a VP wants me to out myself at work and won’t take no for an answer

A reader writes:

I graduated in May 2020 and started a great job in my field with good pay that I love.

I’m in a same-sex relationship. My coworkers are a healthy trail mix of political and religious beliefs, but I can also only deduce this from snippets I’ve heard occasionally since related topics usually do not come up in the office. Because of this, I’m officially out to only one close work friend and, like the rest of my personal life, I’m pretty private about my relationship at work. I have talked about my boyfriend as a person to my manager and coworkers in the past without letting the nature of our relationship be known, but I don’t know if anybody has figured out by now that the guy on my phone background isn’t just a friend.

Our company has a monthly online newsletter that is accessed only by employees. The VP asked me to meet with him privately and told me that he is interested in writing an article that would essentially be an interview about my experience as an LGBTQ+ employee. (I don’t know how he knew I’m gay.) He told me that “June is just around the corner” (Pride month) and that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to educate others about my perspective and give opinions on how the workplace can be more inclusive.

I declined the offer and told him that while I appreciate the gesture, I do not feel comfortable coming out in such a public manner. He doubled down and insisted that this would be an excellent opportunity to promote a safer and more inclusive work environment, and he said that I should see this as a favor for other minorities in the company. I declined again, and he said I should think about it and give him an answer in the coming weeks. Since the meeting, I have received two emails from him, both a week apart, asking about the offer, and I have declined both.

I intend on declining every time it’s brought up, but something deep in my gut has been bothering me since the meeting. I don’t know how he would manage to mention me in the article if I don’t do an interview, but I have this strange fear that he would find a way to do so if he decides to follow through with it. The main reason I’m so private about my orientation is because I am afraid of being known as “the Gay Employee” rather than a regular employee who happens to be gay among other things. Any mention of me in this article would definitely serve as my first impression since our company is pretty big, and I’m not comfortable with that.

What I am really afraid of is how much this article would make me feel like a wedge between the managers and the higher-ups. The VP kept emphasizing how the article would focus on inclusivity, but if what I hear from the managers is true, then I don’t think some fluff piece about a random entry-level employee is going to make them feel more included in the company.

Is there anything I can do? Are my fears perhaps unfounded, and I’m making too big a deal out of this? Or perhaps I’m completely wrong and should take the offer for the interview?

You don’t need to come out at work if you don’t want to, and you absolutely do not need to consent to this interview.

Your VP is being rude and pushy. If he’s interested in “promoting a safer and more inclusive work environment,” he can start by making it safe for you — and by not pressuring people to out themselves or making them fear they’ll be outed against their will, and by not making minority employees feel they carry the burden of making things better for others.

If he wants to promote a safer and more inclusive work environment, there are lots of things he can do as a leader of the company that do not rely on hassling a junior-level LGBTQ+ employee. He can propose salary reviews to ensure equitable, fair pay practices; implement anti-bias practices in hiring; examine who gets mentored, developed, and promoted and who doesn’t; create sponsorship programs for women and people of color; assess whether the company’s culture and perks benefit some groups over others; advocate for paid parental leave; propose specific equity and inclusion goals the company can measure itself against … and on and on. What is he doing, besides making a LGBTQ+ employee uncomfortable?

Since you’re worried he’s going to out you in the newsletter even if you don’t agree to the interview, send him an email that says this: “I’ve thought about your offer to interview me in the employee newsletter, and I want to reiterate that I’m not comfortable with it. My decision on this is final, and I ask that you respect that. I also want to reiterate that I am not out at work and I do not consent to being named in the article or otherwise identified in regard to sexual orientation or any other minority status.” And consider cc’ing HR on this or talking to HR separately if you think this guy is likely to ignore your request.

Sorry you’re dealing with this buffoon.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. King Friday XIII*

    Yes, VP, a great way to demonstrate “safety” is to practically threaten to out one of your employees.

    1. BTDT*

      I’m so annoyed at this VP. It’s not OP’s job to educate their employer. VP’s probably pestering this employee because he doesn’t know any other gay employees, or any other senior employees willing to do this. So OP’s right to be wary of being known as “the gay employee.” I imagine the pressuring would continue and it would be OP’s unpaid extra assignment to consistently provide advice to management.

      1. Keeper of the chronicle*

        I suspect the VP is under pressure from various external stakeholders to show that the company is meeting diversity-related goals, and therefore wants to include the letter-writer in his numbers (and sees an opportunity to generate positive PR for the company, to boot).

        To be sure, none of this justifies pressuring the employee, in turn, to come out as gay if he doesn’t want to. But I very much doubt it’s because the VP “doesn’t know any other gay employees.”

        1. Mimi*

          I mean, nothing I have heard about this VP sounds like a person I would trust with ANY information about my personal life.

        2. pancakes*

          If the VP knows a number of gay employees why keep making the same request of this one? It’s obtuse behavior whether they do or don’t have more LGBT contacts, but it seems unlikely to me they have many. The VP’s behavior is that of someone who doesn’t know better than to treat LGBT individuals as ambassadors for their sexuality. It’s amateurish and unthinking.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            If the OP is an entry-level employee, that might be why. Low-level employees are basically powerless, and maybe the VP thinks he’ll cave out of fear of losing his job. Which, if that’s the case, would add a whole other level of bullying that makes me GRRRRRRR (I am not in the mood for bad boss shit today). >:(

    2. Reluctant Manager*

      I would say so–use some of Alison’s language that you know he’s committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ employees, but continuing to bring up an employee’s sexuality risks* creating an unsafe work environment for the employee he’s trying to support.

      *Alison’s lovely language that ascribing good intentions to someone makes them want to be worthy of them

    3. designbot*

      Exactly! For this reason I’d use his language right back at him—something like, “I hear you that you want to promote feelings of safety and inclusion, but the way you’re pushing me on this is what feels unsafe to me.” Hopefully that’s connecting the dots enough for him.

    4. Beth*

      Yes, this screams of someone who wants to look ‘inclusive’ while actually being the exact opposite and not doing any of the work needed to close that gap. I’m out at work (as well as every sphere of my life), but that’s not safe to do everywhere! Especially in a place where OP knows there are very mixed political stances, they’re right to be concerned about being known as ‘the gay one’. The VP knows that inclusivity and diversity are valued these days, but also that enacting those values in reality is expensive and requires a lot of work. The cheapest way to get the labels is to put all the burden of actually dealing with the problems on someone else–it sounds like he’s counting on OP, as an entry level employee, to either not understand how much of an issue that might be or feel pressured to agree anyways.

