a wife, not only replace the term.

      1. GinnyPig*

        Two other team members use ‘partner’ to refer to their heterosexual partners (women talking about long term boyfriends in this case) so I don’t know if this would stop the flood of heterocentric thought.

        1. Anonymeece*

          This. Honestly, I use partner because I’m in a long-term relationship and don’t have plans to marry, but “boyfriend” to me implies kind of less than what we have. There really doesn’t seem to be a good term for, “Committed relationship that’s pretty much a marriage but without the legal documents” aside from partner. My partner actually just calls me his wife because it’s easier to explain and we can avoid lectures on how we’re living together in sin, but to me, it feels dishonest to say “husband” because we’re not married.

    7. rldk*

      I think a huge amount of the question is weighing a) your area and feel of how accepting people are, b) how likely it is that even accepting coworkers will now only think of you as The Lesbian(TM) in their workplace and if that will detract from your work, and c) how upsetting it is to you, personally, to conceal such a huge part of your life from people with whom you spend so much time.

    8. Kit*

      I think you have to start by accepting that you can either give people some details about your personal life or they will make assumptions that are wrong. People talk casually about their partners and home lives at work, that’s a very normal part of being a person interacting with other people! It’s not relevant to the work, no, but most people feel very weird interacting regularly with someone who remains a stranger.

      My approach is always to be casual but factual and share the very basic census-level details of my life. So in your situation if someone asked if I was married I would say “no, but I have a long term partner” and then just use her name and pronouns in further conversation, rather than doing any kind of coming-out.

      1. GinnyPig*

        Yes, I think I need to try and stop thinking of ‘coming out’ in such a big way. I think someone else mentioned just ‘being out’ rather than ‘coming out’ downthread and I think I need to look at that stance.

    9. Jaime*

      I think the biggest question is where you are – what kind of culture does your city/town have? What kinds of things have you heard your coworkers say in your hearing? What’s the religious vibe of the team you’re working with right now?
      I’m a bisexual woman living with a female partner, and I’m comfortable enough to be out to my coworkers when they ask, but I’m also lucky enough to live in a city that skews heavily liberal, politics-wise, and work for a large employer that very vocally supports LGBTQ+ rights. There are a few folks in the office that I know are more conservative, but I’m surrounded by enough people I trust to be cool about my sexuality that I can afford to just not care about those people or their opinions. If I still lived in the city I grew up in, where people in general are far more conservative, it would be a much harder call.
      There’s no easy answer to this, unfortunately, not in today’s social/political climate. I think it would have to depend on who your coworkers are and how they behave around you while not realizing you’re gay. If everything you see from them is neutral to good, assumptions about looking for a man aside, then it might be worth it to just say something quietly to one person and let it filter to everyone.

      1. Not Sure How to Navigate This*


        I too live in a liberal part of the country, for a large employer that vocally supports LGBTQ+ rights, but I still fear the conversation to come up. When I need to correct people, I always will…I just hope they change the subject like the OP.

        Have you had coworkers, despite the company’s stance, still outwardly show their disapproval? How do you handle that?

      2. GinnyPig*

        Most things I see about my coworkers is neutral to good, but there are the ones who love to gossip (but I now see that my keeping things a mystery will be adding to the gossip) and then there is the one bigoted guy who is quite popular for some reason.

        I think I need to find a safe person to filter the message out through!

    10. Widget*

      I often test the waters – I’ll mention the gay roommate that lived with my wife and me when we first moved to a larger city, for example, and see how they respond. If they’re gross about it, then they don’t get to know. Then I come out to whoever I’ve decided is “safe” as casually as possible, usually something along the lines of “Yeah, my wife and I are planning to go to see The Avengers: Endgame the Friday it comes out. I’m sure the theater is going to be insanely busy.”

      What I’m shooting for there is a framework that normalizes our relationship and doesn’t force the coworker to engage with the coming out part of things immediately. Sometimes I’ll get “oh, I didn’t know you had a wife,” but I’m just as likely to get “So what did you think of Captain Marvel?” or “I really haven’t been able to get into those Marvel movies.”

      1. GinnyPig*

        I am beginning to think this is the best way of dealing with it, to find a safe start.

    11. Jules the 3rd*

      I have used ‘I’m attached, but we’re not planning to do the marriage paperwork anytime soon.’ This usually sends them down the religion rabbit hole rather than the orientation one, though that may have changed since the last time I used it.

      People are going to want to make connections / know about you, the person, no matter what; the best I’ve found it guiding them in a direction where I have more comfort.

      A standard kind of response is ‘Allude to touchy subject, then offer common acceptable one’, so maybe ‘I’m attached, no kids, but our two cats are adorable! Would you like to see pics?’ or ‘and we’re renovating our house! Would you like to see pics?’

      I find that after a couple of rounds of pictures, people are either so bored that they avoid small talk, or you’ve found someone who also has cute cats and has a good chance of being a kindred spirit.

      1. curator*

        I do this too! My partner moved in with me, and her dog and my cat don’t get along, so I talk about that a lot as a way to introduce her into casual conversation.

    12. GinnyPig*

      Thank you all for your input! I am in the UK in a liberal town, working in admin within an academic institution. I honestly can’t think why I am finding this so difficult. One team member is religious but tries very hard to “be accepting” which is a bit of a grind, and another is slightly bigoted about other things in conversation so I am not sure I would be comfortable with him. Another is just very nosey and loves to ToxicGossip.

      I do feel very alienated.

      1. Ella*

        I think if your spidey senses are tingling you shouldn’t dismiss that feeling entirely. Not that it should dissuade you from being open about your relationship if that will make you happiest, but as queer people I think we often develop a highly honed sense of the mood of the room, if you will, and whether we’ll be fully accepted or not by those around us, even if there isn’t concrete evidence either way.

        That said, I do think you’ll probably have to decide for yourself if you’d rather risk people assuming you’re straight or risk people knowing you’re not. Just know that either choice is a valid option!

      2. Emma*

        Perhaps you’re getting the sense that, while you wouldn’t experience any homophobia per se, being out would be another thing that sets you apart from your colleagues. If you already feel alienated, you might be hesitant to risk making the social gap any bigger.

        In a supportive, warm environment, being out can make you feel more secure; but in a tolerant environment, it can make you feel more isolated.

        1. GinnyPig*

          Thanks Emma, I think you have voiced some of my fears. It helps to be able to articulate it. And thank you Ella, the reminder that either choice is valid is timely!

    13. Sean*

      I think I’ve mentioned this type of similar advice in another post previously and culture/safety/other considerations aside, I think it’s important to recognize that coworkers or others with whom you share a casual relationship will take their cues from you. Your question sounds like you are very comfortable in your own skin but feel some hesitation to confront this issue because you want to keep your work and private lives separate. Mae’s suggestion to casually drop in “my wife and I” or “visited my partner’s family” (or whatever language feels best) is a relatively simple access point. I fully recognize identity (including but not exclusive to sexual orientation and gender) can be a complex construct and I do speak from a place of privilege living and working in a fairly liberal environment. That said, my experience has demonstrated with this (and other workplace interpersonal relationships) that if you approach it delicately or make it seem like a big deal, others will adapt and/or learn how to respond from you. It can seem overwhelming and annoying that you have to think about the reactions of other people but again, the key is to make it very matter of fact. You’re not sharing information as a way to make a big personal proclamation after which you’ll wear rainbow-themed everything (although totes cool if that’s your thing and you want to) but more just sharing information. If you don’t present it as a something huge/extraordinary about yourself, then people will likely react the same way.

      Hope this makes sense and best of luck with whatever you decide!

    14. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I’m a lesbian and not legally married to my partner of eight years, with no intention of getting married. At this point when I first mention her I actually just call her my wife. It’s just easier to drop into conversation, and she is my wife for any purpose that my coworkers would need to know. I figure it’s a white lie that lets me easily come out and avoids a whole production of coming out.

      1. GinnyPig*

        My relationship is a similar length (9 years) but I don’t think I would yet be comfortable in calling my partner my wife!

    15. Person from the Resume*

      Coming out I up to you, obviously, but it sounds like you’re being dragged down by hiding, and I think the reason is that you’re essentially hiding in the closet at work. If your only objection is “sharing your personal life” I suggest you examine your reasoning and definition of “personal life” to help you determine the best course of action.

      If you wanted not to share any personal details at work, you could have just said “I’d rather not talk about it” or “I don’t mix work and my personal life” which would have made you an odd co-worker, but by saying “no, I’m not married” you deliberately misled your co-workers. You didn’t actually take a stand on not sharing your personal life in the office.

      I don’t consider the fact that someone is heterosexual or married private information. So by the same token, the fact that you’re not heterosexual isn’t necessarily private information not to be shared either. It’s a fact about your personal life, but that kind of information is often shared far and wide and is often one of first questions asked of new acquaintance and colleagues. You can admit to being in a long term relationship with a same sex partner without going into the details that the average person considers private and is not meant to be shared at work.

      Up to you, but if assumptions are dragging you down, it’s worth considering if feeding them a small bit of your private life that corrects the assumptions will make it easier on you.

      1. GinnyPig*

        Thank you, I had never thought that I am actually not taking a stand re this. I’d not thought of it in that way before!

    16. Not Sure How to Navigate This*

      I’m in a very similar situation. It makes everyday at work uncomfortable for me. I dread someone saying “your husband”…because I will correct them “you mean, my wife”…

      A couple of times I got the WORST reaction after correction and I can’t get that out of my head.

      s/n: I work for an extremely large corporation where our corporate culture is extremely “inclusive”, but I am still extremely uncomfortable to be who I am…

      1. GinnyPig*

        It’s good to know I am not alone, but I feel for you because it is horrible. I hope you get some hope from the kind comments here.

    17. Sally*

      I’m not really good at subtlety, and am fortunate to be able to be out safely in my industry/area, so I put a picture of my wife and I together on my desk, drop her name and pronouns into conversation freely, and just for good measure, I sometimes wear my ‘bring a lesbian to work day’ tshirt to work. Because every day is bring a lesbian to work day for me.

    18. facepalm*

      What I did is just start talking about my wife at work in normal, casual conversation.
      “Oh, this weekend Jane and I ______ ”
      ” Jane and I were thinking about trying that new restaurant, have you been yet?”

      I did this with a couple people who picked up pretty quickly and it was a non-issue. Then I think it filtered out from there. Like, I discussed Jane with person 1 and I’m sure they quietly went to their friend and asked, “Hey, is Facepalm a lesbian? She keeps talking about Jane.” I just brought her to social events like our company baseball game. It was even easier when my wife had a kid.

      But I am very lucky with my current workplace. I have not been this comfortable when I worked with homophobes in the past and just kept my head down and mouth shut and did not talk about my personal life at all.

      1. GinnyPig*

        I’m in the same ‘keep my head down’ position at the moment, but it is rough. I am glad things got better for you!

    19. Emily K*

      I would probably respond to, “Are you married?” with, “No, my partner and I are happy living together right now,” or “Not married, but I’ve been with my partner for several years,” or whatever amount of information you feel comfortable sharing that just discloses the existence of a relationship. It doesn’t have to, “my lesbian partner” or “actually, I’m seeing a woman” if all you really want to do is shut down the assumption that you’re single.

      And if people pry beyond that, you can do the old breezy-tone, “Oh, I prefer not to discuss my relationship/family plans/romantic life at work,” maybe add on something like, “it helps me not bring work home if I don’t bring home to work!” if you’re worried about coming off overly secretive and mysterious (which could backfire and make people more curious!), and then change the subject to something work-related.

      1. GinnyPig*

        They would definitely pry, and I think I would be too obviously uncomfortable with the conversation for them to not keep prying. It’s hard when you can’t hide emotions very well!

    20. TheAssistant*

      I noticed a lot of the commentary is dealing with reactions to coming out that are negative – mine was actually the opposite, and I talked about it on the thread with the man who accidentally led his boss to assume he was engaged to a woman.

      Yes. I work in an office filled with the Overwoke.

      I casually dropped a reference to my sexuality in a conversation with my coworkers and I swear the rest of the night for me was TheAssistant’s Coming Out Party. I was forced into a conversation about why I use certain terms to describe myself, about gender and gender fluidity, about when I knew, alllllll about my partner (“You look like sisters!” Thanks, but we don’t and that’s creepy). It was Extremely Awful.

      Coming out at work definitely sucks when you’re the subject of bigotry after, and it also sucks if you have a lot of allies* around you who make it more about themselves than you. I will echo the use of partner to make everyone Mind Their Own Business and just be comfortable with whatever you choose. And never forget it’s a choice. You aren’t personally setting back the entire LGBT+ community by using gender-nonspecific words. Do what works best for you.

      *#notallallies, I know

      1. GinnyPig*

        Oh my goodness, not the Overwoke! I feel for you too. I think my religious coworker falls into this category, she is always “wanting to learn to understand”.

        Thank you.

      2. Iconoclast in California*

        Gaack, the “overwoke” can be especially tiresome! I really don’t need to explain constantly that I’m an enby bi ace married to a enby ace who prefers fem/enbys. It’s too complicated and I feel like I have to check off all the boxes, plus discuss what we do or don’t do in the bedroom, and that’s just not appropriate for work.

        So I stick with “spouse” (or wife to the enby unaware) and mention them by name. Both of us are trying to move toward a more enby expression of self, but the forced habits of over 50 years are difficult to change.

        I don’t want to make a big thing out of my gender identity at work, although I hate being “read” as feminine and being expected to behave/dress/talk accordingly.

  6. FlowerPower*

    LGBTQ+ community, how do you feel when someone asks whether you are LGBTQ? Or when someone assumes that you are not? How open are you to your coworkers? I can imagine that being private about it can be a double edged sword. On one hand, people may speculate or assume things about you that are not true. On the other hand, you may experience prejudices and judgment when people find out you’re LGBTQ.
    How do us cisgendered, straight people advocate for you?

    1. ABK*

      asking if someone identifies as LGBTQ is such a strange question! Why would you ask that of anyone? Personally, I’m very open so that people don’t have to guess/make assumptions, but I don’t always feel like correcting people who I”m not going to see very much and just deal with the wrong assumption.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        This is why these threads are important. Someone who isn’t LGBTQ+ may not realize that “Do you identify as LGBTQ+” is and should be a strange question.

        1. neeko*

          This seems like common sense to me and also making the marginalized group be the teachers when you can do your own research. Just google “should I ask someone if they are LGBTQ” or “Should I ask someone if they are gay?” and most of the results are “mind your own business”.

          1. Crabby PM*

            I thought Alison said this was a thread for LGBTQ+ folks to talk to EACH OTHER, not for a CIS person to jump in and make the thread about them.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              I truly apologize if that was her intent for this thread. I genuinely thought it was for everyone to share and learn, but not for cis/het people to provide the answers or try to be SuperAllies or Experts.

              I will bow out now.

            2. Busy*

              Yeah. i think it was obvious what my statement was. And I think you know that leaving your comment specifically in response to mine is meant to be insulting/inciting. And I think we can leave that here.

          2. CheeryO*

            I can see why someone might wonder if it could be an appropriate question. I have an older coworker who I am 99% sure has a female partner (we live close to each other and I see them out and about), but as far as I know she isn’t out at work. She never talks about her personal life, and sometimes I feel bad that I know all of my coworkers’ life stories, but I don’t know the first thing about this lady, especially because she’s super nice. I know I’m not entitled to know, so obviously I’m going to respect her boundaries, but I wish there was a way to let her know that I care about her and would like to hear about her partner if she wanted to talk about her.

            1. neeko*

              Maybe she just doesn’t want to talk about her personal life with co-workers. It’s none of your business unless she wants folks at work to know and clearly, she doesn’t.

            2. opossummypossum*

              The best way to let her know that you care about her and would be open to hearing about her partner is to show in other ways (not related to her) that you would be a safe person for her to come out to if she wished. (she still may not wish to share her personal life at work regardless).

              A lot of times I will wait to come out to someone (especially in a professional setting) until I have a better feel for how they might react. And that has less to do with direct statements and more to do with what they say off-hand about other queer people, both people they know and celebrities. (and, fair or not, their vocal views on other subjects)

              1. tinyhipsterboy*

                Seconding this, but I’d make sure that it was relevant to something being talked about, or just part of another conversation in general. It can get real weird when straight people come out of nowhere to talk about gay issues when you’re not explicitly out to them.

                1. ABK*

                  This is how I feel too. Just out of the blue, “do you identify as gay (or whatever)” is weird because the line of questioning after that quickly becomes awkward to intrusive. THere needs to be a good answer to “why do you ask?”

                2. opossummypossum*

                  Oh yes, definitely! Which relates back to something upthread about “allies” who make it all about them not actually being allies. If you want to be clear to the closeted people around you that you are safe to come out to, it’s all about speaking out against bigoted speech around you, making inclusive statements in other, relevant conversations (with everyone, regardless of whether or not you think they’re queer), and not assuming that you know how someone identifies, but leaving space for them to be who they are without making a “thing” of it.

                  Basically you have to work to visibly and emphatically be the person that you want to be, and even then accept that not everyone will be comfortable being open about their orientation for reasons that may have nothing to do with you.

      2. GinnyPig*

        I also feel very uncomfortable correcting people (as you can see from my question above).

      3. anon today and tomorrow*

        It’s popular with the kids these days. Social media has a lot of people putting their identities in their profiles, which means a lot of them now think it’s okay to ask if other people are LGBTQ+. Which is tough because I don’t really think you should be asking anyone what their sexuality is in the same way you wouldn’t ask about their race or religion.

        1. Alianora*

          Honestly, I think it’s okay to ask about race and sexuality if it’s relevant to the conversation and done in a respectful manner. (I’m agnostic, so religion is kind of an N/A.) People often ask me what my race is, and my boundaries about when it’s okay to ask are pretty much the same for both race and sexuality. Can be done in a rude way, can be done in a normal way.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            Maybe, but a lot of people still get pretty offended by it. It’s something that might be fine on a person to person basis, but is still considered rude over all imo.

            Also with sexuality it’s a much more fraught subject if someone is closeted. There’s a certain type of panic that comes up when someone closeted is asked about their sexuality.

            1. Alianora*

              Agree to disagree on race I guess. I just don’t find it inherently rude (especially coming from other
              POC). But I also don’t find it inherently rude for someone to ask about height or age so maybe I’m less sensitive to that kind of thing in general.

              I commented elsewhere that the version of asking about sexuality I consider acceptable is more like phrasing your small talk in an inclusive way that leaves the door open for someone to come out if they feel like it. Like people have asked me “Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?” and “are you seeing anyone?” which is better than just “do you have a boyfriend?” It’s not as confrontational as “are you gay.” I really prefer that to someone assuming I’m straight.

          2. neeko*

            It’s really a case by case basis though. Asking someone their race and sexuality (and plenty of other things) often have baggage that you don’t know about. I don’t like people asking me about my race. And unless it’s another queer person, I don’t like people asking me about my sexuality. It’s none of people’s business until I make it known to people. Especially in the workplace.