      OP, I’d do more than consider talking to HR here. I’d go to them now to inform them of the problem and discuss your options, then send that very clear “I do not consent to being mentioned, discussed, or named in this article, that’s my final decision” email with the HR person you already talked to CC’d. Please do note that 1) you’re not even out to this VP, you have no idea how he found out you’re gay or why he chose to target you for this, and 2) this is making your work environment very uncomfortable for you (I don’t know if this technically meets the standards for harassment based on a protected class, but I suspect it’s close enough that a good HR would rather shut it down than test it).

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Agree it’s good to get this all on HR’s radar, just in case the VP retaliates.

        OP, I’m sorry you are going through this.

      2. allathian*

        He’s out to one work friend. Unless the VP is just guessing, which is naturally possible, it’s also entirely possible that the LW’s trust in the work friend is misplaced. They could’ve outed him to the VP. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but it wouldn’t be the first time this happened.

        It definitely sounds like the org and the VP are just going through the motions and aren’t really interested in creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ employees.

    5. JC*

      They want to use you as the token “diverse” employee, and it’s gross. Talk to HR about harassment and your fear he is trying to out you against your will (for whatever purpose). Also, if this guy knows you’re gay, it’s safe to assume your whole office knows your “friend” is more than that, but ultimately its up to you how private you want to be (I also refuse to talk about my partner in a work environment as I like to compartmentalise)

  2. HailRobonia*

    Also beware the slippery slope… you could get asked to do a workshop or other activity about LBGTQ+ issues whether or not you have any desire to or experience in presenting on those issue. I, myself, am gay but would not want to be the spokesperson for gay people, and would never want to speak for trans/queer/etc. people whom I have no right to represent.

    1. Rachel Greep*

      This! As a person who is in the majority group most of the time, I firmly believe that it is not the job of any member of a minority group to educate me. I remember learning about Asia in high school world history class and having the teacher constantly call out the one Vietnamese student in the class (who was extremely shy and did not like public speaking) to teach us stuff. “Show us how to use chopsticks! Write something in Vietnamese characters on the board! Say something in Vietnamese!” Poor girl.

    2. TC*

      Yeah it feels like the first step before strongly suggesting OP to chair/ help chair their new diversity group, that the company has put NO work and effort into, and just thinks *having it* will make them look better. Ugh.

      1. Monty*

        I think you’re right. These sorts of “educate your colleagues” things often end up as massive time sucks for queer employees, plus they usually rely almost entirely on the uncompensated labour of those employees.

    3. Office Rat*

      This has happened to both my wife and I as transgender people. Be cool with being out at work, then suddenly people want you to do workshops, and activist things, when really that’s a whole different unpaid job in addition to not wanting to speak for every trans person out there.

      1. Cranky QTBIPOC*

        Yup. Doing anti-oppression education for companies is a unique kind of work that is often made stronger when the professionals leading it have lived experience of marginalization. If a company has hired you to do X, but now expects you to also to anti-oppression education or workshops or training because of your marginalized identity… they should pay you for that additional work (*If* you even consent to doing it)!

    4. [redacted for this one]*

      Yes. As someone who had a previous workplace that pushed hard to make me be the face of so many public-facing things (fundraising speeches/videos, etc) I agree.

      Also, newsflash – trying to parade your only non-white non-male employee around to show how diverse your organization is PROVES HOW NON-DIVERSE YOU ARE.

    5. Paul Pearson*

      This happens to me constantly – our office isn’t even very LGBTQ friendly, not even close (so we’d never do anything as involved as a workshop) – but every time there’s an event like Pride they expect me, The Office Gay to pose for photos like some kind of damn Rainbow Mascot

        1. Paul Pearson*

          Thank you

          I have long since decided that Office Gay is not available. Bitingly Sarcastic Gay is in as a substitute. While also pointing out that, in an organisation of 200 people, my being the Only Gay In the Office is pretty much proof they’ve got nothing to brag about.

    6. DarnTheMan*

      My work is navigating this right now; we have a mandate from our global organization to implement new diversity and inclusion measures – which is great but I know senior leadership is taking steps to allow staff who identify as a member of a minority group to have room and opportunities to speak, but also not to pressure them to become the face/voice of the movement if they don’t want to.

  3. Forrest*

    OP, this is so gross. If this was *actually*an inclusive company, there would be queer people at senior level with a lot more accomplishments under the belt who can be The Visible Face of Inclusivity. And you would not be worrying about being The Gay Employee because you would already know about half a dozen other gay employees more senior than you.

    I wouldn’t necessarily leave a job over this (although I’d seriously consider it if this VP won’t back off), but I would certainly make discreet enquiries about culture when you’re next looking for a job. Is there an LGBT+ network? Senior figures who are out? How inclusive is the language about parental leave in their handbook? None of these will necessarily make or break a job search, but it’s ridiculous in 2021 that you as a junior employee feel like you might be The Only Gay at your workplace. I wasn’t even that in my first job in 2001.

    Also, what other aspects of EDI is this company handling terribly?

    1. Forrest*

      (Also, if you do come out— in a normal way, not because your VP wants to make a giant statement!— it will probably not be that big a deal. Although the weirdness of your VP makes me a lot less confident about that than I otherwise would be.)

      1. Beth*

        Speaking as someone who is out, it’s not always a big deal, but it definitely is at some places. If OP, knowing their coworkers and the general culture of their employer, is concerned that it would be a problem, I would trust their gut on that.

    2. anonymouse*

      “The main reason I’m so private about my orientation is because I am afraid of being known as “the Gay Employee” rather than a regular employee who happens to be gay among other things”
      Which is exactly what your boss is showing y0u.
      He gets to say he hired a gay person. Isn’t he great? Isn’t this company great? Look at us. We are good. We are inclusive.
      He’s a selfish and self-serving twit. I hope you can navigate this. I hope you have an HR department that will explain to him that his need for you to serve as his poster child for inclusiveness is the opposite of any functional goal the company may have.
      It’s not an Easter egg hunt. He didn’t find the prize.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Seriously. It comes across as so nasty and uncomfortable. True inclusivity means that you don’t bandy about the groups you’ve hired just for clout.

      2. ValkyriePuppy*

        “It’s not an Easter egg hunt. He didn’t find the prize.”