      4. Manon*

        It can also put the person you’re asking in a difficult position if they’re not ready to come out- either they have to lie or they have to reveal more than they’re comfortable with.

        1. Emily K*

          Yes, this one to me fits squarely in the same box as, “omg, are you pregnant?” when someone refuses a drink. Now they either have to lie, or be forced to disclose something that is usually a very carefully managed disclosure on your timetable instead of their own.

        2. Tau*

          This, so much! This also used to/still kind of bugs me about advice I’ve seen that you should always ask people what their pronouns are, even in a non-trans-friendly environment. So… you’re forcing any trans people in the group to either out themselves or participate in their own misgendering… idk, I’d expect allyship to look a little different…

        3. irene*

          i was asked my pronouns by a very kind, well-meaning member of the queer community while i was still processing the idea that i didn’t like being “she” and wow so awkward. and i knew this person asked from a source of caring and generosity!

          being asked by cishet folks when there’s no real need to do so is super awkward and feels humiliating? i guess? like when you’re talking down to a toddler or a dog.

          also i feel most comfortable with the ey/em/eir set and it’s hard enough getting people to accept “they” (it’s just “they”etc without the ‘th’ – i like they just fine and use it for other people in the singular but can’t bring myself to use it for me!). plus also too i’m agender and indifferent to how i’m perceived/resigned to my very not androgynous genes. so you ask me and i do a complicated mathematics of how much effort do i want to put into the inevitable follow-up questions vs. just going with the easy but incorrect answer.

      5. out@work*

        An outside-of-my-organization colleague recently glanced over my shoulder while I was reading non-work emails on my phone. On the screen at the time was an invitation to the LGBT professional association’s annual event, and the colleague asked me, “Oh, are you a part of that community?”

        I was startled to realize that she was looking at my emails, and after a second, I replied, “Yes, are you?” and she looked SHOCKED that somebody would ask her that.

    2. Jigglypuff*

      I put my spouse’s picture in my cubicle so I am “out” without waving a rainbow flag around. I do correct people if they use the wrong word or pronoun for my spouse, but this is a conversation I have with my spouse every time one of us starts a new job or whenever we move anywhere new. For safety reasons, sometimes we choose to be less “out” than we would otherwise.

      Ask for people’s preferred pronouns. Don’t assume anyone’s orientation – use gender-neutral terms like “spouse.” See if your workplace can use preferred names on people’s email addresses and business cards and suchlike for work. Can you make one or all of your bathrooms gender neutral?

      1. Anax*

        On bathrooms – Gender-neutral ones are great, but it’s also really helpful if they aren’t in a really inconvenient location or otherwise difficult to access. My last workplace had one gender-neutral restroom – but it was in the publicly-accessible lobby, unlike every other restroom in the building, so it was often gross or in use.

        The city bus drivers all used that restroom. All of them. And I also got occasional gross comments, like ‘oh, it’s a girl, no WONDER she took so long’ from random people off the street, which wouldn’t have been tolerated among actual employees.

        It would also make my life SO MUCH EASIER if the men’s bathroom had little in-stall trashcans. That would probably be a cheap change, and oh god it would be great.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I was hoping that when my son graduates high school, his days of holding in his pee for hours because of the bathroom situation would be behind him, but you’ve reminded me that I can’t assume that.

          1. Anax*

            Sorry. Yeah, it’s still really common. I’m lucky where I’m at now, but bathrooms are always complicated. I’m glad you’re supporting him, though.

            1. yasmara*

              We have no gender neutral restrooms in my building that I’m aware of. As a straight ally person, that was one of my #1 requests on a recent site survey/request for feedback to try to help amplify the issue.

            2. JJ Bittenbinder*

              It never in a million years occurred to me to NOT support him. I don’t say this to point out that I’m so awesome. Rather, other parents/family/people who should be supportive are dismal failures.

              1. Anax*

                It’s pretty exhausting. My mother still thinks this is some kind of phase – and I’m 27 and a stereotypical early-bloomer who was yelling to be called a boy during toilet training. I’m glad society is shifting.

        2. Story Nurse*

          +1 for in-stall trashcans in all bathrooms! Not just for menstruating folks, either; the other day I ended up in a men’s room because my kid needed the potty RIGHT THEN and there was nowhere in the stall to toss the non-flushable wipes. This seems very basic to me.

          1. MayLou*

            Yes! People who use catheters need somewhere to dispose of their potentially-infectious waste regardless of their gender! Amongst many other reasons why bins are a Good Thing.

      2. Jack Be Nimble*

        There’s one gender neutral bathroom in my building, and it’s in the publicly accessible mall area, hidden behind a chocolate shop. It’s so frustrating!

      3. littlemoose*

        Our office of about 25-30 people has two single-use restrooms, in addition to multi-use gendered restrooms out in the common area of our floor. The single-use restrooms have “All Gender Restroom” signs, which seems actively inclusive to me.

        1. Anax*

          I love those, they make me feel *visible*, like… in the good way. Like someone remembered we exist.

      4. spiral cat*

        One thing about asking people’s preferred pronouns – if you do this, you need to do it to everyone. For example, in icebreakers, everyone writes their pronouns on their name badge alongside their name. If you only ask certain people their pronouns, it effectively becomes a euphemism for “I clocked you as trans or gay.”

        1. just a random teacher*

          Please also realize that it’s a difficult question for some people, though! I put up with she/her and being recognized as a woman, but it actually makes me really uncomfortable to be focused on as a woman rather than a person and I don’t tend to use pronoun markers in places such as my email sig or convention badges as a result. (Since I don’t spend a lot of time clarifying pronouns for people, I also don’t get upset with people if they decide to use some other pronoun for me in the absence of that clarity. Pretty much anything but “it” is fine if it’s kindly meant.) A lot of this probably goes back to experiencing a LOT of gender-based bullying as a child since I didn’t behave “like a girl” and was interested in stereotypically “boy” activities so usually someone calling out my gender was doing so as a prelude to doing something else awful to me.

          I absolutely do see people who are comfortable loudly declaring their pronouns as real, valid people making real, valid statements about themselves and am not trying to criticize them for being in a place where they are able to articulate what gender they are or are not and wear that as a forward-facing part of their identity! I just am not in that situation about myself at this time.

          1. Emily K*

            I don’t love it either. To me, free expression of gender also means freedom to not express gender. Like you I have some personal reasons for not being super comfortable making a big deal out of my gender especially in the workplace. I don’t begrudge anyone else their gender expression, but in my ideal world gender wouldn’t be any more relevant to the workplace than your favorite animal or what diet you follow – something that is undoubtedly important to a lot of people and should not be controversial to share openly, but that would be just as unremarkable to never bring up.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              I don’t love it either. To me, free expression of gender also means freedom to not express gender.

              Absolutely agree, and what’s comfortable one day won’t necessarily be comfortable the next, even with the same group of people. I know my son sometimes wants to be known as trans, and other times wants to be “just one of the guys.”

          2. MayLou*

            How would you feel about stating your pronouns as being “she/they”? I’m a cis woman and this is something I have considered. I’m completely comfortable with “they”, although I’m almost universally read as female (except when people haven’t met me and only know of me in the context of being my wife’s spouse).

          3. Tau*

            +1000. At the moment my pronouns are “please don’t make me think about this any more because I will actually start crying”. It’s… not exactly a discussion I want to get into at work.

          4. Alex*

            That’s absolutely fair. I think the way my old work handled it was pretty good – there’s a ‘core’ email signature with name, title, organisation details, and then formatting for add ons like team and preferred pronouns. Most of the managers had them up, and when someone came out as non-binary, their team also basically all started including preferred pronouns so they weren’t the only one.

        2. out@work*

          it’s a terrible question, really. accept it when somebody offers, but the people who want you to use the pronouns that they don’t expect you to guess correctly will let you know however they are most comfortable doing so, and nobody else wants you asking.

        3. Genderqueer*

          I hate being asked my pronouns. I don’t know any of you people and you want me to either come out to you or misgender myself? Just guess or use whatever your default is and let me correct you on my own time.

      5. tinyhipsterboy*

        For what it’s worth, I’ve also seen some trans talk saying it’s not always great to ask about pronouns, so I think there might be two schools of thought about it. Using gender neutral ones, especially when you’d typically use “he/she” or “his/hers”, might help; the discussions I saw were largely about how you don’t tend to ask for preferred pronouns unless you’re specifically in a queer setting or the person’s gender is indeterminate. Because we don’t tend to ask people who present as particularly masculine or feminine for their pronouns, asking that can end up a)alienating you from others and b)making trans people feel like they’re being clocked as trans.

        On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of trans people also talk about appreciating those who ask about pronouns, so it’s a bit of a difficult thing. Either way, I completely agree with gender-neutral terms for others and gender-neutral bathrooms.

    3. iceclown*

      I will low-key let people know by mentioning my partner, but only after I’m already pretty sure that person isn’t going to be terrible. If you ask me, I’ll assume it’s because you’re about to say something weird or mean.

    4. SaffyTaffy*

      1. I don’t like it when people ask if I’m queer, whatever the language used. It feels too much like being asked, “Are you Christian?” where it’s clear there’s A RIGHT ANSWER. Even if that’s not the intent, and I’m sure it’s never the intent, that’s the baggage I’m still carrying from living in the world.

      2. I’m open in the sense that when it comes up, I just say it. I’ve stopped ‘coming out’ to people, which is neverending, and I’m trying to just ‘be out.’

      3. You can advocate for us by making your queer friends’ causes your own. That’s important to me, because in our community we disagree about almost every issue, so you on the outside have the opportunity to say “I’m going to fall on this side of X debate because the people I love who are affected by it also fall on that side.”

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I answered are you Christian wrong once. I’m Catholic by upbringing but don’t practice or, well, care about religion at all.

        I am, apparently, Not Christian by some people’s standards.

    5. Eirene*

      I’m quite open about it and have been since I was 18 or so. So far, the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with was at a crappy hotel I worked at in college, with female coworkers refusing to work shifts with me because they were afraid I was going to hit on them and managers who mercilessly mocked me when I wasn’t around, and that happened a long time ago. It sucked when I found that out, because I was never inappropriate – never made sexual jokes, never invaded anyone’s personal space, just lived my life and didn’t hide it. (Except for one fellow night auditor who was hyper-religious and kept falling asleep to leave me to do all the work on our shift, and also turned out to be running a huge meth ring between Maryland and New Jersey with her equally hyper-religious sister. It was just easier to pretend with her; she was already trying to “save” me as it was.) But I’ve been comparatively lucky.

      My personal advice is that if your company has some kind of LGBTQ employee network or employee resource group, find out if they welcome allies. If they do – and that’s more than likely – reach out to them and ask what you could do that would be most helpful. I’m a founding member of my company’s LGBTQ employee resource group, and we’re grateful to receive assistance in security issues, communications, policies and procedures, outreach, pretty much anything anyone wants to help with, no matter who they are.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t mean to be unkind, as I can tell this question comes from a place of care and compassion.

      However, it’s exactly what Alison asked us not to do. It’s really important that cis-straight folks don’t derail by making this about us or our role.

      If the LGBTQ+ commentariat want to provide guidance to allies, then that will come up organically. Let’s hang back and allow folks the space to discuss.

      1. Anax*

        Eh, I’m actually ok with it – because in context, this is a chance for us to yell about things we would LOVE straight folks in our lives to do. I don’t want the whole comment section to be about straight folks, but this is a good excuse to talk.

      2. Dunkin*

        If you have a problem, you should flag it for Alison and not take it upon yourself to moderate the comments. People already were responding to the comment and you jumping in to chastise the OP doesn’t help anyone. Actually, I view it as a very “unkind” act.

        1. suspectclass*

          I was really grateful to see a cis straight person point out that this commenter was doing exactly what Alison asked folks not to do. Particularly because this particular comment comes from someone who comments regularly–it communicates to me that htis is a commentariat that cares about making this an inclusive space. PCBH’s comment was a really gentle way of directing the commenter back to the original post guidelines, which is something that happens here on other posts. Nothing in this comment read to me as saying what I personally or any other LGBTQ+ person should feel or do about this. Nothing in this comment criticized LGBTQ folks for engaging, or told us we’re too fragile to handle this. But the question PCBH was responding to (even if welcome to many participants here) does explicitly what Alison asked straight cis commenters *not* to do. That’s all PCBH pointed out, and it was appropriate and KIND to those of us who get tired of protecting boundaries around space for LGBTQ folks that she took that on herself.

          FWIW I was scrolling the comments to see if this thread had gotten taken over by straight cis commenters looking for free education so I could decide whether it was worth my spending time engaging on the thread.

          1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

            To be fair, before Alison clarified her request, the exact wording she used was for straight people to not take a “major role” in the discussion, which is vastly different from “don’t ask questions and allow the LGBTQ commentariat to talk with each other.” FlowerPower asking a question (and then not even further engaging in the conversation) certainly didn’t come off like she was violating that request. This is why PCBH’s comment, which was made before Alison’s clarification, that FlowerPower was doing “exactly what Alison asked us not to do” came off as inaccurate and somewhat aggressive for that reason. Also, using boldface to emphasize a point is not “really gentle” and I’d argue nearly akin to using all caps…

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thanks for the suggestions and feedback. When I replied, there were no responses, but of course, this was a poppin’ thread and my post came in after several sub-comments. I’ll think on the reactions.

      3. spiral cat*

        This is a place for LGBTQ readers to ask for and give advice. Straight or cisgender people should not steamroll over LGBTQ readers and decide what we feel; this includes telling us what we should not tolerate, as you come across as doing here.

      4. FlowerPower*

        I completely understand how you may feel this is derailing the conversation as you make a good point in your post. I completely respect that.

        However, I asked the question because I took Allison’s note about straight people not derailing the conversation as in straight people are not the ones who should be answering the questions and providing advice. Because we probably have not dealt with workplace LGBTQ issues firsthand and that disqualifies us from commenting. But it doesn’t necessarily disqualify us from asking questions.

        I asked how we can be advocates because a lot of times navigating LGBTQ issues involves navigating straight people. So the intention was to elicit guidance and listen.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I apologize if my note was strident! I thought your initial comment was kind-hearted and came from a place of wanting to listen and learn. That was clear to me, and I felt like it demonstrated your care and commitment to creating more just and inclusive workplaces. I also didn’t think your post was derailing when I commented, but I thought it might engender a derail if other LGBTQ+ allies started chiming in.

          Thanks for being gracious and patient with me in your response!

    7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Honestly, getting directly asked is kind of weird — especially in a workplace context, because I’m immediately going to wonder what brought this on. Are you thinking of me as a romantic partner? Trying to recruit me for the workplace queer networking group? Expecting me to volunteer for something?

      I’m pretty open with my coworkers at this job, but that’s because I work in a state with LGBT protections and at a company that actively pushes inclusivity. At other jobs with a worse culture, I’ve been much more covert.

      Cis/straight folks can advocate best by being forces for a better culture. Don’t preach sermons, but if you hear something bad — then challenge it, don’t let it pass by silently.

      “Yeah, I got this joint owner application, but it’s two guys’ names on it!”
      “So? Maybe they’re married. Big deal.”

      1. General Ginger*

        Seconding your opening paragraph — I think I’d immediately wonder why you’re asking, mostly. Are you trying to check some sort of HR box, set me up with your friend/kid/neighbor, tell me about a queer film festival in a nearby town, or is this a trick question with only one right answer?

        I came out at work, though it’s not the most ideal environment for it, because I couldn’t keep staying closeted anymore; the potential issues stemming from coming out were more acceptable to me than the alternative. The thing with still being misgendered, though, is, it’s always on me to correct the offending coworkers. I would love it if cis coworkers who heard the misgendering would step in and gently remind the offender that “it’s he/his”, especially right in the moment. As a trans person, that’s something that would be incredibly helpful to me, but it doesn’t tend to happen anywhere near enough.

    8. Alianora*

      I like it when someone asks, but that rarely happens. People pretty much always assume that I’m not, which is easy but it’s a little uncomfortable to let their assumptions slide, because it makes me feel like I’m lying.

      I don’t lie to my coworkers about it, but it usually doesn’t come up in conversation. We don’t talk about dating much in my workplace, and I’m not in a long-term relationship.

      Straight people can advocate best by pointing out homophobia, by not singling us out, and by not assuming that everyone is straight.

      1. Alianora*

        Guess I’m in the minority liking it when someone asks — to be clear, I don’t like if someone just blurts it out the first time they meet me. But I’ve had people ask, “Do you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend,” instead of just “do you have a boyfriend” and that’s very nice.

        1. Jack Be Nimble*

          Seconded! I like it if people say things like “are you seeing anyone?” instead of saying “do you have a boyfriend?” I referenced a girlfriend one time, and someone asked if I was a lesbian or bisexual, and I didn’t mind that much, either.

          But I don’t think I’d know how to respond if someone asked me outright if I was gay.

          1. Blackcat*

            I ask if someone is “partnered” and will use gender neutral pronouns for said partner until corrected. Easy to do in small talk and it seems to be well received by all but the aggressive “anti-pc” types.
            This also makes people assume *I* am queer. Which I’m not, but I’m okay with and also don’t correct/soft correct (responding with “husband” if asked about a wife).

        2. Chuck*

          Agreed! IMO the best thing people can do is just…not assume. Especially in really conservative areas, people will assume everyone is cis/het, so often just using “spouse” or “husband or wife” or “partner” will signal that you’re an ally.

          I mean, I do it to signal I’m bi, but…

        3. Foreign Octopus*

          Oh no, I like that question!

          I don’t like if people ask “are you LGTBQ?” but I do like “do you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend?” I like the lack of assumption and I normally get that exact question from my young students, which reassures me that the younger generation are easily adapting.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, I think the context matters. “Hey Boochie, are you a lesbian?” out of nowhere would put my hackles up, even at a friendly company, but if it’s relevant in some way, that’s different and can show thoughtfulness.

        4. Alex the Alchemist*

          Yeah, I like when people ask it that way. I was in the pharmacy getting cold medicine for my partner the other day and the pharmacist asked, “What are his sympto- Wait, is your partner a he or a she?” and I got to answer, “Actually, they’re a they!” and he was like, “Great! What are their symptoms?” and that was honestly one of the best experiences.

          1. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

            I’m a big fan of asking questions like “are you seeing someone?” or similar cause asking “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend (husband/wife)” – cause not everyone is a he or a she, but everyone is a someone.

        5. One (1) Anon*

          My high school students have asked me that question (well, in two parts — “Do you have a boyfriend?” “No.” “Oh. Do you have a girlfriend?”) and it honestly felt like the sweetest thing. They meant it, too; it amounted to about the same to them. :’)

          1. MayLou*

            I was a bridesmaid for my friend a few years ago, and her small cousin (maybe eight years old, at the most) asked me whether I had a boyfriend. I said no, I had a girlfriend. She mulled this over for a second, then asked me to give her another ride in a wheelbarrow.