        Haha this! But it’s so true. It totally seems like the VP is using the OP’s sexual orientation more for his own social clout rather than the genuine benefits of the employee.

        It’s a truly terrible way to handle this. The VP is claiming to want to make employees safe… while making the OP unsafe and abusing his position of power. Ok, sure, that’s a sound strategy (rolling my eyes btw)

      3. anon for this today*

        This is so, so common. Please, everyone reading this, think about this and how it applies in many other situations. I have very strong feelings about “diversity work” because I have absolutely been the “woman in math” an older white man has used for diversity points. It is very very icky to be used like this, and absolutely counterproductive to the cause of diversity. Sometimes these guys understand they’re doing it, and sometimes they don’t. But I am not a zoo exhibit nor an expert on all things womanhood. My Black and Latino colleagues certainly have to deal with even more elaborate variations on this theme. (Asian colleagues get a different kettle of fish because of the “model minority” thing, so even when they’re discriminated against they don’t count for diversity points no matter what!)

        I feel like the OP is getting the same vibe of being used by someone for diversity cred/resume burnishing, with the added threat of outing, which is a whole ‘nother level. Ugh. I am so sorry this is happening to you, OP.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          This reminds me of something that was explained to me long ago when I worked in auto repair.
          A Black colleague told me he had worked at a dealership where he was the only Black mechanic, all others were white.
          They put him right by the door where all the customers saw him so it would look like they had a diverse staff – after two years they fired him so he wouldn’t get seniority.

    3. meyer lemon*

      What is extra gross is that this guy has no real way of knowing that the LW is gay, so he’s just apparently hassling anyone who “seems gay” to him. I don’t want to think too hard about what that process entails.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        That’s a very interesting and very uncomfortable point.

        Either 1. OP ‘seemed gay’. Or 2. The person OP told is running their mouth. Neither one of them are very nice.

        1. meh*

          OP did mention that he has a picture of his boyfriend as the background on his phone. Could’ve been someone noticed that, assumed, and told VP. Or VP saw it himself.

          1. Beth*

            That’s not exactly conclusive evidence–a man with a photo of another man as his phone background could have a boyfriend, or he could have a brother, a cousin, a best friend, etc. I’m with MissBaudelaire. Either someone outed OP, or the VP is making some major assumptions.

            1. Bertha*

              It’s not conclusive, but.. I have never had any of my friends or relatives as background of my phone. Honestly it’s usually animals and not even my significant other, ha, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone I know with a phone background that has a picture of an adult who is not a significant other. (Yes, this is anecdotal, but I can see this being the sole reason an already majorly overstepping VP would assume someone was gay)

            2. meh*

              I agree it’s not conclusive, but people make assumptions all the time with little to no information. OP even speculated that people might figure it out based on that: I don’t know if anybody has figured out by now that the guy on my phone background isn’t just a friend

              1. meyer lemon*

                This is true, but it would be a heck of a leap to go from noticing a phone background to constantly badgering the LW for a coming-out interview. It’s plausible but still, deeply weird.

                1. EmKay*

                  I’m afraid it’s deeply indicative of the work culture OP just joined. I hope I’m wrong.

        2. Ninjapenguin*

          Or 3. He looked through HR records for people who might be gay: has a same gender person on their insurance or listed as an emergency contact or beneficiary. Which, yikes.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            If he did that, would he get in trouble for it? It feels like that should be, if not illegal, at least strongly frowned upon, but if I’ve learned anything from AAM it’s that a lot of sketchy, unkind, or just plain cruel things are both legal and normalized in the workplace.

            1. JM60*

              I doubt it would be illegal, especially if the employer granted the VP access to that information. However, a good employer would limit access to that information, and wouldn’t want it to be used to out people.

      2. ValkyriePuppy*

        I was wondering if maybe he went through social media or something else invasive to find this.

        1. Nicotene*

          Really wish OP could dig into this, although I’m sure it’s not worth the points. “Excuse me, what makes you think I’m gay?” If they say something offensive or invasive you’ll have more of a leg to stand on. But as I say, hardly practical when I sense OP actually just wants this to go away.

          1. Batgirl*

            You usually have to be prepared in order to return awkward to sender like that. These guys are often a surprise. It would be awesome though.

          2. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

            “Excuse me, what makes you think I’m gay?”
            “Uh, Jane mentioned it in passing”

            And now you know not to tell Jane anything, as well as declining anything the VP wants you to be involved with.

        2. meyer lemon*

          And if so, is he doing this for all new employees, or just those he suspects are gay? No good answers here.

        3. JM60*

          My thoughts were that he went through the beneficiaries and/or emergency contacts to fish for a gay employee, then maybe confirm the nature of the relationship via social media.

        4. Ellie*

          I would think that the phone background would have been enough, and easy to confirm with a quick internet search. It’s also quite possible that there’s been some gossip around it at work, not necessarily negative, but it might be annoying to the OP. They might already be known as ‘the gay guy who doesn’t talk about it and just gets on with work’. Regardless though, appearing in an article is much higher-profile than just being ‘out’ around the office, and the VP is being incredibly rude and aggressive in pushing this so hard.

          OP, go with Alison’s wording – it sounds like he’s working himself up to naming you anyway, and it doesn’t leave him any room to do that without coming across as the complete asshole that he is. It creates a paper trail too, in case you need it one day.

      3. anonymouse*

        Oh, that’s messed up! I wonder if he “got a feeling that the nicely dressed young man with a good friend/roommate” and lurked on OP’s social media or something.

      4. paxfelis*

        I wonder what the VP would reply if asked why he’s so curious about the sex lives of his subordinates.

        1. Edam*

          Being gay isn’t about your sex life, and this comment actually plays into many homophobic stereotypes.

            1. JM60*

              A man saying, “X is my boyfriend” isn’t talking about their sex life anymore than a man saying “X is my girlfriend” is talking about their sex life.

              When it comes to opposite-sex couples, people often talk about relationships. When it comes to same-sex couples, people often talk about sex.

            2. Mayati*

              Not the person you’re asking, but I will! Being gay/bi/pan isn’t any more about your sex life than being straight is; same with being trans versus being cisgender. If you’re straight and you mention going to a restaurant with your wife, and someone instantly jumps to thinking or talking about you having sex with your wife, that’s creepy, right? And there are quite a lot of stereotypes about LGBTQ people being obsessed with sex, being sexual predators, being sexually available, and so on. You can’t tell whether someone even has a sex drive or is sexually active at all just by knowing their orientation or the gender of their partner — e.g., a woman who identifies as lesbian might be asexual and homoromantic (romantically attracted to women but not sexually attracted to anyone), a man who identifies as bisexual might be a virgin or celibate, being transgender is a totally separate thing from both sexual orientation *and* sexual behavior, etc.