            A little later I was chatting to another bridesmaid and Small Cousin popped up and asked Other Bridesmaid whether SHE had a boyfriend. Other Bridesmaid said no. Small Cousin then asked whether Other Bridesmaid had a girlfriend (the answer to that was no too).

            Same wedding, different small cousin: another guest had been wearing a dress earlier in the day and changed into a suit with bowtie. Different Small Cousin asked whether they were a boy or a girl. The answer was “Mostly a girl, but sometimes I feel a bit more like a boy, and this evening I’m being more boy.” That was also mulled over and then accepted. Kids are great.

        6. General Ginger*

          I think “do you have a bf or gf” is a good question and a much better question than just “so, are you LGBTQ”? Asking if someone has a significant other is a pretty standard question you’d generally ask new acquaintances, and it’s nice when it’s asked in a way that doesn’t assume heteronormativity.

        7. Else*

          Yeah, that’s nice enough to say. I wasn’t getting that at all from the question posted, though. And – you’d only ask this in a social setting or interaction, not at work!

          1. Alianora*

            I do see why other commenters wouldn’t have interpreted FlowerPower’s question the way I did.

            Still, people are going to talk about their personal lives at work. It happens, so I’d rather have someone ask the kind of question I mentioned above than have them assume one way or the other.

    9. curly sue*

      I’m extremely lucky in that my industry is very queer-positive (performing arts, academic side). As a bisexual woman in a long-term relationship with a man, however, most people assume I’m straight. I mean, it’s obvious why that happens, and yet it drives me insane to be erased. I have a bi-pride pin up in my office now with my pronouns on it, and I talk about my ‘partner’ rather than ‘husband’ to try and push back against heteronormativity, but it’s a process every time.

      What I’d really like to see — and I can say this because I live in what’s probably one of the safest cities (LBGT-wise) in one of the safer countries in the world for these things — is for people to stop assuming things based on appearances. I’m married to a man, but that does not make our relationship a straight one. I present soft-butch, am cisgender and have female pronouns, but not everyone who presents in a similar way does. When someone asks my pronouns or offers theirs first (on email signatures, or what have you), or someone in what appears to be a mixed-gender marriage uses the word ‘partner’ rather than ‘husband’ or ‘wife,’ I immediately feel much safer and comfortable around them.

      1. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

        I married my partner (a man) of 10 years at the start of the year, and whoo-boy, the heteronormative assumptions are flying.
        Thus far, my preferred way to counteract it is when people ask about us getting together/getting married etc I tend to answer that “Oh, we were together for ten years. Though it was a bit of a surprise. He was supposed to be a woman! Or two great danes.” As I’d always assumed I’d marry a woman, or my back up was I would become a writer, live in a mansion, and have two great danes for company. When things got serious, a family friend of ours jokingly informed me “damn, I didn’t put enough influence on you to join my team!” as she’d always been sure I’d stick with women haha.

    10. Foreign Octopus*

      I would prefer it if people didn’t ask that. It just feels weirdly invasive. We don’t go around asking if people are straight.

      I’m bi and loads of people assume that I only date men and it bothers me a little but mainly because bi-erasure is a thing and I think I’m sensitive because of that, although I can generally tell when it’s done without thinking compared to when it’s done with intent.

      And you can advocate for us by being aware of your words and by exposing yourself to literature and talks written by and for the LGBTQ community so that you can understand our perspective better.

      Whatever you do, please, please, please don’t ask “so, how do you have sex?” which is a real question that a real person once asked me when I mentioned I was seeing a woman. She then proceeded to mime a scissoring motion at me and, honestly, I wanted to throw up. It was a genuine question of curiosity but she would never have asked a straight person that.

      So if you do have a question about something specific, try and find the answer out for yourself first before you ask an LGBTQ person.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Whatever you do, please, please, please don’t ask “so, how do you have sex?” which is a real question that a real person once asked me when I mentioned I was seeing a woman. She then proceeded to mime a scissoring motion at me and, honestly, I wanted to throw up. It was a genuine question of curiosity but she would never have asked a straight person that.

        I…have no words. Which is pretty darn rare for me.

      2. aebhel*

        Whatever you do, please, please, please don’t ask “so, how do you have sex?” which is a real question that a real person once asked me when I mentioned I was seeing a woman. She then proceeded to mime a scissoring motion at me and, honestly, I wanted to throw up. It was a genuine question of curiosity but she would never have asked a straight person that.

        I always ask people like that how THEY have sex.

      3. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

        I did once accidentally shock someone with a question I asked them:
        Me: “So how long have you been married?” (we were chatting about weddings, they had mentioned theirs)
        Her: “Oh, we’ve been married for 15 years now!”
        Me: “That’s so lovely. What’s their name?” (This is me, not thinking)
        Her: “…….it’s a normal marriage. He’s a man.”

        No surprises that straight people do not like it when people think they are LGBTQ+!

    11. QueerReader*

      I think it’s almost always inappropriate to ask someone if they are LGBTQ out of the blue at work. That takes away my ability to say things when I want to, and control my own narrative. If I say, “Me and my partner Jane went to the movies this weekend”, a polite “Oh, how long have you been seeing Jane for?” to confirm that she is in fact my partner is better than “Oh, Jane is a woman, that means you’re gay?”

      People assume straightness by default, usually… which sort of sucks, but it’s the way it is. I make a conscious effort not to do that with my language, and I think allies could do the same.

    12. Jack Be Nimble*

      I don’t think anybody has ever asked me if I’m queer, but I’m a lady with short hair who wears mens’ clothing. In my experience, hostile people don’t usually bother confirming, they just start right on in with the hostility.

      You can be an ally by speaking out against homophobia and advocating for inclusive policies. My workplace used to have policies that limited parental leave for “non-birth parents.” It was a bad policy on almost every level, but it was rewritten and made more inclusive shortly after I started.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I just read this morning about Mass Mutual expanding their 18-week parental leave to include gender affirming treatment. I’m pretty impressed with that!

    13. Esk*

      Caveats: I’m a queer woman in a long term relationship with another woman. Queer people aren’t the majority at all in my company, but there’s a few of us. It’s a large company that’s firmly committed to diversity (while still having a board that’s 80% white dudes so…)

      “LGBTQ+ community, how do you feel when someone asks whether you are LGBTQ?”
      If that person is a fellow queer, and is working out if I’m a member of the club, that’s cool. I love making queer work friends!
      If that person is not queer, they would get a very flat “why do you need to know”, and it’s hard to imagine that I’d get a satisfactory answer.

    14. JM60*

      Do not ask if someone is LGBT. Someone might not be out, and asking them if they’re LGBT puts them in a situation where they either need to lie to you or to out themselves to you. You aren’t entitled to coworkers outing themselves to you.

    15. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      I’m very privileged to work in a job where I outright cannot be fired except for very specific things, so I’m happy to be open about my sexuality at work. Being outright asked if I was gay would be a little weird, because either it would be out of nowhere (‘huh?’ reaction) or in response to me talking about an ex-boyfriend or similar (‘duh’ reaction). My colleagues know I’m comfortable talking about it, though, and I’ll refer to it if our casual discussions make it relevant (we work in a politics-related space, so they sometimes do).

      It doesn’t tend to come up professionally, though it can. Work travel might have required me to go to a country that executes and imprisons people like me, so I had to make it very clear to my then-boss that it wasn’t on the cards (she took a minute to get why).

      How do you advocate? Maybe make fewer assumptions across the board and point them out when your company does so. This doesn’t require a great deal of language policing: even using phrases like ‘So are you seeing anyone Steve?’ in casual work drinks chat with colleagues rather than ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ are helpful, and not particularly awkward. What I really value is where it’s obvious people are being inclusive, but also that it’s very casual at the same time.

      Also calling things out that are outright offensive – where it’s safe for you to do so and you feel able to – is a great help, because most people’s default assumption is that anyone who’s offended by something homophobic is themselves gay, and normalising straight folk talking about it is very helpful.

      On an organisational level, that might involve dropping a (nonconfrontational, ‘just pointing this out’) email to HR if (for example) you spot that your company offers time off for an employee’s marriage but not for a civil partnership (particularly in jurisdictions where same-sex relationships can only get civil partnerships or the equivalent), or in other situations where you suspect LGBTQ folk aren’t being considered.

    16. Else*

      No normal person is ever going to ask if you’re LGBTQ+ outside of some very specific circumstances, most of them involving a bar. Just don’t do it at work. Ever.

    17. Ally*

      As someone who was closeted until this year please do not ask people what their orientation is, especially not in front of other people. They have to then decide “do I lie and bear that psychic weight or do I hope this person and this place is safe to come out in?”

      If they haven’t said anything, there is a reason.

    18. Astor*

      The best thing you can do for me is not to investigate how individual people identify but to ensure that people who are LGBTQ2S+ are advocated for no matter who is around.

      On a personal level, my colleagues know that I’m single but I don’t think that any of them know that I’m queer. I don’t particularly feel closeted in any one-on-one conversations; it’s just never come up. But, man, do I feel closeted during certain staff-wide discussions that make it clear that the majority/leadership assumption is that everyone is cisgendered and straight because it would otherwise be obvious.

      But also, I do wish that you’d left your question until later. Listen doesn’t always mean “ask questions and listen to the answers from LGBTQ2S+ people” sometimes it means “let the questions and answers be between LGBTQ2S+ people”.

      1. TyphoidMary*

        “But also, I do wish that you’d left your question until later. Listen doesn’t always mean “ask questions and listen to the answers from LGBTQ2S+ people” sometimes it means “let the questions and answers be between LGBTQ2S+ people”.”

        Thanks, Astor. I agree.

    19. Jonno*

      I’ve been out for a long time and I still think it’s weird if someone directly asks “are you gay?!” It hasn’t happened in a long time, but the thing is, asking someone something like that is … weird. Also! If someone doesn’t want to disclose, you’ve now put them in a position where they have to expose themselves and maybe face repercussions they weren’t willing/ready to face, or to lie. Not a great position to be in.

    20. TyphoidMary*

      Short answer: advocate for queer rights even if you personally don’t know if anybody in your workplace is queer.

      Advocate for systemic changes needed (gender-neutral bathrooms, parental leave for same-sex partners, health care coverage for transition care, etc). Find out if there’s an LGBTQ caucus at your workplace and ask what they need.

  7. Wilde87*

    Oh man, that line about advocating for trans healthcare at work. A year ago my insurance company told me my plan covered gender confirmation surgery. Monday, right when I was about to schedule the the surgery, they told me they were wrong, and it’s not covered.

    I want to talk to my employer about covering gender confirmation healthcare, but I don’t even know who to talk to.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I would start with HR if you feel comfortable – there should be a benefits person you can talk to.

    2. Juli G*

      Do you have a diversity and inclusion role at your company? They’re usually good places to start but not every company has that role.

    3. transtrender*

      I’m so sorry that happened! That must have been incredibly frustrating. Try starting with your benefits department – there should be a director or head of benefits that would be receptive to the conversation

    4. iceclown*

      HR would know, or you can call your insurance company, give them your membership number and ask about what your specific policy does and doesn’t cover. (You might even be able to look it up online – google your insurer’s name + benefits summary and see if you can find a lookup tool.) You don’t even have to say what it’s for if you feel weird about it – just say you need a coverage manual, or at least a Summary of Benefits and Coverage. From there you can follow up with questions about specific procedures if you still have questions.

      Also, that sucks and I’m really sorry this is happening to you.

    5. Mine Own Telemachus*

      Oh no! I’m so sorry they pulled the rug out from under you like that. I’d figure out who is in charge of the health plan in your company – often its HR, in my experience – and see if they’d be willing to look at a plan that covers it for their employees. It’s one of the ways companies can be inclusive and attractive to a more diverse set of people, so you could spin it as a “this is good for the company as a whole, not just me” thing.

      I hope you’re able to get the surgery you need at low cost. I wish it was more readily available. Ugh.

    6. Justme, The OG*

      Is it possible to talk to someone at the health care company rather than your employer to double check your benefits?

    7. That One Person*

      If the company’s large enough to have one I’d start with the HR branch and inquire from them whose best to talk to about healthcare coverages. If you don’t know who to reach out to on HR about that probably best to talk to your boss/supervisor and see if they know who to contact (and they might even skip the HR and mention whose best for healthcare questions, suggestions, and concerns). Am sorry to hear about the fake out (hopefully unintended as mistakes happen, albeit at unfortunate times).

    8. Chris B.*

      Aside from your employer, you might also consider filing an appeal with the insurance company. Many of the larger companies (I have Aetna) have a process in place that allows for several rounds of appeals. My experience is that if your appeal is denied, a third-party mediator reviews the claim. If you can get a letter of medical necessity from your doctor, that could help strengthen your case. Best of luck to you.

    9. Jessica Fletcher*

      If you didn’t already, get the procedure code(s) from your doctor, call your insurance, and ask for the coverage of that code. They need to look up specific info. If it’s still not covered, I would contact a local or statewide advocacy org to get advice and start to research what the law says about this. The Affordable Care Act was the first federal law to protect transgender rights in healthcare. If your employer and health plan are covered by the ACA, they might required to cover some benefits. (Unfortunately this isn’t my policy area, sorry.)

    10. JJ Bittenbinder*

      That’s horrible. One of my former colleagues did a lot of work at our previous company, advocating for the benefits to be changed to those which would cover gender affirmation/confirmation treatment. Your work may have someone in HR who manages vendor relationships with benefits providers (Director of Benefits, for example), but the actual decision may need to come from someone like the VP of HR.

      I commented elsewhere that I read this morning that Mass Mutual has expanded their 18-week parental leave to include gender confirmation treatment, which I think is fantastic! Too bad I love my job so much, because I’m sure when my son has his top surgery, I will want and need leave time.

    11. Michael*

      That really, truly sucks and I am so sorry you went through that. Like others said, HR is a great place to start a discussion internally. What you can do, prior to the conversation, is ask your insurance carrier for the Summary Plan Description, also knows as the SPD. This is a document that outlines all eligibility guidelines for the plan in fairly plan language (or at least plainer than actual insurance contracts). These have to be provided by the insurer for the company to have available to plan members. Most of the time they are .pdf files so a quick search on the word “gender” should take you to the section that says it’s either covered or not.

      If it is covered. Talk to HR and ask them to help with the insurance company who is telling you it is not. Hopefully, it was a glitch and not someone expressing their personal beliefs at their job and denying your surgery.

      If it’s NOT covered, then you still want to talk to HR with the SPD in your hands so you have proof it’s not covered. Insurance plans are largely boilerplate, so there’s a good chance that the benefits person at your company thought it was included – or maybe even asked that it was – and in a copy of the plan that was agreed to that clause was the wrong one. Mistakes like this happen far, far more often than you would think.

      If it truly was never covered and you want to help change that, then the next thing you can do is arm yourself with data. This is what I did when advocating for transgender inclusive coverage at my employer. Several organizations, Out & Equal, HRC, and even Diversity Inc., have guides on how to have these discussions. In my case, it was helpful to have a list of our clients who had these policies in place, a list of our competitors, and generally talked about it in terms of surgery being necessary for treatment for conditions recognized by the AMA and the APA just like other conditions we cover like heart disease, diabetes, etc. It’s hard, but try to keep emotions in check and talk about it in terms of medical coverage and not just “because it’s the right thing to do.”

      Also, if your company has Employee/Business/Affinity Resource Groups reach out to them! I’m one of the leaders in the LGBTQ group where I work and we have access to HR and other leaders directly which can really help with discussions like this.

      Anecdotally, I can say that having a 100 on the HRC CEI – which requires having these benefits in place – can help with retention and even attracting talent as people who believe in equal treatment for everyone often use benefits like this, as well as other diversity efforts, to see how committed a company is to empowering marginalized groups. It can be a litmus test on if a company walks the walk or if they’re just blowing smoke.

      I really wish you the best of luck!!

    12. Suspectclass*

      It might be worth taking a minute to see if your plan is bound by either ACA or state laws/regulations to refrain from discriminating against trans policy holders. You might check with your state insurance regulation body or the National Center for Trans Equality for help figuring this out.

    13. Molly*

      Our LGBT healthcare organization is very skilled at getting surgeries covered. I would recommend consulting with a local LGBT focused clinic. For example, fenway health, howard brown, or the L.A. LGBT Center

    14. Dasein9*

      Chiming in to recommend talking to HR. Thing is, in bureaucracies, sometimes people who are deeply ignorant of what transition (medical or otherwise) entails give us answers that they really should not be giving. (I got some real doozies at the DMV and passport office!) Your HR folks should speak the language of the folks at the insurance company and they might also know of options that most of us simply aren’t aware of.

    15. Will*

      I have heard anecdotally that some insurance companies basically auto-deny gender confirmation services (despite them being covered) to make it more difficult to use that coverage. It would be worth clarifying whether they are denying this individual claim, or if they truly are saying there’s no coverage. If it’s the former, you may have some luck with the appeals process (with the support of your healthcare provider). I’m so sorry you’re getting the runaround! I hope you can get things worked out soon.

  8. Mae*

    Any other queer librarians here? I want to join a Facebook group or some other online group to make connections with other queer library workers. I haven’t faced any overt homophobia directed at me personally, but microaggressions abound among coworkers and patrons, so it would be nice to have people who understand.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      Bisexual librarian here (though currently in a relationship with a man)! One of my best friends is a trans librarian and I know a couple of wonderful lesbian and guy librarians. I’m so sorry that you’ve not encountered more acceptance, especially in this profession. I would hope for better from our little world.

      1. Another queerbrarian*

        Hi are you me? Exact same situation, down to the current relationship and friends. There are dozens of us. Dozens!!!

      2. Mae*

        I have a few queer library friends, and I had a very touching conversation with a coworker about her spouse when she saw I have my pronouns in my email signature. It’s just the small stuff that adds up, like a supervisor telling me I can’t do a queer book for a middle school book club, or a coworker telling me that she didn’t order the book series Lumberjanes because she wasn’t sure about the LGBTQ content. A different supervisor ranted about drag queen storytime to me out of nowhere (I didn’t bring it up at all, we were just talking about programming in general), so that was pretty uncomfortable. I haven’t encountered anything with malicious intent, so I guess that’s something.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      If you decide to move forward with this, would you be comfortable letting me know? I’m neither part of the LGBTQ+ community nor a library worker…but my social circles include a number of librarians, some of whom might be interested in such a group, or who’d know others who would be. Or I’d be happy to ask the people I know if anyone knows of such a group, if you’d like me to do that.

    3. Jigglypuff*

      Queer former librarian here. Actually was glad to leave the library world b/c of the microagressions. My last library was not a safe place for me to be out, which is sad.

    4. Alex the Alchemist*

      Queer student assistant at my university library here! I’m really lucky to be in a position where a bunch of supervisors have ally stickers on their doors and one of them is out as gay. We even hosted an event on drag as an art form about a month ago which was amazing.

    5. Academic Queerbrarian Numero 2*

      Another one here.

      I’m thankful that in terms of LGBTQ+ issues, my particular library in academia seems to be pretty good. I have a number of other queer colleagues, and there’s an active resource center and community surrounding it on campus. And all of this despite being in Texas. Not that I don’t have to decide selectively if the random campus security guard that chats me up needs to know if I have a husband or wife etc. But in terms of the colleagues where I have close working relationships, and the patrons I work with on campus I don’t have to censor myself as much.

      In terms of groups there’s also the GLBT Roundtable of the ALA. Obviously not facebooky though they have social media presences. I’m also in a FB group for gay librarians but it’s pretty quiet so not sure if it’s worth mentioning.

    6. Bibrarian*

      Hi, I’m a bi librarian! I have been very lucky to work for an institution known for being LGBT friendly and a significant portion of my work is with LGBT or broader diversity concepts. I’m a feminine-presenting cisgender woman married to a man, so coming out is a continual process of reminders, but I feel safe enough doing so here and it feels necessary in a way? Like, I want to make sure my queer colleagues/patrons/students know I’m one of them, and not a random ally with boundary issues when I’m contributing to LGBT discussions. Most of the time that just means pride stickers/pins and a lot of “we” and “us” language when discussing LGBT resources, but occasionally I’ll need to be more direct.

      Most of my experience with homophobia and transphobia now kind of comes third hand; for example, I could have someone come into my office with a “Someone said [biased nonsense] about [particular LGBT group], can you help me find the articles they pulled that data from?” So I’m aware it’s happening, it just hasn’t been directed at me.

      At a previous job, I had a SUPER anti-LGBT (among other things) coworker, who said a lot of extra awful things to me because they assumed I was straight and would agree. I couldn’t come out, but I did ensure that they understood I did not share nor want to hear such hateful opinions.

      If there an LGBT chapter/special interest group/listserv in the professional org for whatever type of librarianship you are in, you may be able to make some good connections there.

    7. Else*

      Yep. Lesbian medical librarian here. Do you belong to ALA or MLA? Both have lgbt groups. I don’t know about the other profesisonal orgs, but I’d assume the same.

    8. M*

      Hi! I’m director of a small-town public library, in a liberal area where it’s been a non-issue that I’m in a same-sex marriage. I have a wedding picture in my office, and the work-town paper ran a birth announcement when my daughter was born that made it clear there were two moms – the main result was the older lesbians in town coming out of the woodwork to introduce themselves, which I loved.

      I don’t always correct patrons when they assume I have a husband, which can be awkward in the small-town environment – people feel like they really know and are friends with the library staff, when sometimes it’s just our regular customer-service friendliness. I’ve also had situations where previous bosses needed to come show me how they were dealing with a homophobic complaint, that didn’t have anything to do with me (e.g. an email objecting to a coworker’s pride month display), and I was like, actually, I would have been fine not knowing about that? But thanks for making a point of telling me about it?

      I don’t know about any facebook groups but I’d be into that too!

    9. limenotapple*

      Bisexual librarian; I’m not on facebook but if there were other ways to connect I’d be all for it.

    10. LittleMy*

      Queer academic library administrator here! I know tons of others in the academic library community world but not so much in the public library space. ALA has a good LGBTQ roundtable… I wonder if PLA has an interest group?

    11. aebhel*


      Yeah, I had a patron come in looking for books about AIDs so she could talk her granddaughter out of dating ‘One Of Those Bisexuals’. That was a fun reference interview.

    12. Sparkly Librarian*


      I’m in a large public system in the Bay Area, with all the Drag Queen Story Hour fun that implies, so I’m not concerned about being out to coworkers. Also my wife works for the same system. However, the patrons tend to be a bit more conservative at my branch, and I work with kids, so sometimes there are awkward assumptions made about me. I have practiced the blithe, factual “Yup, that’s my wife picking me up from work. Yup, we are married. Yes, I’m married to a woman.” in response to bug-eyed wonder, repeated questioning, and sometimes scorn from 8-to-12-year-olds. I also come out a lot when parents/caregivers ask whether I have kids or tell me I should, and I choose to say that my wife and I hope to adopt someday soon. (Sometimes I just say “Not yet” or “Someday, I hope” if I don’t want to have that conversation.)

    13. Polaris*

      Former library worker here – I was a teen and young adult for the ten years or so I worked in libraries, so I wasn’t always out to coworkers. Most everyone was older than me, and I can’t recall any microaggressions when/if the subject did come up. More often the slightly confused but mostly genuine acceptance that I get from older generations who are accepting/tolerant of queer people, but rarely encounter them in the social sphere. When I was studying library science in grad school, I’d say a decent number of my fellow students were queer.

    14. Erin*

      Queer and nonbinary librarian here! I’m not aware of a queerbrarian community, thought I’d love to join one.

      Trans and gender-variant/nonconforming/nonbinary library folx are welcome to join our slack community.

    15. Shez*

      Queer librarian, too! I’m lucky to work in a great environment–gay people at all levels of admin, a few others on my team who are queer, trans, nb, etc. I’d definitely join a FB group or twitter hashtag. I’m sorry for your experiences–we all want to believe librarians are generally awesome, but there’s still so much work to do.

      Also, who wouldn’t order Lumberjanes?!?! Heartbreaking. Everyone reading this, go read Lumberjanes. You won’t regret it.

  9. Delaney*

    I’m a gay woman at work, and the culture there is older and more geared towards marriage and babies with men. A lot of the women constantly ask if I have a boyfriend, give me unwanted and sudden tips about how to get a boyfriend, and keeping telling me “the clock is ticking”. I’m 25. I think I’m fine, thanks Barb. It’s so centered around finding a man, that it’s become stifling and uncomfortable. Any tips on things I can say that won’t out me as I turn around and moonwalk away?

      1. ArtsNerd*

        And even if it was ancient! Like wtf, we need to help Delany Shut. This. Down. *flames on the side of my face*

      2. Ra94*

        And even if you liked men and/or were planning on giving birth, commenting on anyone’s fertility is about as insensitive and inappropriate as it gets.

    1. Mine Own Telemachus*

      My reaction would be to make a joke of it that also calls out how incredibly weird it is. Like, “I appreciate how concerned you are about the state of my ovaries, Barb, but I’m only 25!”

      Then again, I’m a proponent of “return awkward to sender.” It’s an awkward thing even for a straight woman to be on the receiving end of, so you should be able to handle it without outing yourself.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I think the best thing to do here is just to shut down talk about babies and men.

      You coming out at work may not solve that so I would try to nip the topics in the bud. If they give you tips about how to get a boyfriend, reply with something like “that’s a strange thing to say to a colleague, Doreen.” And if they tell you the clock is ticking, you would be well within your rights to say “that’s an extremely personal thing to comment on, please don’t do that again.”

      I will confess I once made a series of comments about someone having another baby after she returned from maternity leave (I thought I was being polite but I was just being obnoxious) and she eventually turned to me and said “that’s the X time you’ve mentioned me having another baby, can you stop please?” I was embarrassed but I stopped straight away. Hopefully your co-workers will do the same.

      1. That One Person*

        Yep, sometimes people just need a quick call out as they don’t realize they’re being annoying. Some may have even been on the receiving end and either dealt with it, weren’t sure how to deal with it so just awkwardly laughed it off and accepted as normal, or quickly perceived it as normal. Could even be a case of “now its my turn to put the pressure on someone else as was done to me!” Though I’d hope it’s more the first case of being unaware. With any luck they’ll apologize, but at the very least I hope they stop.

    3. QueerReader*

      I think there are threads in the archives about pushy pregnancy coworkers, and some of those would help, they remind me of this.

      “I’m really not looking for a boyfriend right now, back to those TPS reports…”
      “I’m taking a break from dating right now, I’ll let you know when I need advice” (NEVER is when)

      If you’re up for it, you could just say you don’t want kids? Perhaps they’re the sort who would respond alright if you said that it makes you uncomfortable to talk about sexually charged topics at work

      Is there any chance it’s because they have no idea what else to talk to a young woman about? Could you guys have something else in common?

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      “I don’t like to talk about relationships at work, please. Now, about [Work Thing]” – important to redirect them to keep from sounding curt.

      “I’m fine with where I’m at, but thanks for caring”
      “I’ll keep that in mind” (for about .0001 seconds)
      bland bland their words washing over you without sticking…

      If there is one specific person who does it regularly, then pull them aside and say, “I’m a pretty private person at work, and it’s uncomfortable to me to talk about boyfriends here. Could you stop asking me if I’ve found someone / giving me tips? Let’s talk about [her kids / a shared hobby or tv show / pets] instead – what funny thing has Fluffy done this week?”

      For other scripts, maybe check Captain Awkward for ‘how to respond when you’re childfree but coworkers keep insisting you’ll want kids’ – there’s some overlap.

    5. Binky*

      I think you can just say you’re enjoying your 20s and you’re not looking to settle down and have a family anytime soon. And if they push it, just say “eh, I’m fine as I am right now” and change the subject.

    6. Kelsi*

      Thankfully I’ve mostly aged out of the “when are you having babies” conversations but I do still have one coworker who is weirdly insistent that I will change my mind about marriage. I try not to engage but I haven’t really found a good way to shut the conversation down.

      And then there’s the coworker I thought was safe, came out to as asexual, and she acted like she understood. But later when she found out I was in a relationship with a man, she told me “I knew you just needed to find the right person!”

      I mean, I shut that down pretty quickly and forcefully, being clear that my relationship didn’t change my queerness or my asexuality, but it hurt me a lot and I don’t trust that coworker with anything personal anymore.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        UGH! That is exactly the reason I’m so hesitant to tell people about my recent marriage. I’m not suddenly a lesbian just because I married a woman, I’m just as asexual as I was last year, and I don’t want to have a big conversation with each person about why I got married if we don’t want to have The Sex.

        This is also why I’ve never directly told coworkers or acquaintances. I just stick with something like “I’m not interested in dating” or “nope, never had a crush!” if it comes up in conversation.

    7. ArtsNerd*

      Whoa. That’s wildly inappropriate in any context. Any age, any sexual orientation. Coming out doesn’t even factor into it.

      I think a Carolyn Hax-style “Wow” is good, or if you’re confident enough: “Can we stop with the wildly personal and inappropriate judgments? This is a work environment. I’m your colleague, not a uterus, and you have no idea what my situation is.”

      I’m still working on remembering to bleed from my eyes and emit a banshee screech myself when people are this out of line, so it’s an easier said-that-done thing I know.

    8. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      If you prefer to not be confrontational with it (and I can understand why; that would make sense in many office cultures) there are some good deflections that have been used by non-queer (but not planning to marry) women. Not all of these might work for you, but it might help to consider that pushing back on this wouldn’t inherently out you.

      ‘I’m married to the job!’
      ‘Bombs tick too, Barbara!’ *sweet smile*
      ‘I’m loving my life as it is, thanks.’
      ‘If I get engaged, you’ll be the first to know.’
      *polite smile and refusal to engage*

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          It’s very much a know your audience situation. Intended to come across as ‘Cut it out or I may explode!’ Had not considered the bomb threat angle, to be fair.

    9. nnn*

      The very specific “clock is ticking” line can be leveraged with “Oh, you’re right, it’s already 2:30! Better get back to those TPS reports!”

      That doesn’t address the assumptions or the invasive questions, but it gets you out of the conversation.

    10. Jessen*

      I have no advice, but a lot of sympathy. I’d consider myself mostly asexual and maybe probably I-dont-want-to-think-about-it nonbinary and I have gotten far too much advice over the years on how to make myself attractive to the man I presumably want in my life. And I’m never quite sure how to shut it down without being the “female dog” or something.

    11. Is It Performance Art*

      I have responded to this with “I don’t have to worry about that. My species is parthogenic.” Whether or not This works depends on your audience. One advantage is that it usually gets passed along the gossip mill so even people who weren’t there know it’s not an acceptable question

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I love love love the parthenogenic line, Performance Art!! I am old enough to be almost never the subject of this kind of inappropriate comment anymore, but this is almost good enough to make me wish somebody would do it just once more, so I’d have the chance to use it. :)

    12. Emma*

      My response would definitely be a joke about losing my lesbian card, but the second option would be:

      “I can’t even keep a pot plant alive, if someone trusted me with a baby I think I’d have to call the police”

    13. QueenAllie*

      I work in a warehouse, and I’m in the minority group. For example: They are Hispanic, I’m white. Their culture revolves around getin married young, Having kids, and focusin on family. I am a single, 34 year old female. I am constantly asked the same questions you are. I’ve been honest with them.

      *I don’t want to have biological children
      *No, I don’t have a boyfriend, husband , or lover.
      *Im very happy being single. Thank you for caring about my health, by insisting that I’m young, I still have time to get both of the above mentioned things.

      I also make it a point to let them know I’m not looking for a girlfriend either, but you dont want to be out, so it doesnt apply. I’ve gotten lectures about how fulfilling it is to have a family, or be a single mother. This has started to change because I tell them

      “Yes, I have two boyfriends in a box.” They all know whatthat means. Their very open about their bedroom actives. Thankfully they talk in Spanish, so I don’t understand it. Try making it as awkward as possible for them. Even if it feels weird at first.

  10. Teg*

    Any ideas to subtly come out without coming out? Does that make sense? I hate saying “I’m gay” but I’m tired of people asking about boyfriends, etc.
    I’m currently single so i can’t just slip in “my girlfriend said…”
    I have a rainbow flag sticker on my coffee cup. Any other ideas? Just want people to take a second before making the assumption I’m straight.

    1. ThatGirl*

      If someone asks if you have a boyfriend, can you just say “No significant other, but I don’t date men anyway”? or something to that effect?

      1. Person from the Resume*

        “No. I’m actually looking for a girlfriend.”

        “No. I date women, but no girlfriend right now either.”

        1. General Ginger*

          Maybe mention an ex, if applicable? “No, my ex-gf and I decided to see other people/mutually uncoupled/called it quits last year”.

        2. JJL*

          A month or so after starting my new job last year, a co-worker was joking around about finding everyone a man (I’m female presenting at work and the only other co-worker who was in that day is an openly gay guy).
          I’ve never been out as bi at any previous job, but decided to try my luck this time, so when she asked me what I like in a man I said “As long as they’re geeky, funny and kind I’m not picky on the man part.”

    2. QueerReader*

      Any chance you’ve got a likable ex-girlfriend? I do, and she tends to come up at some point as we’re still friends. Active in any LGBTQ community groups?

      Regrettably, I don’t think teaching people to not make that assumption is easy…. a lot of people just live in a world “without” LGBTQ people. And by that I mean, they assume everyone is cis-hetero even when they’re not, so they really believe nearly no one is queer.

      And I realize this sounds silly, but perhaps a bigger rainbow flag somewhere? I think the one on the coffee cup could come across as something an ally would do (mainly because stickers are often free), but a little LGBTQ flag at your desk might be a bit more obvious? I don’t know, I’m just guessing here :)

    3. Binky*

      In response to questions about boyfriends, you could reply “I’m not seeing someone right now, but I’m sure Ms. Right is out there somewhere.”

      I did a variation on that (although I was actually in a same-sex relationship at the time) with my boss/mentor. There was a quick blip of discomfort, and then it was fine. (I knew he was trustworthy before I said anything.)

    4. AceInPlainSight*

      I’ve been struggling with the same thing! Are you involved with any local community group? I’ve just joined a LGBT+ choir, and I think I’ll use that as my easy tell, if I can get up the courage to actually say it.

    5. Chuck*

      Rainbow stuff is usually a pretty good indicator, I think. If you have queer friends I think you can come out by proxy–like, I’ve mentioned my friend and her wife a couple of times and I think my coworkers get it, but I’m in a really conservative area so that might not work everywhere. Slipping in a “we” instead of “they” if queer issues come up works too!

      1. Alyssa*

        I think that varies by the area. I’m straight (so maybe I shouldn’t be writing this) and live in a liberal area, but just mentioning a friend and their same sex partner wouldn’t make ppl here assume that you yourself are LGBTQ

    6. A.B.*

      You can keep rainbow-ing it up as much as you can, and then… if you were/are involved in any LGBTQ+ orgs or anything like that, try and think of examples you can mention off hand? Or like “I was reading Autostraddle the other day and blah blah blah” and then they can either look up the website or if they ask you can say…what it is.

      If you don’t mind getting more personal, talking about exes with the relevant pronouns OR throwing out female celebrities you like “I just saw the new Captain Marvel and I just want to own 2 cats with Brie Larson” can be helpful.

      It’s hard because some people can stay totally clueless about this stuff and some straight-identified women want to own 2 cats with Brie Larson regardless, but anyone who’s vaguely in the know should get SOME idea.

    7. Anax*

      Just… aggressively cover more things in rainbows?

      I’m half-joking, but honestly, it might be handy to have a bracelet/keychain/pin on your bag which is obvious even when you’re not using your coffee cup. Especially because I think some folks are given coffee cups – so they may not be read as much as a deliberate choice.

    8. HeyFriend*

      What about when they ask about boyfriends, you say something like “No, my girlfriend and I broke up X months ago and I haven’t been seeing anyone.”

    9. Alex*

      I’m ace, which I always find awkward to “come out” as, because I usually have to specifically describe what it is to people, which leads to me talking about literal sexual attraction in contexts when I’d really just rather not!

      My go-to response is “I don’t date men” when someone is making an assumption about me + men.

      Their interpretation of that is on them, is how I see it.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same. I’ve never done any sort of coming out as ace, because the number of people with whom I wish to discuss my (lack of) interest in sexual activity is literally zero, in pretty much any context. (Huh. I guess I just sort of did. Oh well.)

        1. Frea*

          Yeah, coming out as ace is exhausting. I’ve hidden behind “I’m just not interested” or “Working on other things right now.” I’m pretty sure my coworkers (Midwest, very heteronormative because of the industry I work in) are a little suspicious, but honestly I’m not lying to them. I’m just not interested in having those conversations with them and have gotten better at changing the subject.

          It doesn’t feel great holding your tongue when your boss tells you that you need to get a boyfriend so he can help you with your new house problems, though. “Nah, I’m good” got me out of that one but I’ve been wary ever since.

          1. Else*

            I’m not ace, but am female – and I get this sort of comment at car washes, for some reason. – “Don’t you got a boyfriend(or husband)? He should be doing that for you!” I certainly wouldn’t ask my wife to wash my car barring some kind of physical inability, so why would I ask a husband if I had one? Why is this a thing that ANYONE thinks is fun or useful to say to someone else, regardless of sexuality or circumstance?

            1. Frea*

              Ah, yes, the (perceived) gendered nature of chores. I’m with you on this. It’s to be expected with my boss because he is…a character. Luckily it’s also one of the only times it’s happened at this job, even though boss is more the rule than the exception at my company. But yeah, really wish these comments would stop for EVERYBODY.

              1. Else*

                Yeah. Just, what is the point? What is the benefit of comments like that? I just hate the use of personal remarks as conversation starters between strangers, and I think this falls into that category with the added flavor of heteronormativity/sexism.