              Being accepted as a LGBTQ person isn’t about declaring what type of people you have sex with, it’s about being accepted for who you are, as a person worthy of the same respect straight and cisgender people get. It’s about being able to talk with your coworkers about what you did over the weekend without having to worry about letting it slip that your partner is Jane, not John. It’s about being able to visit your husband in the hospital and access appropriate healthcare for yourself. It’s about forming a family. It’s about basic human dignity and feeling comfortable in your own skin and in the world. It’s about little LGBTQ kids growing up safe and unashamed. And for many people, some of it is about sex, same as for straight people, but that stuff is generally private, certainly in the workplace!

            3. EchoGirl*

              In addition to what everyone has said, it also makes it harder for LGBTQ people who *do* want to talk about their lives, because it essentially means that talking about these things=talking about sex, which means a lot fewer situations in which it’s acceptable.

          1. anonymouse*

            I don’t think that is what Pax is saying.
            I understand the concern about feeding into gay stereotypes and homophobia, but I think it’s a matter of, “I never told you that I dated men, not women. For you to have deduced that, you must be wondering who my partner would be, who I would be sleeping with. And that’s creepy.”
            Boss didn’t go to other coworkers and ask, so you are heterosexual, right?
            It’s a tough line to navigate, which OP’s boss is illustrating by his complete and utter failure.

            1. Dee*

              “I never told you that I dated men, not women. For you to have deduced that, you must be wondering who my partner would be, who I would be sleeping with.”

              Nah. That doesn’t necessarily follow.

      5. vlookup*

        I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything sinister about how the VP figured out that OP is gay. It doesn’t sound like OP is going to great lengths to stay in the closet if he has a photo of his boyfriend as his phone background. Frankly, sometimes people can intuit that you’re queer just from how you walk or talk or carry yourself – I say that as a gay person who never has to come out because people just look at me and know.

        What’s gross to me is more the rest of the VP’s behavior. Whether you’re totally in the closet, or only out to a few people, or not officially out but it’s an open secret and everyone kinda knows, it’s never appropriate to out someone against their will, and it’s never appropriate to force someone to be paraded around as a token minority.

        1. meyer lemon*

          I don’t know that it’s necessarily sinister, but I think it’s particularly galling that this guy decided to target the LW so persistently when he is likely just speculating that the LW is gay. The LW himself says he isn’t sure how the VP knows, so I’m assuming the VP is making a weirdly confident assumption in addition to the rest of his awful behaviour.

      6. allathian*

        Or else the work friend he’s out to has outed him to the VP. I hope not, but it wouldn’t be the first time.
        VP: “I’ve noticed that LW has a picture of a guy on his phone. You’re friendly with him, do you know what’s up with that?”
        WF: “Oh yeah, that’s his boyfriend.”
        VP: … thinks: “Hmmm, that pesky newsletter’s coming up, now I’ll just ask/tell/pester him to come out to the whole company to show that we take diversity seriously here.”

        Of course, I could be talking through my hat here, but if you’re out to one person at work, there’s no way to guarantee that they’ll keep it confidential, no matter how friendly they seem. And they could out you without intending to and without malice, as well.

        1. Amaranth*

          Do people really notice lock screens? I can’t really imagine that unless VP picked up LW’s phone for some reason which seems invasive on its own. If I cared why a guy was on the display I could come up with several possibilities. If VP really used that as a litmus test he lacks imagination.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Yes, this VP is not being an ally. Making a safe environment so people can come out if they choose to, then respecting their choices, is being an ally. Forcibly outing someone for any reason, even under the facade of inclusion, is straight up bigotry.

    5. Lily of the meadow*

      Why do you think it is okay for senior employees to bear the burden of being the face of The Minority Who Gets To Have Their Life Invaded Because Someone Has To Do It? Why does anyone have to be the “face” of any campaign an employer is pushing? Why does everyone think everyone is so stupid that they cannot learn to treat others with respect WITHOUT forcing someone to sacrifice themselves this way? If forcing a junior employee to sacrifice their right to privacy in a wrongheaded, poorly conceived campaign to promote inclusivity is absolutely out of bounds, then it should also be just as out of bounds to force that sacrifice upon a senior employee as well. No employee should be forced to become the sacrificial lamb upon the altar of the promotion of ANY ideology, belief system, life experience, tenet, or any circumstance of life at all. Every person is entitled to the right to dignity and privacy wherever they choose to enact those standards.

      1. Lisa*

        They wouldn’t be bearing a burden. Forest was pointing out that if this company were actually inclusive, there would be senior gay staff – and you would *know this* because people would be comfortable being out, not because they had to “be the face of diversity”. For example, my last company’s president was gay. It wasn’t a big deal, people just knew he had a husband. That’s it. But he also wasn’t the only gay employee nor the only minority.

      2. Forrest*

        Nobody should be forced. But im in my forties and secure and established in my role, and I’m happy to be visible as a queer woman and as a mum to people more junior than. I spent *years* looking for queer people and especially parents in same-sex in my own hierarchies so I’m super happy to make that easier for people younger than me. There are obviously unfair burdens of visibility put on people from any minority or marginalised group, and nobody should feel forced or pressured, but if you’re happy to do it as I am there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

      3. Beth*

        I don’t think anyone has said that a senior employee should be FORCED into this role. The way I read Forrest’s comment was that IF this were truly an inclusive company, it should have senior employees who were already voluntarily out, and it would be obvious that being out isn’t a sacrifice or a burden at this company.

        I’m lucky enough that this is my case right now. I’m out at work; just about everyone I work closely with knows, because I do things like mention my girlfriend sometimes and keep a picture of us on my desk. Because of the actually-generally-inclusive culture at my workplace, it’s not a big deal and I don’t feel like it impacts my work life much. If my employer asked me to do an interview like this, I wouldn’t have any qualms about it. But I can’t imagine they’d ask–they already walk the walk, so they don’t need to make a big show of talking the talk, you know?

        Anyways, I was comfortable coming out right away when I started here in large part because I saw coworkers being out without it being a big deal or requiring any sacrifices from them. I think that’s what Forrest was talking about–not that senior employees should be forced onto a sacrificial altar against their will, but that a truly inclusive environment will show in the choices people voluntarily make.