        2. Quandong*

          There’s no way I could come out as ace at work without being asked intensely inappropriate questions (conservative workplace) so it’s not something I plan on doing. I expect my colleagues assume I’m straight, and not actively looking for a partner so thankfully I’m not asked about dating or romance at all.

      2. Laurel*

        I was just coming into this thread to post something similar! I’m ace and bi-romantic, and it’s so hard to come out accurately at work that I usually just tell people that I’m bi (which feels true enough for me) or just queer. I’ve literally only told two coworkers that I’m ace, and both times I was pretty sure they’d already know what I meant. I know that people won’t learn about asexuality unless someone explains it, but it can be scary. Or, as Frea said, just exhausting.

        1. damngcoffee*

          Same re: asexuality. I’m ace and aro, and I never felt particularly comfortable applying the queer label to myself, so I have know idea what most people assume about me. But at the same time, I don’t like feeling like asexuality/aromanticism is something I have to hide. Like it’s shameful, rather than just subject to people’s ignorance.

      3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I’m grey-aro/grey ace and so! Basically, if a conversation at work has gotten to a point where I *need* to come out, that conversation has already pole-vaulted over the line of what’s appropriate, cause my sexual activity or lack thereof should not be a topic of conversation, and no one should be pressuring me to date.
        But also I’m wierd about my ace/aro-ness. “grey” puts it in such a vaaaague amorphous category that for me it’s more just…a factual descriptor rather than an identity.
        “Dating’s not a priority” kinda covers my experience, but ace non-aro people don’t have that cover. On the other hand, I don’t really want to know whether or not someone at work has a sex life no matter what the reason is–I’m interested to hear if ace/non-aro people have professional ways of describing that

        1. Aurion*

          Ace non-aro here, and I haven’t figured it out. I’m interested to see if others have.

          1. Cate*

            I don’t date because I don’t enjoy the ritual of dating and I haven’t figured out an approach for doing so when sex is off the table. Although I’d still like a person to be my person. But for work purposes a blanket ‘no dating’ seems to have done the trick in terms of comments directed at me.

            1. West*

              Cate, you have so perfectly summarized the situation I am in. I hate dating, I am not interested in sex, but I too would still like to find “my” person, especially as more and more of my closest friends partner off and have less time to spend with me. I wish it weren’t so difficult. I wish you luck in navigating it.

              My office is 40 people and literally every person is paired off in a long term relationship/marriage so I get a lot of questions/looks and it’s exhausting.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          ace/non-aro, in fact married, so I’m probably the ace equivalent of passing, so add salt as necessary. but no, I don’t have a professional way of describing it. That said, I don’t care if my coworkers think I’m sleeping with a man, a woman, everybody, nobody, so long as they don’t tell me about it, and as far as I’m concerned, everybody I work with might as well be ace too, because we all merrily don’t talk about sex in any fashion or any context at all. Heh.

        3. GirlCalledBob*

          I’ve only ever come out as ace at work once, and that’s mainly because a coworker made a comment about how they would find a long-distance relationship like mine very difficult because of the lack of ‘closeness’. It… probably was a borderline inappropriate comment, but it was a very laid-back person in a very laid-back place, and said in a jokey way, so I wasn’t really thrown off. Just a ‘well, we both think kissing is gross, so that part kinda isn’t an issue’.
          But that is like… the only time in my life it’s come up casually in conversation. Otherwise, coworkers don’t know, but it doesn’t bother me too much? It would be weird for them to think about what my girlfriend and I do in bed in any case, so.
          (LDR are still hard even when kissing is considered gross, by the way.)

      4. Tau*

        Oh man /o\ Also ace here, and I’ve… basically stopped coming out as asexual entirely. I go with “queer” or even “lesbian” in a pinch. (I’m attracted to women in a way which I’ve decided I can round off to romantic, and my ??? why is gender terrible ??? is firmly in the None Of People’s Business At Work category, so it’s like – close enough!)

        I feel legit terrible about this because I had such a hard time figuring out my orientation due to the general lack of ace visibility when I was younger, and used to have very strong opinions about how “homoromantic asexual” did not equal “lesbian” and it was ace-erasing to just fold them/us into that category, but… I just cannot handle the conversation anymore, especially not at work. And, like, in addition to the above I’m presenting-as-female in a male-dominated field, have an overt speech disorder and am autistic, so at times I go “ok I am MORE than doing my part as far as minority representation goes, someone else can take on that bit.” But I still feel bad about it, and I know twenty-something me would be side-eyeing present me heavily.

      5. Alex*

        I just want to say that it is so non-lonely-feeling to see so many aces chime in.

        I’ve *never* met another ace in real life, and it bums me out.

      6. Cate*

        Fellow ace! Hi!
        I’m not fully out, aside from to a few close friends. I think of it as left the closet door open and seeing if anyone notices. So I have a little ace badge among my desk decor and in my laptop desktop image rotation, but having to do the explainer is why I don’t bother telling people for the most part. Although the IT guy noticed and recognised the badge yesterday, him: ‘Is that the ace one?’ Me: ‘Yup.’ Him: goes back to installing the new software.
        My team is known for being keen matchmakers (including trying to set a bi colleague up with various men for over a year before she announced she’d got engaged to her girlfriend) but my default response to their initual efforts was always an indifferent shrug and ‘I don’t date, it’s not something I enjoy’ and they got bored with that fast.

    10. revueller*

      Get an undercut or an equally edgy hairstyle.

      Kidding! (Kind of.)

      I’m a bi cis woman, and short, bleached hair and a more masculine style (dark colors, green pants, dressing like a Gap Men’s model) have been good wards for most people. However, the older, more oblivious straights still assume I’m straight.

      Alternately, carry your mug everywhere and take a long sip every time someone asks you about a boyfriend. :)

      1. General Ginger*

        I’ll be honest, I’m trans and queer, and I remain absolutely oblivious with regard to wardrobe and hair choices. Unless your edgy hairstyle actually has “I’m gay” shaved into the side, possibly in glitter, I am not going to pick up on it. It’s almost comically sad.

      2. Joielle*

        That’s literally what I did! Haha. Queer haircuts all the way. I dress towards the femme side of androgynous so I’m not sure if people necessarily get the message, but if people are looking for signs, the signs are there.

    11. Nobby Nobbs*

      Ugh, I feel you. Coming out is always awkward, and I wish frequently that I could skip past the actual conversation and people would just know. No suggestions, I’m afraid, except “rainbow stuff and lots of it.” Unless you want a new haircut?

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I guess you could do queer stuff and work it into conversation, but the hard thing about that is how everybody seems to want to know about your weekend when you just ran errands and did yard work, but nobody ever asks when you did something interesting you want to talk about, so you have to bring it up yourself and we’re back to the original problem.

    12. Beth*

      You can try making a big deal of being celebratory when Pride rolls around.

      Or mention an ex using a gender marker; for example, “When my last girlfriend and I broke up, it was really hard not having her with me when I wanted to go to a chick flick.”

      Or bring up, with serious concern and consideration when serious topics are being discussed, any recent news item about gay rights being eroded, or gays being targeted for violence, or outlawed and murdered in other countries — unfortunately, there’s always something.

      Or, if you prefer to focus on the positive, share some cheerful story or funny image involving the wider LGBTQ+ world. One of my co-workers is a Christian of the all-too-rare sort, who actually believes in good people and good works and loving thy neighbour and all that; I make a point of telling him gleefully any news item I run into about really great acts of allyship.

    13. ArtsNerd*

      I’ve somehow signaled queerness for so long that I had to come out as straight to my mom in high school (whoops, she was right). One of those ‘last people to figure it out’ people and I’m still navigating my gradual ooze out of the closet. My officemates aren’t super clued into that stuff but they got the hint when I was sobbing at my desk after Pulse, which… yeah.

    14. Tacocat*

      I’m single, and when I’ve been coupled up I found it a lot less awkward to come out because it’s more… organic. Now if someone asks if “there are any men in my life” I just say “no but I also don’t date men.” It’s actually usually pretty amusing to watch people stammer, and I’ve never said it to someone I thought would have a problem with it. Or I’ll work in going to the pride parade as weekend plans, something like that.

      I present as really femme, so I’m not sure whether people are surprised, or they just figure because I’ve worked here for 4 years and have never mentioned a man. I work in an office of mostly straight marrieds with kids so it tends to be noticed if you deviate from the norm.

      It’s really bizarre that people think they can comment on your biological clock (!!!) at any age, but especially when you’re so young!

    15. JB*

      I got super drunk at the holiday party and talked a lot about my Big Crushes (chiefly Winona Ryder & Saoirse Ronan.) I also once mentioned going to drinks with my office’s LGBTQ network, and sometimes will mention things about girls I’ve dated (when people are swapping weird date stories.) Etc.

      tbh it feels a lot easier to just pepper it in after the initial hurdle is overcome, so if your office does like, Morale Booster Events and you can get a bit tipsy, tell everyone about how Brie Larson can hip thrust 400 pounds. (Or whatever fact you have on deck.) (BRIEEEEE.)

    16. Emma*

      There are other ways you can react to relationship questions while single that make it clear – a joking “nah, I have terrible luck with women lately” or “excuse you, I am married to Gwendoline Christie, in my reality at least”

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        Seconding this, as well as mentioning ex-partners, which is something I tend to do in new environments. “Oh yeah, my ex liked that! I’m so glad he taught me about it” or something similar.

        There’s also smaller comments if people are talking about celebrities and such. If you’re comfortable with it, that is. If someone mentions Daisy Ridley (or whichever celeb lady you find attractive), you could always just be like “oh yeah, she was great in Star Wars. I wish she was my girlfriend”, or even just interject with “she has no right to be so pretty”. Of course there will be people who will see that as you just having a girl-crush, as straight people tend to do with non-straight women, but…

    17. Tau*

      Ha, someone else trying the sticker route! I have a sticker on my laptop from Lesbians Who Tech, but I’m not sure it’s being noticed. I might add a rainbow.

      (Although I work in a super-international environment, so I’m not sure cultural symbols like that will be picked up on by everyone.)

    18. QueenAllie*

      I tell them “ No, I don’t have a partner, but I’m actively looking for either a man or woman.”

  11. NJBi*

    Any advice on dealing with being bi erasure awkwardness at work? I’m a bi cis woman in a long-term relationship with a cis man, and while 99% of the time sexual orientation doesn’t come up at all, there’s still 1% of the time when I’m suddenly made aware that everyone around me thinks I’m straight. I’m not “closeted,” but I don’t exactly feel “out;” I don’t want to make a big deal out of my sexuality, but whenever I’m reminded of the heteronormativity, it’s like a splash of cold water reminding me that my coworkers are unaware of a moderate-sized part of my identity.

    1. curly sue*

      Preach it — I’m in the same situation. I don’t know that I’ve come up with a particularly good answer. I’ve got a bi-pride pin up in my office, but only people who already know what the pink-purple-blue stripes mean already are going to understand it, and that doesn’t help elsewhere on campus. My only solution so far has been to pepper in ‘as a queer voice in this meeting’ or what have you as it’s appropriate, and joining the LBGT Faculty Caucus on campus so that the community knows me. It stinks to be made invisible.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I’m also bi and married to a man, and I hope somebody else comes up with a good one because it’s hard! I’ve sometimes dropped references to my plans for Pride weekend, but I live in Seattle and almost everyone goes to Pride there, so it’s not foolproof by any means. Mostly, I’ve just left it, but it always feels weird. I do usually come out individually to other out queer people at work, both because that feels easier to do somehow (they usually don’t poke around with too many intrusive questions) and because I want to let them know that I can be counted on if they need backup against the occasional homophobic incident. We occasionally get clients who say things they shouldn’t and it can help to have someone else to help nudge the company into pushing back or letting us do it.

        But I’d like to be more out among the straight folks at work and I don’t really know how. I’m in a profession and a town where it is safe to do, so no worries of that kind (client comments aside, the people who actually work in my field are pretty accepting of anyone different, in whatever way). I don’t think I’m worried about their responses. I just don’t know how you start.

    2. NotURUnicorn*

      I feel this deeply. I have taken to using small Bisexual Pride pins on jackets and my work name badge as well as joining my PRIDE group and connecting with other LGBTQ+ persons within our organization. I have one co-worker in particular who I am out to, and having that one person who understands offers me a small island of refuge in the bi-erasure world.

    3. Elemeno P.*

      I don’t really know how to deal with this and am interested in seeing other people’s replies. I’m only recently out as bi to myself (I’ve had history with ladies but assumed my primary interest in dudes cancelled that out, I guess), and I’m engaged to a cis man, so it’s mostly come up when my coworkers and I are talking about attractive celebrities (which happens a lot!) and I mention a lady as part of the group. I work in a very queer-friendly industry so I’m not worried about being ostracized, but I’m also struggling with some internalized bi-erasure of thinking “well, I shouldn’t count myself as part of that group because I’m with a cis man.”

      1. Andy*

        i really felt this last sentence when I was younger and had just met my husband. But I am who I am, and who I love doesn’t change who I am. You are who you are, he is who he is, and the heart wants what the heart wants.

        1. British Bi*

          You could collect a lot of foreign currency too, I’d send you some british coinage. Bisexual woman in a long term relationship with a straight man. First man I ever dated – turns out I’m not gay after all.

      2. Lee*

        Very much all of this. I’ve also ended up in conversations/spaces and then realized they are not queer-friendly and I’ve been included because it was assumed I’m straight. This is always very, very uncomfortable for me and then for them if they say something that leads to me being more angry than hurt.

      3. B*

        Yes to your last two sentences. I feel really awkward in LGBTQ+ circles because I feel like everyone will think I’ve “betrayed” them or “taken the easy way out”. Not that anyone has ever actually done that – but I know it’s a thing that sometimes happens, and because I’m all up in my head about it, I let it hold me back from joining LGBTQ+ groups. It sucks.

      4. IEL*

        “(I’ve had history with ladies but assumed my primary interest in dudes cancelled that out, I guess)”
        This sentence makes me angry because it applies to me too.

        Also this thread made me realize that the entire office probably thinks I’m straight, since I never talk about myself and we all know straight is the default. (Eyeroll.) I feel the urge to go to work tomorrow wrapped in a bi flag.

    4. Let's Get Some Shoes*

      Oh, same. I hate it, but I also don’t want to be the person who is inserting my orientation into every conversation, but i also don’t want to feel closeted.

      I also present very femme- dresses and high heels every day, long blonde hair, etc. so I don’t even have any keys on my belt signalling going on.

    5. Andy*

      Queer cis-woman married to cis-man here and whoa nelly is there ever an ongoing process happening. the campus where i work is SUPER supportive and inclusive and therefore (or something) being not ‘visibly’ queer has really thrown people for a loop. It’s almost as if they’re like, hey…we give you all this room to BE YOURSELF…can’t you be yourself with a little more butch of a haircut so we can id you?
      I try to keep my face open and friendly when I’m having to ‘out’ myself . Again.
      Recently there was a man who was really pushing back on the soft hints so I had to just be like, YES I DO SUPPORT THIS COMMUNITY OF WHICH I ALSO AM A PART THANK YOU.
      I have a couple of times been confronted about my partner’s gender, which was really hard because the people (in each of these situations) pushing back are LGBTQ and feeling hurt about me identifying as such but living under the radar (as they see it) by presenting as I do. As myself. They were having feelings that were totally understandable, as was I, and having that convo was very important to me.
      To them I eventually had to say “the heart wants what it wants’ and i think that got through best.

      1. Zap R.*

        “It’s almost as if they’re like, hey…we give you all this room to BE YOURSELF…can’t you be yourself with a little more butch of a haircut so we can id you?”

        I live in a famous gay neighbourhood and this is the story of my life.

      2. Ms Moo*

        Also cis-bi-female married to a hetero cis male. The husband generally gets me read as straight and I do lead a straight life I suppose. I think about this stuff too. I am not out at work because it’s the Deep South. We did just get a Gay-Straight Alliance student group on campus though, which I would like to support. We have a lot of out students, so I’m glad we have the group. I have the added fun conundrum as presenting androgynously because I just can’t do femme, which has yet to cause me any issues professionally. I do tone it down a bit in public when not at work because I live somewhere that gay bashing is definitely A Thing. Anyway, I have only ever been clocked once at work. I used to have an out gay male coworker and when we first met I mentioned my husband and my coworker tittered a bit, looked me up and down, and gave me a “Really?” look. We never discussed it, but got along well while he was with us.

      3. Karen from Finance*

        I think there’s quite a bit of resentment among some members of the LGBT community against couples who look cishet, which is painful for me. It shows in debates about “straight couples” in LGBT protests and rallies, where people feel they don’t belong. Which I understand theoretically, but also, do you know they are both straight? Do you know they are both cisgendered? And sometimes even if one or both of the people in the couple is LGBTQ, the resentment is still there because as you say, they are still “passing, so we don’t suffer the same level of discrimination that some other people do. And I do get that. LGBTIQ people who are “passing” don’t suffer the same things that people who don’t, and that’s a privilege we do have. But it’s still a shame.

        1. Almost Academic*

          Someone once told me “the flip side of ‘passing’ is erasure, and that can also be a painful state”. Made a big impression on me. It’s not a competition of suffering, we should be embracing each other and advocating space for everyone. Sadly many in the community have yet to agree…

          1. General Ginger*

            This. I’m a trans man; I was closeted and passed as a straight cis woman for years before coming out and transitioning. While passing made some situations markedly safer, it was still profoundly, horribly painful and alienating.

            1. Karen from Finance*

              I’m sorry that you had to go through that.

              In a former company, there was a big deal made about the inclusivity initiative, so I asked a manager that had a rainbow badge about it. He told me that they were specifically targetting trans groups to let them know they were welcome here, and the phrase he said was “the T is silent in LGBT”, regarding the lack of trans visibility. That phrase stuck with me a lot. I think it applies specially for trans men, who a lot of people don’t even seem to be aware exist and that’s awful.

              I think we’re slowly getting progress on that, though (using the “we” as an ally). It’s a lot of work, but we’re seeing a lot more representation and people are becoming more aware.

    6. Alexandra*

      Exact same situation with me. I don’t have anything overtly bi in terms of pins, flags, etc. I usually refer to my partner in gender neutral terms to try to get the wheels turning in people’s brains. I don’t really know how it came out in my current workplace. It may have just been in casual conversation about queer issues, and then I brought it up then “as a bi person.” Being out at work is important to me because of all the heteronormativity and monosexism that I encounter elsewhere, and this is one space where I can feel comfortable that I won’t be ostracized for my sexuality.

    7. Karen from Finance*

      I’m in the same situation, and to add, I’ve only really been in relationships with men. But I’ve tried to be in relationships with women many times. I’ve been in love with women, I’ve had my heart broken with women, it’s just never seemed to work out in a way that I can say “oh, yeah, that over there’s my ex-girlfriend” while I have multiple ex boyfriends. Because of it, whenever I do come out somehwere, I always end up being put in the spot. Straight people make me a lot of questions about my past experiences with women to measure weather I’m “really bi” or “bi enough”, and most times it ends up with them giving me some sort of advice about women (???) and/or convinced I’m not really pan.

      (I use bi and pan interchangeably for myself because I haven’t yet decided on a label nor really care to do so)

      Should I give up on being out at work, even when that too feels like a small betrayal of myself?

      1. Róisín*

        I have also only really been in relationships with men/males! I have a bunch of ex-boyfriends and trans ex-girlfriends, but I haven’t managed to have a relationship with a female-bodied person yet! One of my coworkers said “You know Ro, I think you just really like dick” and I was seriously taken aback because on the one hand yes, I do enjoy the equipment my partners have come with. But it’s not that I don’t like or desire alternatives — I’ve just never had a partner with different equipment! It was *probably* a joke, but that doesn’t mean it hurts less to have an entire chunk of your personality casually erased due to simple circumstances.

        Don’t give up on being out wherever you want to be out — you get to want whatever you want and be whoever you want to visibly be. But if you decide it isn’t worth all the exhaustion, don’t feel obligated to be out in places you don’t want to be out.

    8. revueller*

      in the same boat as you and a lot of people in this mini thread. i dont have an answer but hope it helps to know you’re not alone.

    9. Frankie*

      Yeah…same, I am bi, cis, married to a man, and I’m just generally not “out” in any arena of my life. My husband and a few queer friends know.

      Honestly, I got so much sh*t for identifying as bi from all areas of my life–conservative family told me if I was even 1% gay I was 100% gay (and that was bad)–gay friends tried to tell me I wasn’t really gay if I wasn’t 100% gay–unaware folks assumed by “bi” I meant “have sex with anyone/anytime”–other bi frenemies accused me of identifying as bi for attention/”points” (??? like what).

      So I just don’t bother talking about it anymore, because the only other people who really get it/don’t try to redefine you are bi people. I guess it doesn’t bother me that my coworkers don’t know, but I’m also honestly partly trying to avoid any reaction or weird assumptions.

      For context, there are a few of out gay folks on my team, so I know it’d be accepted. I just don’t even see it as a conversation to have, honestly, because of the above.

    10. Middle Manager*

      I’m asexual and have a similar experience. 99% why would I mention it. And then every great once and a while someone makes a statement that clearly assumes I’m straight and I feel super weird about it.

    11. Mr. Tyzik*

      My husband and I are both bisexual, but because we have a child, we’re read as a straight couple. We both struggle with self-erasure due to our marriage together.

      I don’t hide, but I’m not out. I can relate so much to what you’re saying about how you feel – I feel the same awkwardness.

      1. Introverted Manager*

        “I don’t hide, but I’m not out.”

        This describes my situation so well. I’m a cis queer woman married to a cis straight man, and working in a heavily male-dominated, conservative industry. In fact, he referred me for a job before we were married, so I’ve always been here in a context of our relationship.

        I also have a hormone disorder that has given me some very male-oriented physical traits, like facial hair and a baritone vocal register. I get misgendered pretty frequently on the phone, and am frequently the only woman in meetings. It can be lonely for sure.

      2. Joielle*

        Same here – husband and I are both bisexual but read as a couple of straight hipsters when we’re together. I totally feel you on “I don’t hide, but I’m not out.” That’s me at work for sure and it is awkward.

    12. Not So Little My*

      I don’t really know the answer to this, as a bi cis woman in a LTR with a cis man. I’ve been fired from enough jobs for being a woman, being older than my profession’s preferred demographic, and occasionally for outing myself when I thought it was safe, that I kind of let my bi-ness be erased by default. I do wear the “rainbow” screen on my Apple Watch but it’s so small that I’m not sure anyone notices it. My company has a lot of visible ally-ship but I’ve learned from bitter experience to mistrust companies in that regard. I do use “partner/spouse” terminology a lot to make it clear that I’m opposed to assuming anyone’s partner’s gender, so I suppose many people might just think I’m an ally.

    13. iglwif*

      How I came out to my colleagues at ExJob–and I super don’t recommend this–was picking Louise Brealey as my “celebrity spouse” during a wedding shower, instead of picking a dude. (I really like Louise Brealey, okay? I think she’d be an awesome spouse. I’m demi/grey ace and don’t actually have any interest in sexy times with celebrities, but that seemed kind of beside the point.)

      At CurrentJob, I already knew that a couple of my (female) colleagues are also some flavor of bi (one is happily single, the other happily married to a man, but both have had relationships with men and women in the past) and that made it easier to drop into conversation? But I should mention that I don’t actually remember the exact circumstances or the words I used…

      I’ve been asked why I bother to come out / be out as bi-anything when I have been “straight-married” for literal decades. “To fight bi erasure” is honestly a big part of the answer, as is your last sentence there, about feeling weird that people who are around you all the time don’t know this pretty important thing about your identity.

    14. Caz*

      Still working on it.
      So far, I have a rainbow laptop bag strap, a piece of rainbow tape on my laptop, and a piece of rainbow tape on the charger cable, as well as a bi pride flag pin on my lanyard. Unfortunately these are all things I can “explain away” too easily in ways that are utterly unrelated to sexuality – everyone who has a laptop has the same computer and bag, I’m in meetings every month with 12-15 other people with the same computer and bag, so having little indicators of what belongs to who is common; I’m not the only person to use some kind of coloured tape. (Yes, internalised erasure/biphobia is a problem.)
      I’m in the LGBTQ+ staff network group, but it is policy that members of the groups do not have to disclose which group they are in when requesting time off to attend meetings (so as to not have to out themselves as LGBTQ+ or invisibly disabled or whatever other characteristic they hold that this group exists for). This means that people know that I’m in *a* group, but they don’t know *which* group, and I don’t want to tell them apropos of nothing because then I’ll end up coming out for the sake of coming out, and I don’t like doing that – it feels like I’m making my sexuality the entire reason for the conversation.
      I’m in conversation with the staff network group about assisting in making a LGBTQ+ video for all the organisation to see later this year. Try erasing me when I’m on film holding a big ol’ placard saying “bi and proud”. Take that, internalised messages.

  12. Random gay commenter*

    How do you handle jokes that you find mildly annoying? The kind of fratboy humour where a guy says something like “Well I was over at Peter’s house last night” and the whole point of the joke is that they said they did something gay and that’s somehow inherently funny, when it could be easily describing something that I do as a regular part of living my life.

    I’m totally out at work, I’m pretty sure that the guys who say this sort of thing don’t even consider how it comes across.
    It’s pretty low stakes, but still an annoyance.

    1. Delaney*

      Honestly, whenever people in my office joke about shit like that, I just nod and take it seriously. “Oh that’s really nice,” and when they say it’s a joke, ask “Oh, I don’t think I get it. Could you explain it to me?” And watch them fall apart trying to talk around “it’s funny because gay”

      1. Yvette*

        I have seen that tactic be recommended for basically any offensive joke and it is a good one. Pretend you don’t get it and force them to explain.

        1. JoeAverage*

          this is a fantastic way to wade into the territory I want a joke-teller to be in, and I will definitely use it!

      2. Random gay commenter*

        I could see taking that approach if I was part of the conversation, but these just happen within my earshot. I’m several cubicles away.

        1. Jake*

          I can see that being tricky. The advice above probably is the best bet to get it to stop, but I think you may be out of luck if its not something you feel is worth a direct confrontation and it is not happening in your immediate vicinity.

        2. Forestdweller*

          That does make it more difficult. Are you comfortable being direct? Assuming since you could hear them, they can also hear you, you could say something like “That seems like a weird joke to tell at work, especially since so many people can hear you.”

      3. General Ginger*

        I learned to do that on this site. Thank you, Alison! “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t get it, could you explain the joke?”

      4. Forestdweller*

        Yes!! I’m a big fan of the blank stare and deadpan voice tone being added to the statements about not understanding and needing it to be explained, but that’s because I want it to be clear that I know exactly what I’m doing.

    2. QueerReader*

      I would take them seriously, and congratulate them on getting some action!

      Or just play like you don’t get it: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand, what’s so funny about being gay?”

      Or if you really feel like taking them on: “You know, the notion that being gay is somehow “less than”being straight and to be laughed at is really offensive to the LGBTQ community.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      No positive feedback to the ‘joker’. Practice your ‘SO BORING’ face. A little eye-roll doesn’t hurt. A little honest confusion, as Delaney describes, goes a long way.

    4. Two Tin Cans and a String*

      Agree with Delaney! I’ve had great success with forcing people to name their own problematic behavior. It involves playing pretty naive and might come across a bit salty (and you’ve got every right to be salty) but it does work with “jokes” like that. Ask questions that make them explain what the point of the joke is. Once they realize that their whole punchline is “and that’s gay!” most half-decent people will pause and realize that that’s actually not all that funny. People who grew up telling these jokes (and that includes me, we all grew up in this culture) tell them without really thinking. It’s joke macro. Two dudes spend time together = haha gay. You can pretty easily interrupt that automatic process by going “yes and?” How they react is out of your hands, but shining a light on it can be really productive with people who are generally cool but just need a nudge in the right direction.

    5. tinyhipsterboy*

      Besides what other commenters have suggested, there’s also “We’re still making gay jokes in 2019?”, staring at them with no expression at all until they realize they made it weird (especially if you have a resting angry face), or (depending on workplace), take a very obviously sarcastic tone and just say “HA HA HA. GAY PEOPLE. FUNNY.”

    6. restingbutchface*

      My two favourite responses-

      “Sorry, I don’t get it. Can you explain? No, seriously I want to laugh too! Tell me!” (Keep going until they cry)

      Violent, hysterical laughter, way past the point of appropriate, finishing with a big “IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE BEING GAY IS SO FUNNY!”. Extra points if you ask why they’re not laughing.

  13. NotURUnicorn*

    As a Bisexual, Ethically Non-Monogamous person with two partners working in a VERY conservative financial environment, I have found some solace in my fellow LGBTQ+ coworkers. I don’t feel like I am hiding my status, leaning more in the camp of “work/life separation,” but there have definitely been points where it’s clear that even with a PRIDE group in place here, I am not considered as equal as my straight counterparts.
    Getting asked about my “I kiss boys and girls” pin and hearing a response that fetishizes my bisexuality is disheartening… but its equally frustrating to get a non-response with “that look.”

    I also don’t feel like a “coming out” is necessary for my group, but I am also really struggling with not being truly seen.

    1. Anax*

      Lol, love your username. I’m in a closed triad, so… solidarity on that. My workplace has been good about it, but it’s still awkward!

    2. Kaittydid*

      Oh my gosh, me too, except I work in engineering. I was married to one of my partners, who is a cis bi dude, before I realized I was bi, and I feel very erased because of that. I guess I could just start introducing my other partner as my girlfriend but I don’t know if people will think I’m just using old timey language for close female friend. I’ve also just started coming out and it’s terrifying almost every time.

      1. Kelsi*

        I don’t know if this helps, but sometimes the order of words helps? Like, “this is my girlfriend Katie” can be ambiguous, but “this is Katie, my girlfriend” leans a little stronger into the relationship angle. The clearest, to me, would be separating the relationship intro and the name intro into separate sentences entirely: “Joan, this is my girlfriend. Katie, this is my boss Joan. Joan, Katie, Katie, Joan. Great, we’re introduced!”

        1. Cishet person learning*

          Oh I’ve never thought of this before! I’m slow to catch on to codes like that, but that word order would send a stronger signal to me that it’s not just a friend.

    3. Nobby Nobbs*

      “Hearing a response that fetishizes my bisexuality” Straight people, nota bene: no bisexual in the history of ever has wanted or will want to hear your opinion on threesomes.

      1. Louise*

        If only I could go back in time to share this message with every cishet guy I’ve dated lol

  14. Wearing Many Hats*

    Is there a good way to bring up my partner’s transition? I am a cis woman and my partner came out to me as a trans woman a few months ago. We have been married for coming up on 10 years and most of my co-workers have met her, pre-transition. Since she came out to me, I’ve been referring to her as my spouse or partner at work. She is still very much male-bodied and only out to her HR department at her workplace. When she’s out at her company should I mention it at my workplace? I’ve had my pronouns in my email signature since day one here and we are in a state where LGBTQ folks and gender identity are protected, but obviously I’ve never had to navigate this except as a supportive ally. Any suggestions welcome!

    1. Jigglypuff*

      Spouse of a transman here. I consistently use male pronouns for him and have his pictures in my cubicle (he still reads as female). If you consistently use female pronouns for your partner, people should figure it out. I’ve had exactly one coworker ask about it – everyone else just follows my lead. :)

    2. MM*

      This really seems like something you should talk with your wife about? Ultimately the authority on whether she wants to be out to her wife’s coworkers is her. It sure seems like if she’s not out to her own coworkers, it’d be a hell of a leap to out her to yours; but maybe she sees it differently. Am I misunderstanding you here? Have you already asked her what she wants on this front, and your question is about something else?

      1. Wearing Many Hats*

        Yes, of course I’ve asked her!! She is fine and wants to be known as my wife, I just don’t know the best way to go about it once she’s out at her workplace. Her HR department has a plan in place for announcing it at her workplace, but that isn’t relevant in my workplace. I figured I’d just casually mention it in conversation when it came up? Perhaps I’m overthinking this…

        1. Ella*

          I think it might work well to give any people you are especially close with a heads up. Not a huge, dramatic announcement, but a quick “by the way, my spouse is transitioning so if you hear me refer to her with she/her pronouns that’s why!” At that point the information is out there enough that if someone is confused they can likely find out what’s up, but you don’t have to make a big dramatic announcement. (Unless you two would like to make a dramatic announcement, in which case I suggest a “congrats to my wife on her transition!” banner over your desk and/or a fancy office wide e-card :D)

          1. Wearing Many Hats*

            Ahhh the banner would be magical and frankly par for the course at my last position! Thanks for the reasonable suggestions too. :)

    3. Mine Own Telemachus*

      I’d ask her what she’d like you to do/say! You’re handling this together, but you need to be careful not to out her, too.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      Hi Wearing Many Hats!

      I’m here as an ally, but one of my coworkers, Mary, recently informed us that her partner, Jane, transitioned. Mary waited awhile (about a year) to tell us. She basically grabbed the 5 of us in her department that work most closely with her and had a 10 minute meeting scheduled (we weren’t in there that long!). It was awkward, but totally fine. She also let us know what she would and wouldn’t appreciate from us (yes to helping spread the word in the office, no to personal questions about how she’s dealing with it and sex life – which she pointed out are things she has never chosen to discuss with us!, etc.).

      That was a couple months ago; since then Mary has hosted one small party with that original group of coworkers where we officially met Jane for the first time. At my birthday party recently they met some more coworkers. And then we have a company event in May that Mary and Jane plan to attend (so she’ll meet everyone else then). Mary has reached out to a few of us about kind of being a buffer and hanging out with them for the company event.

      Mary said that it was super hard to keep it quiet (she felt like she was lying to us a lot), but it also helped her to not be focusing on other people’s feelings/reactions while she worked on her feelings and while she was supporting Jane as she came out to her friends, family, coworkers.

      Our workplace is also very LGBTQ+ friendly, and everyone in that initial meeting Mary personally knows pretty well (I’m the newest member of our department and I’ve been here 4 years!) and she was confident we would all be fine with it, which I’m sure makes a huge difference.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          It was honestly probably a good thing to mention on her part. The downsides of the “we’re all friends/basically family/really close!” workplaces where everyone has been working there “forever”…

        2. Story Nurse*

          There are cultural assumptions that being queer or trans or polyam is all about sex and sexuality, so sometimes when you come out, people think that you are opening a conversation about sex and that means they get to ask you sex-related things. When I came out as polyam at another company years ago, I got a whole bunch of “So do you all share a bed or…?” questions from colleagues who would not dream of asking a man whether his wife liked to be on top.

    5. Autumnal*

      I cleared this with my partner of course, but I legit just made an announcement at a staff meeting after my spouse came out as trans.

      I said “my partner recently came out as trans, so while you might’ve heard me refer to my wife/Jane in the past, you’ll now hear me refer to my husband/Jack.”

      My work environment and department is very affirming, so obviously individual mileage may vary, but I found an upbeat, factual statement headed off a lot of awkward questions.

    6. anonymoushiker*

      I’m not an expert (not an out trans person though I do have some gender fluidity) but perhaps ask your partner what they would prefer? It might be that they don’t want to disclose until they might see your co-workers again?

    7. CisWife of TransWife*

      My wife has been transitioning for about a year. To make it slightly more complicated, she worked pre-transition for the same company I do, in an area where some of my direct coworkers have their offices.

      With my wife’s blessing, shortly after she came out to her own direct coworkers (which was a few weeks before her contract was up), I told my own co-workers in small groups. Like when I was in the office suite with the set of co-workers who sit near her anyway, or at lunch.

      I basically just said, “you may hear through the grapevine but ‘old name’ is transitioning. She is going by ‘new name’ now and using she/her pronouns. This is a big change, obviously, but we’re not making any other big decisions in the near future. I don’t want this to be a Thing at work, but I did want you to know since we often talk about our families.”

      My coworkers have been great. It’s helpful that my company actively requires all employees to attend a series of diversity/inclusion workshops which includes a general LGBTQ+ one, and a trans-specific optional one.

    8. crimson41*

      just a reply to say THANK YOU for having your pronouns in your email signature. i’m currently trying to navigate coming out with my pronouns at work, and if more cis people did this it would be soooo much easier.

    9. Róisín*

      I don’t know if this exactly will work, but when I started my current job no one explicitly told me “this server is trans” — they just all used female pronouns as if it were totally normal (which it is!) and I double-checked my hearing with one of them (“she?” “she.”) and then that was that. We have an awesome culture of just modeling correct behavior to new employees, subtly correcting their pronoun usage (“Riley said she’s stuck in traffic” “Oh, so *he* is going to be late?”), and only having an explicit “this person is trans” conversation if it’s absolutely necessary. It hasn’t ever been absolutely necessary, although I did get close with one girl whose response to seeing the trans server was “I didn’t see boobs though”.

      Possibly it will be enough to just start modeling behavior. You’ve already switched to spouse/partner, so if you started using her pronouns as much as possible and then slowly switched into “wife”, it might be clear enough for most folks without having to make a big production of it. Just slowly turn up the obviousness to “glaring” if that doesn’t cut it!

  15. Caleb (they/them)*

    I second the comment about coming out as trans at work. I’m non-binary, but not out, and I’d love to hear other non-binary trans people’s stories about coming out and transitioning. Did it generally go well? What was the hardest? How did the company support you, if at all? Did they provide any training for your coworkers? Were your coworkers weird afterwards?What did you do if there wasn’t a gender neutral bathroom? It’s really hard to find resources and people’s experiences with this, so thank you Allison! And thank you to everyone who shares.