        1. GreenDoor*

          I didn’t read Forest’s comment as “forcing” a senior employee to be out. I took it as a senior employee has the clout, the respect, and the authority to establish the culture and climate within an organization, including a culture where we don’t out people who don’t wish to be out and where we identify each other by name and title or by any other descriptor than the particular demographic groups to which we belong. A more junior level employee doesn’t have the clout to establish the climate within an organization.

      4. vlookup*

        I think the key thing is that it has to be truly optional.

        Like, personally I’d be happy to appear in a newsletter, lead an employee resource group, or do whatever else. But that has a lot to do with my company’s culture (super inclusive, feels safe), where I am in my personal life (comfortably out in all facets of my life), and my personal willingness to be visibly queer (very high – I like the idea of being visible as a happy, successful gay professional to people who are younger or just in a different place in their journey).

        But some people might not feel comfortable with it, either in a specific work context or ever, and that needs to be an acceptable boundary for someone to draw.

        1. allathian*

          Absolutely. And in a truly inclusive, reasonably large organization, nobody would be put on the spot, because there would be enough minority representatives who would be happy to do it.

          I have a dream of an organization where everyone regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, the condition of their body, their belief system, or any other personal characteristic, would be judged only based on their work product and how they contribute to an inclusive and supportive culture. We aren’t there yet, which is why EDI work is necessary and important. The goal is to make EDI such an integral part of the culture that it becomes redundant.

        2. lailaaaaah*

          This! I’d be happy to do that sort of work for my current organisation, which has been consistently respectful and supportive – but for my old one? Absolutely not.

    6. lailaaaaah*

      This! I got hassled at my last job to make a public statement about how supportive they were being w.r.t my disability and how great they were as a place for disabled people to work. When did they ask? A week after they tried to fire me for having ADHD and a deaf guy for being deaf. There were no disabled managers, or POC/LGBT/working class managers either, but they were constantly talking about how great and inclusive they were as a place to work.

      It’s why I’m leery of companies that talk up how great they are for minorities – if they’re so great, you’d be able to see it in development and representation throughout the company, not just in junior-level roles.

  4. I should really pick a name*

    It might be worth it to go directly to whoever edits the newsletter and make sure they know that you don’t want to be included. This would mean coming out to them though.

    1. ValkyriePuppy*

      This sounds like a good solution, just for some extra back up. The problem here, though, is that it would involve the employee possibly telling the newsletter editor /why/ they don’t want their name in it… and would it seem weirdly adversarial to be like “[VP’s name] might write a letter using me as an example, I’ve said no, but if he does so without my permission, please don’t use it?”… if the OP has a positive colleagial relationship with the person though there /might/ be a delicate way to bring it up without outing himself to the newsletter editor.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I think LW could frame it without “technically” coming out, even if the person still makes inferences/assumptions (same goes for reporting to HR). “VP has somehow gotten the impression I’m gay, despite my never discussing my orientation with him. I’m not sure if he heard a rumor or just assumed, but I don’t share my private life at work and of course I haven’t given him permission to speculate about me in the newsletter.”

      1. Delta Delta*

        This also puts OP in the awkward position of sort of implying he’s not gay, which maybe he doesn’t want, either. Ugh. This is awful.

      2. Esmeralda*

        Unless the VP is himself writing the newsletter or this article (highly unlikely), odds are he’s already mentioned the OP to whoever actually writes and edits the newsletter.

    3. Sue*

      The VP may have some responsibility for the newsletter as they seem so invested in this article. But if it’s collated by a lower level employee, it seems unfair to expect them to reject an article from a VP at OP’s direction. Puts them in a bad spot and makes OP look like they’re stepping out of their lane. I would let HR deal with it at this point.
      I wouldn’t trust this VP not to tell everyone about OP, whether in the article or informally after this obnoxious behavior.

      1. Willis*

        I agree that for those reasons, it’s probably better to go to HR than to the person that does the newsletter.

    4. No Tribble At All*

      You can just say for privacy concerns, same as someone who might have a stalker. “I do not want to be featured or mentioned in articles in this newsletter. If someone submits an article about me, please let me know at once.”

    5. Glitsy Gus*

      I agree. I know that may be awkward since, as you say, it would be coming out to someone you would prefer not to. It may be the more comfortable option, though, since OP could handle the conversation the way they want to. If the VP submits the article OP will also be outed to the editor, whether it gets printed or not, but not on their terms.

      OP, you can try to get a read on them before doing so, find out if they are a gossipy sort or something like that before you bring it up. It may not be something OP is comfortable with, but I do think it’s a valid suggestion.

  5. I'm just here for the cats*

    It is so ironic that he wants to showcase that the company is LGBTQ+ friendly and safe, but he is going against what makes you feel safe. LW I would write him an email and explain that what he is doing, pressurizing you to out yourself, is going against what he is trying to accomplish. Good luck and please update us!

    1. BadWolf*

      That’s easy to say to do — but the OP is now in an awkward power dynamic. If she pushes against pushy VP who is “only trying to do something good, why won’t you help me, darn it!”, now the VP might feel poorly towards OP. Perhaps the VP has no influence on OPs day to day, but who knows. We all hope that the OP could poke the right button with the right phrasing to give VP some self awareness of their actions, but it is risky.

      1. Julianna*

        I know the standard on the site is to use female pronouns, but I think we can safely assume this OP is probably not a she :)

    2. LCH*

      yes, if you feel comfortable you could use the language you used to explain it to us: “The main reason I’m so private about my orientation is because I am afraid of being known as “the Gay Employee” rather than a regular employee who happens to be gay among other things. Any mention of me in this article would definitely serve as my first impression since our company is pretty big, and I’m not comfortable with that.”

      1. 1234*

        But idiot VP could say “This is a chance to promote yourself and the wonderful work you do! And you could educate us about LGBTQ+ since you’re part of that group!” *eye roll*

      2. Beth*

        This would work great on reasonable people. But given the level of persistence here in the face of multiple no’s, I suspect OP’S VP is not reasonable people.

      3. 'Tis Me*

        And possibly add “Given that I’ve been with the company under a year and am a very junior member of staff, and especially given that this past year has really not been a normal one, I feel very strongly that somebody more senior would be better placed to talk about initiatives the company has taken to ensure that this is an inclusive, safe, diverse workplace, and to create a supportive environment.”