    1. Steve (they/them)*

      For context: I am gender-queer (I dress masculine but don’t plan on any body changes). I work in a very typically masculine workplace (tech) and would really appreciate the use of they/them at work. But I don’t know how to have that conversation with people! My workplace can be quite traditional in some ways (the old guy just now who wouldn’t go through the door first because I’m a “lady” – I responded in a pleasant tone that I’m no fuckin’ lady). Yet I also did my performance evaluation using ‘they/them’ and my boss noticed, and asked if I would appreciate him writing up his part with ‘they/them’ – awesome!

      There is a course offered by my government (link in a reply), and everyone in my workplace is expected to take it. So there is more awareness. But how that translates to the working environment is… still a work in progress. On the positive side, I know of several policies which are being revisited because they disadvantage some groups and priorities need to be made for people with disabilities (in order to make things more equal), and I also know of a case where an old man was harassing a young woman and many complaints were made by witnesses and he’s being reprimanded (the harassed person wasn’t sure about making a complaint so it’s wonderful that everyone else supported her by taking the initiative and doing the work). Yet I also know of inequalities and questionable comments, so… still a work in progress.

      1. Hester Mae (she/her)*

        Ugh, there was a mix-up w our EEO/affirmative action training emails, so some people were taking it in a hurry and my boss told them how to skip all the reading. Which sucked , because for the first time mentioned diversity and gender presentation.
        Not that sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation is protected here in my state.
        It was sad how thrilled I was the training included that.

    2. Genderflux Capacitor (they/them)*

      I am non-binary and sort of out at work. I told HR my preferred but not legal name, and they set my stuff up with it when I started. I didn’t talk about my pronouns with them. No one gave me any trouble about my name, even though my now boss met me as my legal name during the interview. My preferred name is kinda androgynous, but not really used by people of my assigned gender. No one’s really said anything.

      I’m not exactly out to management, but I’m not hiding. I’ve told the coworkers I socialize with in passing, and some of them use my pronouns. I don’t enforce my pronoun usage because that’s just too irritating to deal with every day. I never really CAME OUT. I would just sort of mention it to people when the context allowed. Like, “as a non-binary person who isn’t actually male or female, this thing is weird and not applicable to me.” Something like that.

      I use the bathroom of my assigned gender because there aren’t gender neutral bathrooms here. I’m not medically transitioning at this point, so I don’t see any reason to change bathrooms. If I start medically transitioning and being read as the other binary gender, I will think about changing bathrooms and talk to my boss.

      Also, when I started adding select coworkers to Facebook, I made a general reminder post that I am non-binary and use they/them pronouns. I do that every so often anyway when I’ve added a significant number of new people. Some people saw it, picked up on it, and have inconsistently implemented it.

      Let me know if you have any questions about my specific experience, and I’ll do my best to answer.

    3. Alton*

      I work in academia, and have had mostly positive experiences. I struggled at first with how out to be and how casually I could do it–I’m not medically transitioning, so I didn’t feel comfortable initiating formal conversations about my gender. But I work in a setting where stuff like listing your pronouns in your email signature isn’t unusual, so I just quietly did that.

      The issues I’ve encountered are mainly 1) due to the way bureaucracy and administrative stuff works in academia, my options when it comes to stuff like having my preferred name on my ID are limited and 2) I work with a lot of people, and the people who don’t know me very well or who work in areas where they aren’t as exposed to LGBT people and issues tend to misgender me more.

      I’ve realized that for me, a really important thing is to work in an environment where gender non-conformity (whether in trans or cis people) isn’t verboten. It would really bother me to work somewhere where dressing masculinely would be a major issue.

    4. Story Nurse*

      I posted about my experiences a bit in the thread above about coming out as trans. It went really well! The hardest thing has been the long tail of pronoun correction, but we’re five years on and everyone’s pretty solid on it at this point. The company didn’t provide any training for my coworkers, and it didn’t occur to me to suggest it.

      The bathrooms here are gendered. I’m short and FAAB and generally feel safer using the women’s room, but I’ve had some awkward encounters. (Woman: “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was the women’s room!” Me, in a suit: “It is! Come on in.”) I do have a mental list of businesses nearby with nongendered bathrooms if I just can’t deal with the binary that day.

    5. TyphoidMary*

      My experience coming out at work started out fine: They did their best to respect my pronouns, had a gender-neutral bathroom, etc. It was a healthcare office specifically geared toward serving queer/trans/GNC folks so I had high hopes. I was the only trans person on staff.

      My boss was cis. The minute I mentioned in a meeting that we needed to re-examine some of our procedures because I kept getting misgendered on the website in big ways (like, ways that affected my ability to find clients), she took me behind closed doors and reamed me out and basically was like “how dare you question my commitment to trans visibility, you need to learn to handle your triggers better, you’re gonna get misgendered and you need to get used to it.” When I tried to get some support (just, like, emotional support, not asking for action), my cis queer coworkers were basically like “I don’t wanna hear about it” to protect their own asses, which, fine, I get it.

      So. My general approach is: be out, use your pronouns, but expect nothing from “allies”. Connect with other trans folk in and outside the workplace. Know your legal rights, and know exactly who your HR person is.

      I’m sorry to be so pessimistic but for real, y’all, it’s not always a picnic being out at work.

  16. Waterbeet*

    I’m a straight ally myself (so not sure I’m 100% eligible for this thread), but hope this situation is relevant. My teenage kid came out recently as trans. I am in what I thought was a diverse and friendly workplace, where we don’t spend a lot of time discussing personal matters, but it is pretty normal to keep up on each other’s major family developments. I told a few people at work (after confirming with my son he definitely wanted to be referred to with his preferred name and gender in all contexts going forward). My boss then took me aside and told me that this wasn’t an appropriate subject for the workplace and that he had “multiple complaints” I had made people uncomfortable. I guess I can just keep myself to myself, as the saying goes, going forward, except that my coworkers (who don’t know yet about his transition) keep asking about my “daughter” or referring to my son by his old female name, so answering in any way puts me in the position of…lying? Erasing his identity? Appearing rude by suddenly being closed-lipped about my family when I had previously been warm and friendly? Also, shouldn’t my boss be telling the people who complained to stuff it? I would prefer to find another job at this point because I am feeling very unwelcome, but am in a very specialized industry so that is going to take some time. (Small company here, no HR, and while we have anti-discrimination policies they seem to apply only to the employee and not to discussion surrounding family members.)

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Ugh, what a gross thing for your boss to say!

      Have these coworkers met your son, esp. pre-transition? If not, in your position I might just gently correct them by saying “No, I’m sorry, I don’t have a daughter, I have a son named [X].” Unless they push, there’s no reason to specifically mention transition. In other words, take your boss rather literally at his word that the transition is (somehow! ugh ugh ugh) inappropriate for work, but limit your interpretation to that and carry on with completely normal and ordinary talking about your kids at work discussions.

      1. LizB*

        Yeah. If you had a daughter named Anna and your co-workers kept referring to her as Ashley, it would be totally work-appropriate to say “Oh actually my daughter’s name is Anna.” It’s no less work-appropriate to say “Oh actually my son’s name is Adam.” And then if they ask you follow-up questions, answering honestly is also totally appropriate.

        Your boss is a tool and should absolutely tell the complainers to stuff it.

        1. General Ginger*

          I’m wondering if there actually are complainers, or just the boss projecting his own crap, but that doesn’t really change my answer: correct them. There’s nothing inappropriate about correcting coworkers on your child’s name.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      There’s a lot here so I’ll do my best to answer some of the questions you’ve put forward.

      1. Definitely don’t lie about your son and don’t deadname him even when he’s not there. It doesn’t seem like you’re doing it but you have a son so when you talk about your son, you’re going to be using the correct name and pronouns just as you did when you had a daughter.

      2. Your boss should definitely 100% be telling people to stuff it and if you’re able to I would go back and tell boss that they should be doing this. Your boss is asking your not to talk about your family and since you, and everyone else, has been doing that it is deeply unfair and a ridiculous ask. You’re talking about your son, not your latest vajazzle.

      3. And this is more of a personal note, are you talking to someone about your son’s transition? And is he talking to someone? It’s very difficult to make the adjustment and it’s important to be able to talk to a professional about the changes and your feelings so that you can be there for your child.

      Good luck with all of this.

    3. GirlCalledBob*

      Personally, I’d be questioning if the complaints actually happened, or if the boss is the one that’s actually uncomfortable, especially if you feel like you didn’t really get negative reactions from coworkers. Which doesn’t make it any better, I suppose.

      As for how to handle it, I would just keep being passively honest about it – by which I mean, never actually do the whole ‘my son came out as trans’ subject, but switch over to the right name and pronouns and let other people figure it out. Then if they’re really so offended and uncomfortable, they can just stop asking you about it. If you get confusion, a simple, ‘oh, no, he’s going by (Son’s name) now’ and move on?

    4. OhGee*

      Ugh. This is awful. I think you will do right by your son if you correct people (“How’s your daughter?” “My son is doing fine.”) without going deep in to conversation about transitioning. I think that really sucks, and I’m troubled that your boss isn’t backing you up here, but I think treating this as a normal, no big deal thing is the right way to go. I’m so glad you’re supporting your son.

      1. OhGee*

        I think many people are especially judgemental about young people coming out as transgender, and that fills me with rage, because most of my trans friends have known since they were in elementary school but didn’t come out until they were in their 30s.

      2. Lynne*

        Yes, casually correcting pronouns in context of conversation is the easiest way to do it, when the opportunity presents itself. I still get so nervous about squeezing it in, or whether there will be an opportunity to do so naturally, or what even to say.

        My child is younger and fluid/nonbinary right now. (And might always be. It would be super awesome for all allies to remember that that gender fluid can be a thing, and not just some stage of a journey. Many do remember/accept that, and it’s so much easier when they do!) I work in a pretty progressive place filled with mostly progressive people. But that doesn’t mean that every person is, or that there aren’t people who are otherwise progressive but still kind of transphobic. I am cis, so I don’t know what it’s like to navigate that environment as a trans person. But as the parent of a young trans person, I have so much anxiety about how to say things, who to correct, who is “safe”, etc. You know, your kid is your heart, but out in the world instead of protected by your ribcage. Part of my anxiety is that my kid’s pronouns might eventually change. I don’t know. What happens if I correct people, and then have to correct them again next year? I guess I know what happens — I do it, and it’s done, and whether it feels hard to me isn’t relevant. But it does make things feel easier to me when people just casually accept any corrections as casually as I offer them. I literally don’t know how to react when someone is overly apologetic for misgendering my kid.

    5. King Friday XIII*

      Agreeing with everyone else – casually correct for “son” and “correct name” and if anyone pushes back on THAT well, I’d probablly fall back on “I’ve been told it makes people uncomfortable when I mention my children” with a passive-aggressive tone. XD

    6. KR*

      Trans people please correct me if this is wrong, but when people ask about your child could you say, “Oh, Sue actually goes by John now. He recently came out as trans.” And if people ask you more questions you can either answer them as much as you’re comfortable or say, “It’s personal to John but (website) has a lot of really good information about what you’re asking. ” You could also add something like, “We’re all very proud of him” or something. Or to your work friends you could potentially say something like, “Want to catch up over lunch/coffee? I’d love to tell you how everyone is doing.” Also I would check with your son on how much he wants you to talk about the nitty gritty of his gender identity at work. And yes, your boss should not have said that to you. If talking about your family at work makes people uncomfortable they need to mind their own business and focus on work.

      1. Róisín*

        Preface: I am not trans. I am fluid, my best friend and girlfriend are both trans.

        I wouldn’t think you’d even have to say that second part. “Oh, Sue is going by John these days” should pretty much cover it without having to get explicit about why or when this change happened. I admit it’s definitely a culture thing in my neck of the woods to not explicitly say “so-and-so is trans”, so it might be different elsewhere. But it feels weirdly aggressive to me personally, to spell it out like that. Like, if you don’t make it a big deal, other people will follow your lead.

    7. AnonyMs.*

      Your boss is a jackass, first and foremost. Second, this recently (as in, last week) came up with one of my co-workers. We were in a car going somewhere and he mentioned that he and his wife had just completed the official name change for his son. He and I are not that close at all, so it hadn’t come up before. My sister is trans, so at the very least, I knew I could provide some family member perspective, which I shared with him and he seemed to appreciate it.

      Honestly, I think the suggestions offered above are excellent. Also… I wonder if your boss may be projecting a little and this is actually not the Giant Huge Deal he’s making it out to be? Essentially everything GirlCalledBob said.

    8. BRR*

      I don’t know if it would actually help but do you live in a city or state that protects gender identity? You know your boss better than I do, what would happen if you just continued to gently correct people on name and pronouns? If it gets brought up again, what would happen if you said your coworkers’s [a gentler synonym for intolerance or complaints] are making you uncomfortable?

    9. Juli G.*

      When you do depart, consider saying that the reaction to your son’s transition was a major factor in your decision to leave.

    10. Waterbeet*

      This community is SO GREAT!!! Really appreciate the helpful advice as well as all the validation that my boss (and coworkers, if they really said anything negative – I also have my doubts about that) shouldn’t be acting this way. Yes, I think I am just going to use my son’s preferred name and pronouns casually in conversation from now on when people ask how my kids are doing or ask about him by his deadname, and if anyone expresses confusion I can just breezily say, “Oh yeah, he transitioned recently and is now going by [newname],” and then move on to the next topic. We’re a very busy workplace so we’re talking about a couple minutes of smalltalk here and there – people tend to ask about my kids/family maybe once or twice a week. And again, if my boss (and/or others) continue to be hostile I can think about if this is really the right workplace for me in the long-term. Also, for those who asked, my son is doing great from everything I can see! He’d been suffering from debilitating anxiety and depression for years and, while transitioning isn’t a 100% cure-all, he has been so much happier since coming out and is looking to the future with hope instead of despair.

      1. iglwif*

        That’s awesome to hear that your son is happier now!!

        You are a good parent and your boss is a giant douchecanoe. (And I also bet he’s making up the complaints from co-workers.)

      2. tinyhipsterboy*

        I’m really glad for your son! I’ll keep my fingers crossed things continue to get better for him.

        (If your boss tries to reprimand you again and you feel like you have the capital to spend… well, it depends on if he singles out you mentioning a transition or if it’s talking about your son at all, but you could push back along the lines of “That’s weird. Jenny was telling me about her son Joey caught the flu yesterday; is there a new policy that we shouldn’t talk about our children?”. It might come off unnecessarily hostile, though. :/ )

  17. Meg*

    Is there a polite/best way as a small business owner to ask someone you contract work to what their preferred pronouns are? I have a newish independent contractor I work with and when I hired them a few months back they let me know they are changing their first name from a traditionally feminine name to a masculine one. They also dress and style in a fairly masculine way. We always use the name they prefer in our system and I was using masculine pronouns but a client they work with recently used “she” in an email and now I’m wondering if I’ve been impolite by assuming. I grew up fairly sheltered but want to be supportive! Also if this person prefers the masculine is there a polite way to correct the client or would you let it go?

    1. Jigglypuff*

      It’s okay to just ask, “What are your preferred pronouns?” Obviously this is less awkward right when you meet someone, but you can still do that now. As for the client, I think I’d let your contractor take care of that themselves. Some people (my spouse included) choose not to fight that battle if they don’t personally care whether the person misgenders them. My spouse and I will correct health care workers, family members, and some coworkers, but we leave waitstaff and retail staff alone, for example, since our interactions with them are more rare.

      1. OhGee*

        Agree – it’s okay to ask. Keep it succinct and don’t make it about you. Use their pronouns moving forward, and if you make a mistake, correct yourself without making a big deal about it. And I agree that you can either let your contractor handle it OR, even better, ask them if they want you to correct people when that happens.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      Are you able to ask them their preferred pronouns in person? I feel like it’s less awkward to ask that way.

    3. Sleepy*

      Something simple—“By the way, what pronouns do you prefer? I recently realized I never asked when we first met and I wanted to fix that.”

      1. A Tired Queer*

        This! For what it’s worth, I’ve always thought that “Hey, by the way, what pronouns should I call you / do you prefer?” sounds much better to me than “What are your preferred pronouns?” IDK, it’s a more natural-sounding, informal and friendly phrasing.

        1. Mine Own Telemachus*

          Yup, I typically ask “what pronouns do you use?” as that’s a more natural way to say it.

          OP, I might even give it some context for your contractor if there’s been a lag between them switching names and now, and explain that you realized you should make sure you’re using the right pronouns with clients too. That will give you the opportunity to ask as a follow up about how they want you to correct your clients when they misgender.

          We had a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns at my last job, and our clients would often refer to them as “she” or “him” depending on how the client interpreted their gender-neutral name. I asked them what they’d like me to do, and they said that in the course of a quick phone call, there’s no need to correct, but if it’s consistent, a simple “Actually, Eliot goes by ‘they’ pronouns” would suffice.

    4. lulu*

      Just a note that i’ve heard trans people who prefer the phrasing: “what are your pronouns?” to “what are your preferred pronouns?”. But yes i agree with everyone, asking them is the way to go.

      1. Jessica*

        Thanks Lulu!

        I was just going to say pronouns aren’t a preference, they are a fact; so a better way to phrase a question is “by the way X what are your pronouns/ What pronouns should i use for you?”

        that way it doesn’t seem like “Cis people have pronouns, Trans people have preferences”

        1. Story Nurse*

          Splitting hairs a bit: binary pronouns are not correct for me, but there are multiple correct options, and within that category of correct options I have preferences. For example, I personally prefer e/em over they/them, but more people are familiar with they/them, so I go with they/them in most cases. “Fact” and “preference” aren’t mutually exclusive.

          Seconding that “what are your pronouns” or “what should I call you” are the best phrasings I’ve encountered.

    5. Janie*

      “Pronouns” are better than “preferred pronouns”. It suggests your correct pronouns are a “preference” instead of something they HAVE to use.

    6. CatMom*

      Jumping in as a non binary person to add: don’t use “preferred” – some people take offense because it can imply that they aren’t *really* your pronouns, just the ones you *like*. You can just ask “what are your pronouns?” or “what pronouns do you use?”

      I know it might feel awkward, but if this person is, in fact, changing their pronouns, they will most likely appreciate the question!

      1. Tau*

        never to mention that some of us would prefer someone inventing a time machine to go visit Great Britain at certain formative points in its linguistic history and eradicate gendered pronouns altogether, and if you can’t manage that then at least just avoid pronouns in reference to us entirely, but if you absolutely must insist I guess you can use [X].

    7. Just wondering*

      Make it a habit of asking *everyone* their pronouns and then use a phrasing something like “I always make sure to ask people: what are your pronouns? I use [say yours].”

      This phrasing and always asking the question prevents people from feeling like they are being singled out.

    8. Molly*

      Our office trains staff to use they/them pronouns unless we know someone’s pronouns, and we start meetings and introduce ourselves in professional contexts by first offering our preferred pronouns and asking everyone to do this

    9. Emma*

      If you still feel awkward asking directly, you could consider saying something like “by the way, I’ve been using ‘he’ pronouns because of your first name, but please let me know if I should be doing something else!”. That can sometimes feel less like you’re drawing attention to someone’s gender presentation.

  18. Zap R.*

    Any other queer women feel stifled by the expectation to always be made up and “feminine” in their workplace? Some days I have no problem putting a face on but other days makeup makes me feel like an imposter and I feel awful wearing it all day long.

    1. Eirene*

      I’m a lesbian, but mostly I feel the need to wear makeup and have my hair done when I come into the office because I’m fat, and if I were to show up in a messy bun with no makeup, I’d be perceived as sloppy.

      1. mostlymanaged*

        This is a huge mood– I’d love to shave off all my hair but I’m big and don’t want to be perceived poorly ):. As far as I can tell there aren’t any other lesbians in my office– and all the women have shoulder length hair or longer, so I don’t want to step outside the norm. Especially because my job involves a lot of client facing and presentation work.

      2. Clawfoot*

        Yep. This is also why I never participate in “casual Fridays” and wear jeans. Jeans on a fat body are too often read as “sloppy,” no matter how nice the blouse, jewelry, or makeup are.

      3. Zap R.*

        Big mood. I had a former boss who used to give me a hard time when I did Casual Fridays.

    2. Jigglypuff*

      My workplace protects gender expression in addition to identity/orientation, so I present however I want, which is mostly androgynous/butch. A lot of my coworkers present more feminine (makeup, dresses, etc.), but that’s not me and it doesn’t seem necessary for my job (cubicle and not front-facing), so I don’t bother.

    3. A.B.*

      I did until fairly recently- this past year I’ve been wearing a lot more butch-leaning looks overall, no makeup, and my hair situation is a little wonky but it isn’t what I would consider feminine-ly polished. My issue has been trying to find the sweet spot where I feel comfortable with my look being mainly influenced by more masculine fashion but at the same time I have a little more flexibility with adding some feminine stuff in because masculine fashion has fewer options for a business casual workplace. I feel like sometimes I don’t look as automatically polished as I would in a dress but for the most part I haven’t experienced any pushback and the peace of mind I’ve experienced from not wearing dresses and instead wearing clothes I feel good in has been…nice.

    4. Mine Own Telemachus*


      I’m a soft butch, and don’t wear make up because I honestly can’t be bothered most days and my skin is fine.

      In my last job, my boss, who hewed very closely to traditionally feminine beauty standards, would make some subtle and not so subtle comments about how I looked better with make up on, and I realized that my butch gender presentation was contributing to a negative reputation in the office that I was standoffish, cold, and blunt. I definitely felt like I was being punished for not presenting as traditionally feminine. It was a huge struggle for me, because I don’t WANT to present as something I’m not, and I’m in a city where gender identity and expression are protected categories. But I still felt that pressure.

      I don’t have a clue how to solve the problem, as I ended up leaving that job about six months after those comments started, and now work from home.

    5. Sled dog mama*

      Straight cis woman here but yes. I had never attached the word stifled to the feeling but that is exactly it.

        1. Sled dog mama*

          Sorry I was trying to say that queer women are not the only ones who experience this feeling and thank the OP for giving me a word to describe a feeling I share about a workplace norm.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t think this is a **queer** woman problem. I think it’s a woman’s problem.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I am a late in life lesbian who has always hated dressing high heels and makeup and long hair. When those expectations stifled me before I came out to myself, it was always about that damn double standard that men didn’t have to wear heels or makeup to look “professional”.

    7. EasyMac*

      Adding to this–where do I find nice button-downs for women that don’t cost an arm and a leg but aren’t made of vinalon or whatever? How do I find androgynous work clothes?

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I’m in love with NY&C’s button down shirts. The list price is often expensive, but wait a little and they’ll have a 40% off sale…and if you buy enough then they give you money back to buy more things. They run small, though; I’m a medium, sometimes small, and I wear x-small in their shirts.
        Also H&M sometimes has really soft comfy very professional button-downs

      2. Story Nurse*

        1) Buy men’s shirts at Goodwill/on eBay and have them tailored. Usually cheaper than having shirts custom-made. If you’re on the small side, look into boys’ L/XL or 16/18 shirts; lots of moms on eBay are selling their teen boys’ worn-once-for-graduation dress shirts for pennies. Most of my favorite men’s shirts are boys’ shirts.

        2) The Shirt. Not cheap, but two or three plus a blazer plus a mid-week laundry day will get you pretty far, and their sale section is extensive.

        3) My favorite androgynous work shirt is the turtleneck. Frequently worn by both men and women, can be found in a million colors and sizes, accommodates most shapes while not accentuating curves, doesn’t need ironing (brilliant for traveling to conferences!), looks great with slacks and a blazer, can be worn with a chunky necklace or a men’s v-neck sweater/cardigan if you want to lean toward one gender or the other. I even have lightweight short-sleeve turtlenecks for summer. Most of my turtlenecks will fit me both when I bind and when I don’t, which is SO IMPORTANT because maintaining two sets of clothes is a pretty major expense and takes up a lot of closet space.

        4) Accessorize! Wear a tie with a blouse. Wear a flatcap or a fedora with a dress or pantsuit. Go with big chunky jewelry over delicate filigree. Wear men’s shoes; if you wear small sizes, Tomboy Toes are great, and Payless has some cheap men’s shoes down to size 5. If you’re short, look into men’s shoes with lifts—I have men’s dress shoes with 3″ lifts and they totally transform how I’m seen, though they’re hard on the knees, so I don’t wear them often.

        And remember that you see your body differently than anyone else does. It doesn’t take much for an outside observer to perceive you as androgynous/masculine. You’ll be fine. <3

      3. Sparky McDragon*

        From the chain stores I’ve had success with Brooks Brothers no iron dress shirts, j crew is also good for button downs I also like Kirrin Finch shirts but they are more of a birthday or Christmas present ask in terms of pricing.

        1. Sparky McDragon*

          I also like dapperQ and autostraddle’s find your fit for style inspiration.

    8. spiral cat*

      It’s stressful. I don’t wear makeup and I present more masculine, so I feel pressure to wear jewelry/find accent clothes that are colorful to help pre-emptively avoid coworkers’ questions about my sexuality and gender.

    9. Jarffe*

      I made the conscious decision before I started my current job to just never wear makeup. I’m lucky in that no makeup is acceptable and not very noteworthy in my industry. I read as rather feminine though as I have very long hair. But Im thinking of cutting my hair and getting a ‘butch’ haircut which makes me super nervous as that would probably out me more then I’m comfortable with.

    10. curly sue*

      I avoided the issue entirely by going into stage tech and academia, both places where the pressure can go in the opposite direction and women who wear visible mainstream cosmetics are often not taken seriously. But I tend towards sweaters rather than button-ups and blazers, and I have a lot of earrings, which moves the needle back towards ‘female faculty who is too busy Thinking Deep Thoughts to bother with makeup and hair.’

      (God, I hate the professorial stereotypes. In many ways they’re just as stifling as high-femme office dress codes – I just happen to fit this mould more closely.)

    11. Kat Maps*

      Yes! I work in the arts sector and we frequently facilitate a lot of workshops and events. I tend to wear more fem-business attire to present/facilitate. So often, though, I’ll see queer-presenting folks who attend these workshops and I just feel like an imposter and think ‘I wish I could also be read as queer right now’.

    12. Another J Name (she/her)*

      Ha, I have the opposite problem. I’m in tech, and women in my workplace mostly just seem to stop wearing makeup after a while. And almost *nobody* wears skirts or dresses; all pants, all the time. Problem for me is, I’m a trans woman and I just recently transitioned. Wearing pants makes me look too much like my old presentation in the mirror for comfort; I feel way better in skirts and dresses. And I *must* wear makeup because of bad dysphoria around beard shadow, until hair removal finishes up. I actively checked in with my (rather feminine-presenting cis woman) manager, and she encouraged me to wear these things anyway. But it’s not typical for my workplace at all.

    13. Kathleen M*

      RIGHT HERE! I am soft butch, almost 6 feet tall with short hair. If I wear dresses, I look like i’m in drag so I do a lot of sweaters and slacks. I will not wear makeup. I am the only gay person where I work.

    14. Deanna Troi*

      Yep. I’m very lucky in that I work mostly in areas where going make up free and wearing a button up is seen as fashionable and presentable, but there are totally times when people expect me to get more ‘dolled up’ or whatever. Events are really tough – formal wear is a total mine field.

  19. Dadolwch*

    Sort of similar to SaffyTaffy’s situation, I recently discovered that a local business that our organization has used extensively for offsite meetings (it’s a coffee shop with multiple conference and meeting rooms) is owned by a church that is anti-LGBTQ. I was torn for quite a while on whether or not to even bring it up as a concern with our VP, because while I respect (if don’t agree with) the church’s right to run their business according to their values, as a gay person who is also on our organization’s diversity and equity committee, I strong feel we should not be giving our support to businesses (because in this case it IS a business, not a church) that are discriminatory. Well, I finally decided to bring it up gently with our VP that I did have some concerns about their stance and how that aligns with our commitment to inclusion and equity, and I’m happy to report that we have begun to find other venues for our meetings.

    I guess my point in sharing this is that, if we want to see positive change, we have to be willing to have those conversations. Of course, each workplace is different and how these kinds of conversations go will vary, and it may be too risky at some places for employees to out themselves or even be seen as allies, but I also believe that nothing will change unless we work for it. Whether it’s an anti-LGBTQ business your workplace partners with or a toxic workplace culture, I’ve found from personal experience that I’m rarely the only one bothered by such things. There is a lot of power in finding allies and presenting your case respectfully and with an attitude towards finding alternative solutions. We can make a difference if we have the courage to try!

  20. Lee*

    I’ve realized as a bisexual woman married to a man I have to make a point of mentioning my sexuality soon after getting job. It is frustrating to know if I don’t bring up something more personal (how I experience attraction and sexual desire, not just my relationship) in a professional environment. But if I don’t, then I’m likely going to face comments, also in what is suppose to be a professional setting, about gross or weird LGBTQ people in general or greedy, cheating, bi+ people specifically (I’ve had to deal with both in situations where I haven’t already purposely brought up my sexuality.) It is annoying, but maybe if I do it then someone else won’t have to.

    1. Always a nurse*

      Maybe I’m naïve…. but I think the issue of being bisexual but married to someone “of the opposite sex” is actually sort of a non-issue. (I am heterosexual, if it’s important.) I have never considered a co-worker’s sex life in that sort of detail. I assume that people who identify as having a partner, no matter what gender, are most likely having sexual relations with said partner, but even that is none of my business. So, if a woman I worked with has a male partner, I don’t spend any time at all wondering if she’d also be interested in sometime having a female partner. And if a woman I work with has a female partner, I don’t spend any time wondering if there would be a situation in which she’d might decide to have a male partner. It really is none of my business.

      1. One (1) Anon*

        I mean … that’s a good thing, for you, but

        a) there are plenty of people who do think it is their business to judge, often in cruel, hurtful ways, and
        b) considering people only as far as the gender of their current partner goes ignores the fact that, for many of us, being bisexual is a long history of experiences and changes. It’s an actual identity. Being told “oh, I don’t care!”, while well-meaning when coming from you, is actually saying “oh, your identity doesn’t actually matter”. Does that make sense?

        1. Always a nurse*

          I think I understand your point. I don’t really think of my sexual orientation as being central to my identity, but that could be because it is conforming. Perhaps that is a form of “privilege” I haven’t considered before. I guess I still feel it would be odd for a coworker to insist on being acknowledged as bisexual, or asexual, if there wasn’t any reason for me to know the details of their private life, but if that characteristic was important to their identity, it makes a bit more sense. I

          1. One (1) Anon*

            Ah, here’s the thing! Being bisexual isn’t something I insist on keeping private. It’s part of who I am, and being acknowledged and recognized as such is actually a very big deal for me — I was self-closeted for so long that saying it aloud is a very great relief and a form of self-affirmation, and I’ve met with so much blowback from both family (most of whom have thankfully thought better of it) and supposed friends and social peers that going “no, screw it, I’m queer and I’m not going to hide it” helps to construct my identity as well.

            I’m not bisexual in private. I’m bisexual in public, too.

            A lot of LGBT+ people feel that way. Many straight folks don’t necessarily understand why, because to them being straight is just … the default. Nobody questions it, nobody shames them for it, they’re never told that it’s just a phase or that they don’t know their own feelings. By contrast, LGBT+ people have found joy and self-discovery in the act of saying “this is who I am”. That’s the whole concept of Pride: finding purchase and community in knowing that who you are isn’t wrong, and that you’re not alone.

          2. The Forgotten Orientation*

            I am aro/ace and it’s often necessary for me to come out as aromantic because people are nosy. I worked at this one place where there were a few co-workers who would obviously try to figure it out, by incessantly asking me about my current relationship status, roommate situation – even dating history!. (But I didn’t come out to them!) A few well-meaning friends offered to set up dating profiles for me, and since I didn’t want to lie to them, I just came out instead – as in “No thanks, I’m aro ace!”

            I work in an LGBTQA friendly place and I was still closeted at work for a long time, because people just don’t get it. Even people on the LGBTQA spectrum themselves would ask me if perhaps I just hadn’t met the right person yet? And what if – WHAT IF – I fell in love someday, would I just close myself off to the possibility of love?!! People just do not get what “aromantic” means.

            Of course, coming out is also annoying, because I have to basically give a master’s thesis about what it means to be aro ace, so I only reserve this for people I’m close to. Right now, people I work closely with know that I’m aro ace, and this works for me. They’ve stopped trying to figure out my nonexistent relationship status, and I don’t get annoyed by intrusive questions, and they learn that aro aces exist. Everyone wins!

            1. Kelsi*

              Yes! This is a very frustrating thing. I’m aroace with a QP partner, which makes some things better (nobody’s trying to set me up with their friends or telling me how to get dates) but some things worse (people making a lot of shitty assumptions about me, my relationship, and my partner; being weird about it that my partner is not necessarily my go-to plus one, because aren’t ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS the MOST IMPORTANT???!!!1!; and some bonus “I knew it was just a phase/you just needed to meet the right person” grossness).

      2. Kelsi*

        That’s not really a helpful response to Lee expressing that she’s been subjected to harmful comments when people didn’t know that she was bi.

        It’s not about whether you feel it’s your business or not–it’s about the kinds of things people say and do when they assume you’re straight.

      3. NotStraight*

        It’s not about coworkers considering or commenting on our sex lives, at least in my bi-woman-married-to-a-dude experience.

        It’s really uncomfortable to have someone make derogatory remarks to you about a marginalized group to which you belong because they don’t know you belong to it.

        Because I don’t visibly match the idea of what a queer person looks like, people assume I’m straight. Bigoted people tend to reveal that bigotry more openly around me, making hateful comments/jokes or worse, because they expect me to be a fellow straight person who would tolerate such comments, if not agree. So all of the “drag queen story hour is child abuse”, “gays are going to hell” “our country is going to hell bc of this filth” “turning into Sodom and Gomorrah” and references to “those people”? They’re said right to my face, not realizing I am Those People.

        In some ways this is helpful, because I can know who is definitely Not a Safe Person; if I matched their notions or had a girlfriend they may be more insidious with their hate. But making sure people know you fit into a marginalized group can sometimes keep some of the comments at bay.

        1. Alton*

          This. I’m not comfortable being closeted because the possibility of encountering bigotry is always hanging over my head and I’d at least like to set the tone and get a sense early on if some people might be a problem.

          I’ve found that people who aren’t safe will often show their hand even if they’re trying to avoid conflict. It’s often really noticeable when someone is uncomfortable or doesn’t know what to say.

    2. kelly white*

      I so identify with this- I am a bi woman married to a man, and it really bugs me that the default assumption is that I am straight.

    3. Molly*

      Why do you feel who you sleep with outside of your primary relationship is relevant in the workplace? I tend not to come out unless it is directly relevant

      1. Meteor*

        +1. I feel pretty strongly that sexual preference is not something to be discussed professionally. It can be part of your identity expressed through clothing, behavior, activities, small-talk etc. but it’s pretty off-putting to have someone directly & pointedly talk about sexuality at work. I don’t want to think about coworkers as sexual beings, I want to think of them as Jane in finance and Tom in marketing. If we’re exceptionally friendly with each other that may soften this rule, but I still don’t need to know more than surface-level.

    4. Anon for this*

      In the last couple of years I came out to my husband as bi and we started exploring ethical nonmonagamy. I never realized how much bi women were fetishized until I started living as bi (not that I’m out to most of the people in my life). “Locker room talk” happens all around me and to me. When I kiss (or more) a woman, I’m not doing it to turn someone on (okay, sometimes I am, it’s part of my kink – exhibitionism) but it’s not about random people. And the feeling that if I were to be out I’d be part of someone’s fantasies is disturbing. So, I’m not out.

      I feel bad that apparently this has been going on this whole time but I didn’t even notice until I let myself be me. I’m not sure if I would ever have noticed. And I hate that blindness about me.

      Also, being not out makes me feel like I’m living some sort of lie. But why come out? I’m not leaving my husband and I’m not willing to “play” with people from my professional life. So, coming out – would I be seeking attention? I honestly don’t know.

      I’m very conflicted.

    5. cat pillow*

      As a bi woman who’s not obviously queer and mostly been in relationships with women, but has not been in a relationship for many years now and also has not truly been out at any of my workplaces, I get your frustration because no one likes to deal with microaggressions and flat out oppression being thrown at you by (mostly) cishets who don’t realize you’re who they’re talking about.


      This has long been my gauge of “how much do I trust coworker x, y, and z? Are bosses a, b, and c actually decent people? Is this workplace as inclusive as it claims to be?”

      This gauge has been fucked with at my new job because everyone knows that I lived with fellow coworker “Jen” for 2 years, that we’re BFFs, and that “Jen” is married to “Lauren.” So while I do appreciate the lack of outright as well as indirect homophobic comments so early in my tenure here, it is also disconcerting to not know WHY. Are they actually decent people to LGBTQ folk or are they holding back because I’m BFFs with the resident workplace queer? I find this to be very exhausting and I’m having a harder time connecting with coworkers at this job than previous jobs.

      My stealth has also been my way to fight back. These cishets are looking for me to agree with them and when I make a disgusted face and say things like “That’s a really embarassing thing to say where others can hear you” or “I hope you worded that poorly; it sounded like you thought/meant [plain English version of their bigoted statement],” god, they are not expecting it. Depending on what it is, sometimes a conversation can be had, but otherwise, I note who they are in my head as someone to be careful around and keep an eye peeled for both deterioration AND improvement.

      So yeah. Maybe consider taking that frustration and using it in a way that will benefit your fellow queer people who don’t have the ability to be quite as stealthy as you or I? It’s not always the most satisfying gig, but I find it preferable to sharing personal information with new coworkers. An added bonus: generally, your queer coworkers, out or not, hear about it through the grapevine and will seek you out.

  21. <