        (I know the extent to which this is the case varies from region to region, but e.g. you can’t talk about how the team nights out always seem to end up in the local gay nightclub because it plays the best dance music if you haven’t had any team nights out!)

  6. Software Engineer*

    Ugh this is horrible. If you wanted to be snarky you could be be like ‘well so far my experience is being harassed to come out to make Leadership feel good about themselves for how diverse they are. That’s… pretty bad, honestly!

    If this is a big company as you say and they can’t find ANYONE who is openly gay at the company or anyone willing to talk publicly about their experience as a gay employee then… that says a lot about how their diversity actually looks

    1. Threeve*

      “I’m certain that being pressured to disclose personal information at work when I don’t want to is going to make my discomfort with doing so obvious enough for other employees to pick up on, which the opposite of the message you want to send.”

    2. dackquiri*

      I mean, if the VP already isn’t taking a simple “no” for an answer, think about all the answers he probably also wouldn’t take in the interview itself, since it’s clearly meant to paint a *glowing* portrait of the company. Not even thinking about snarky answers, the truth that LW doesn’t feel safe enough to be out at work doesn’t cast the culture there in an unequivocally accepting light.

      If this is pure PR for the company’s benefit (and it sure sounds like it to me), then VP’s probably hoping LW’s interview will serve the function of a Sanitized, Smiling, Non-Threatening Gay Couple Stock Photo in a brochure. He’ll probably press further uncomfortable topics and try to fish for the kind of answers that fit the tone of the article he wants to run.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        If OP does say anything like this, I wouldn’t put it past the VP to just ignore it and make up the answers he wants to hear for the article.

  7. Marvin*

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this OP. I had a similar situation where someone deduced I was trans and pressured me for an interview. Same arguments – it’ll help people, it’ll be good, etc. No matter how many times I declined, they’d repeat the request whenever they saw me. They even started promising me anonymity in exchange. Exchange! As if something was given to me for their chance to play a journalist.

    I wonder if the VP is expecting this would look good for them. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear them brag about making the workplace more inclusive by getting by you to do that interview. It always seems to me these kind of people want to make it look like they’re doing you a favour when really they hope to “earn points” by looking open minded.

    I’d say definitely loop in HR – even if nothing comes of it this time, who’s to say they won’t use this information about you in the future in even more annoying and/or sinister ways? They’ve shown themselves to be untrustworthy. Act with caution.

    1. anonymouse*

      “I wonder if the VP is expecting this would look good for them.”
      100. Boss gets to say, look at me. My team is inclusive. Look at how inclusive I am!

    2. Cendol*

      Ugh, that’s awful, I’m sorry. The same thing happened to a friend of mine, but unfortunately HR were the ones pressuring them for an interview. Just mind-bogglingly obtuse. OP, I’m sorry you’re in this situation.

  8. Littorally*

    This is horrifying. OP, I’m so sorry you’re in this position.

    It sucks that the best answer is to out yourself to someone else, but Alison’s comments about HR are really your best option, I think. I don’t know if the pressure to out yourself would technically fall under the heading of getting harassed regarding your sexual orientation, but HR would be well positioned to know that and to push back properly on the VP.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      He’s being harrassed, right? It’s harrassment. (I don’t think that’s a legal term in the way that “hostile workplace” is.)

      And I agree. The odds are REALLY high that there are other gay folks in this company, and probably some of them are this VP’s peers. He’s being myopic and a jerk.

  9. Forgot My Last Username*

    I’m concerned about the email trail that is already there. Corporate email normally comes with no expectation of privacy. Do you know who has access to these emails? If email privacy is an issue, (1) perhaps bring this up with HR and (2) consider sending Alison’s suggested email as a letter instead.

    1. anonymouse*

      On this, I think you should take copies of the emails to HRs and the meeting invites and list the times he’s called/caught you and “invited you” to talk about it.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      What is your concern? That someone at the company who is reading emails for fun and looking for dirt or gossip, will find these email, and out the LW.

      That is an entirely different problem. And it would be a problem, but it is definitely not common occurrence and not something you usually need to worry about.

      1. Jaydee*

        It could be far less malicious than that. Assuming this VP has an assistant who has access to his emails (pretty common) the assistant might have seen them, be under the impression that LW is out and the assistant was just unaware, and say something to someone that then outs him to more people.

        1. Forgot My Last Username*

          Jaydee, and Esmarelda below, bingo. It’s not malicious use that I’m thinking of, it’s another use in the ordinary course of business, forwarding a message because of something else in it and not even paying attention to or remembering that there’s something sensitive buried in it, etc., etc.

          The standard advice is don’t put something in email unless you’re comfortable with it getting out.

    3. Forrest*

      This seems unnecessarily paranoid. OP isn’t trying to keep their private life super-duper secret (he has his boyfriend as his phone screen!), he just doesn’t want a massive song and dance made about coming out. If he thinks it’s the kind of place where IT would go through his emails and then make a big song and dance about it, this organisation has bigger problems than just this weird VP.

      1. Esmeralda*

        More likely that an assistant or secretary has access. Or that these messages will be discovered in the course of an investigation on an unrelated issue.

        1. Forrest*

          Yeah but again, the problem isn’t “someone finding out”, it’s “someone finding out, not respecting his privacy and being a dick about it”.

          1. Forgot My Last Username*

            See the response to Jaydee above. Things get out, even when no one is acting maliciously. Putting it in writing just increases the likelihood of that happening.

            1. Forrest*

              From what he’s said, OP isn’t particularly trying to stop it “getting out”: he just doesn’t want a giant fuss.

  10. Bookworm*

    OP: I’m so sorry. I don’t have any advice other than agreeing with what Alison and others wrote and just wanted to send you support, virtual as it is. That’s not cool at all and it’s a little horrifying the VP keeps pushing this.

    Also agree with further upthread: someone who is so pushy may do it anyway and even if not, senior management may find it as a reason for not seeing you as a “team player” and such (let’s just say I’ve experienced somewhat relatable things but not at all like what you’re dealing with). It’s up to you and obviously only you know your situation, but it may be definitely worth looking for a new job. Good luck.

  11. Not A Manager*

    I think you can actually say what Alison said in her response: “If you’re interested in promoting a safer and more inclusive work environment, the best way to do that is to respect people’s choices about when and whether to share any personal, protected information publicly.”

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree with this.

      Part of me would also be tempted to ask how he found out I was gay, but that may open more of a can of worms and, at the end of the day, may not be relevant.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        According to a former manager of mine; because I once said that *particular actress* is attractive, and I’m a woman, plus that I dress ‘non conventionally’ (gothic) meant I MUST be gay!

        (Queer actually, but he assumed my husband was a ‘fake’)

      2. allathian*

        Yeah. But he is out to one work friend. In his shoes I’d be interested in knowing if I’d trusted the wrong person.

    2. Nicotene*

      I wondered if OP *wanted to* (which is sounds like they don’t) they could offer to collaborate on an article about ways companies can be inclusive to LGBT+ employees, without naming themselves or being listed as an author. I would be soooo tempted to do this so I could talk about allowing employees to decide how “out” they want to be in the workplace. However, OP doesn’t seem interested in this. Although it could be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill, with something beyond the flat “no” to the senior employee, it also just encourages this doofus.

    3. Tabby*

      THIS THIS THIS! I don’t run around telling everyone I’m bisexual — though in my case, I don’t have any worries about my safety, I just don’t feel like telling people information that isn’t their business. Close friends know, because most of them are some form of LBGTQ+ (how the hell this happened so organically, I don’t know), but it isn’t generally something I shout from the rooftops.

      This VP, though? He’s making ME uncomfortable, and I don’t even know the gremlin.

  12. AnonEMoose*

    I’m so sorry, OP. It’s in no way your obligation to be The Openly Gay Employee in order to make management feel good about how inclusive they are. People are out or not out in a given context for many reasons, including “I don’t want to” in any given situation, and it’s not anyone else’s job to decide whose reasons for not being out are “not good enough.”

    I wish there was something I could say to make this better, but all I have to offer is: You get to decide what your boundaries are, and it’s not your obligation to be out to make the company look better or theoretical others who may also be part of the LGBTQIA community feel safer.

  13. deesse877*

    In the institutional LGBT inclusion workshops and materials I’ve seen, they never seem to cover this. They never seem to instruct straight people to avoid outing anyone. Yet “supposedly well-intentioned busybody outing me for their own ends” is the most common form of professional homophobia I’ve encountered. Do others have the same experience? If it’s true that EDI materials don’t usually address the issue, why is that?

    It’s been a problem for me even though I don’t consider myself “in” at work! I had the horrifying experience some years back of making a casual remark on gay culture to a supervisor who I assumed knew, seeing a huge “OMG” look on their face, and then watching the news whip around the building over the next 40 minutes or so. Someone I didn’t know well literally walked up to my office door and stared at me with an expectant grin on their face, waiting for me to confess. It was really confusing, because to in my experience only queer people ourselves actually accept, or even know “never out anyone, ever” as an ethical principle. I therefore had no way even to start a conversation about how wrong that was.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      What a horrible experience for you! What did the person who came to your office expect? You to break out int of song exclaiming your gayness? What they did sounds really creepy!

    2. JustaTech*

      Good grief, I knew this when I was 15, and I’m straight!

      I can’t say if it’s covered in EDI materials, we don’t have any, and the last time someone brought up an LGBTQ+ “affinity group” he literally could not get the acronym right (at least he didn’t say BLT?).

      As far as I know I have exactly one out gay coworker in my building, and he laughed at the idea of an affinity group (“of just me? No.”).

    3. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I honestly don’t know why this (what you’ve said) is such a difficult concept, and now that you mention it, you’re right. Why ISN’T this mentioned?! I also am not sure exactly where or when I picked up on the fact that you don’t ever, ever, EVER out anyone to anyone, but I know it was ingrained by the time my sibling came out to me, I would’ve been barely an adult by this point.

      Also remember looking at former bosses with a cocked eyebrow when a coworker was outed to me, without her present, in a joking manner. So many things wrong with that situation, and to this day I’m glad I opted to make THEM uncomfortable when they were obviously hoping I’d join in on the “joke”.

    4. Morning Flowers*

      If I, as a still-figuring-out-she’s-gay autistic teenager in a Catholic household, was able to figure out before adulthood that you NEVER out people, nobody else has any excuse IMHO.

      And on the flip side — there’s an ex-friend I ditched in part because I was certain he *would* out me (and he’s gay himself!), whether I wanted him to or not.

      Privacy, people. Pri-va-cy. Sigh.

    5. Forrest*

      I don’t know, this is tricky because I would also feel extremely gross about one of my colleagues not correcting someone who was talking about me as if I was straight. My family isn’t a dirty secret! Doing it in a gossipy way would be a bit weird, of course, but if someone said, “oh, is Forrest bringing her husband?” I would find it *incredibly* weird and gross if someone was like, “uh, yeah, Forrest’s husband, that’s a thing she has.”

      1. Tabby*

        “Nope, she’s bringing her wife/partner/person of signifigance.” is so much more fun to say, if one knows you’re out.

        I mean, I’m sort of malicious that way, though! I much prefer to make the presumptive types ever so uncomfortable with a really, REALLY cheerful demeanor.

        Yeah, I know I need to stop that.

  14. meyer lemon*

    UGH. I had the same thought: if he wants to show that this workplace is so safe and inclusive, this is one hell of a way to do it. Clearly this guy is all about paying lip service to diversity and trying to make a big show of having an LGBT employee without actually doing the work to make the workplace a safe and inclusive place for employees. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this workplace is not very diverse at all, if he has to search for new entry-level employees who he suspects are gay to hassle like this.

    I would be tempted to bring out all of my workplace diversity talking points every time he tried to rope me into a BS interview. “Oh, you know what would be a great topic for the newsletter? A description of the employer’s equity and inclusion plan!”

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. You have to make the workplace safe and inclusive before people feel comfortable being open. You can’t force people out to make the workplace safe.

      My company has several LGBTQIA staff who are open about themselves and the number of them and the level of openness has increased as the company has become more tolerant and put in place better protections along with the increasing level of legal protection.

      So for LGBT+ history month we had several articles on the internet and a range of talks on different aspects of LGBTQIA history and these were all things that people wanted to produce and not something management compelled them to do.

  15. A CAD Monkey*

    As someone who is only “out” as nb and ace online, this is making my skin crawl. this VP (as others have stated) is only interested in the “look at me, I’ve made this place so inclusive” :shudder: OP if you are more comfortable or have a feeling they will handle this with more discretion, definitely take this to HR.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer*

    *screams in queer non-white disabled woman tones* I am NOT your farkin’ teaching opportunity for the majority!

    You’re not ever, no way, obliged to out yourself as a member of a persecuted group in order to ‘promote inclusivity’.

    You’re not obligated to out yourself in order to be a ‘friendly helpful voice of *group*’

    You’re definitely not obligated to do it in order to educate/provide a counterpoint to bigots (thank you former employer but you know what orifice you can cram that suggestion up).

    I wish I knew a quick fix to this. All I’ve fallen back on is ‘no. Find someone else. I do not consent to this.’

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Additionally there’s an issue of impact that the VP isn’t considering. Here’s an analogy:

      If AAM was to ask me a few questions about what it’s like being a manager with schizophrenia I’d answer because a) I trust her to keep my real name out of it and b) it wouldn’t get back to my employees.

      If the VP at my current job asked me to do an article about what it’s like having schizophrenia and working at their place I’d refuse hands down. Because there’s no way that WONT affect my professional relationships.

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t quite see the connection – are you saying that a gay person can automatically identify every other gay person in their line of sight?

      1. AnonEMoose*

        It’s a bit unclear, but what I know from my friends who are part of the LGBTQIA community is that it can be a small-ish community, so it’s not out of the question that, if the VP is part of that community or close to someone who is, the VP might know someone who knows someone who knows the OP.

        I’m not part of that community; I am part of local science fiction fandom. And with that community, if I wanted to check up on someone, it wouldn’t be too difficult for me to ask around and find someone who knows them or knows who does. Or even just to hear stuff about someone in passing, even if I’m not specifically looking.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Not CLW, but I read it as another gay person might have seen them in gay spaces/apps/ex’s ex or something. But I doubt this person is gay.

      3. Beth*

        I mean, it’s not 100%, but we often can? Either because local communities are usually small, so everyone is either a friend or an ex or a friend-of-a-friend or an ex-of-a-friend or a friend’s ex-tinder-match; or because we’re aware of small in-group cues that straight people wouldn’t necessarily pick up on (gaydar isn’t 100% reliable, but sometimes you just know, even if you can’t pinpoint exactly why).

        But in this case, no, this doesn’t sound to me like the VP is gay and looking to bond. It sounds to me like the VP is painfully straight and wants points for diversity/inclusion without doing the work for it.

    2. oranges*

      I thought this was a clear case of leadership NOT being LGBTQ+ or any other marginalized group. Because anyone who IS gay is likely to understand that this is their whole life and coming out to various groups is an extremely personal and often dangerous deal. Marginalized folks understand what it’s like to be treated as a token, and that’s exactly what OP is being asked to do. I’d forward all those emails to HR in a very hot second.

    3. Littorally*

      Mm, I’m really not here for the implication that someone making life hard for a queer person must be queer themselves. I know you don’t mean it this way, but it’s definitely a pattern in these kind of issues and ultimately ends up blaming queer people for queer oppression.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yeah, it’s the ‘homophobes are closeted gays’ thing that even in 2021 I’m trying to get out of various friends/families/employees vocabulary. Sisyphus had it easy man…

    4. el knife*

      this comment is dumb on like six levels (the concept that outward homophobia is always the product of internalised homophobia is used to discredit the fight for LGBT rights, gay people don’t have magic gay detecting powers, etc. etc. ) but presumably if this were true the VP would write about HIMSELF???? god

    5. Mockingjay*

      How VP found out is only relevant in that the OP’s private status is not respected within the company. VP may be a jerk, but same as OP, doesn’t deserve to have their orientation speculated upon or outed.

    6. PollyQ*

      “Somehow” is that OP is officially out to one person and probably unofficially out to his manager and team. It’s not at all surprising to me that coworkers outs gossip about each other enough for the info to make its way through the company.

      And I very much doubt that one gay person would be so disrespectful of another’s wish not to be outed.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I cannot think of a single reason why it would matter. I don’t give a rat’s arse if he is or isn’t.

    8. Ally McBeal*

      No, I assume LW’s manager told the VP. (Occam’s Razor.) Hard to tell whether it was inadvertent or deliberate, but LW says the only person they’re out to is their manager, so.

      1. allathian*

        No, the LW is out to a work friend. He’s mentioned his boyfriend as a person he knows, but not specifically as his SO, to his manager and team.

        That said, I wouldn’t put it past the work friend to have outed the LW to the VP or elsewhere, whether inadvertently or on purpose. It wouldn’t be the first time that information someone wanted to be kept confidential got out. When you tell a secret to one person, it’s no longer a secret.

    9. Jennifer Thneed*

      “Somehow”? No, we don’t have a registry or mandatory meetings. Sometimes we recognize each other in public by understanding references to events or places, or recognizing authors names, or the like. Medieval history buffs also do this. And sports fans.

  17. So Tired*

    Yeah, as a member of the LGBT+ community, this screams to me that the company isn’t actually inclusive, or at least not in the way this VP seems to think it is. If they were the kind of inclusive he seems to think it is, he wouldn’t need to be continually pestering an entry level employee to come out against their will–there would be plenty of other gay/trans/non-binary/bi/pan/queer employees who would be willing or eager to share their stories.

    I’m sure you know this OP, but please remember that you get to come out–or not!–on your own terms and in a way that you’re comfortable and feel safe with. This VP, and anyone else in your company for that matter, don’t get to bully you into outing yourself if you don’t want to!

    1. Elenna*

      Yes! The VP has the option of just sending a company-wide announcement or whatever about “hey, I want to write this article, anyone want to talk about their experience as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in this company?” If it’s a big company, it presumably contains several LGBTQIA+ people. If it’s genuinely inclusive, some of those people may already be out, or may be willing to out themselves, because they’re aware that it won’t affect them negatively.

      The fact that he is instead pressuring an entry-level employee to out themselves makes me suspect that the VP knows nobody would respond to the above announcement, which says pretty bad things about the company’s actual level of diversity and inclusion…

  18. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I don’t know how he would manage to mention me in the article if I don’t do an interview, but I have this strange fear that he would find a way to do so if he decides to follow through with it.

    IANAL, but didn’t a whole newspaper shut down in the 2010s because they outed someone without the person’s consent? (Gawd, I do still miss Gawker.) Does anybody know what kind of recourse OP would have if the VP did this? (Really hope he doesn’t, of course.)

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I don’t think recourse even matters at that point – if OP’s name does come up in that newsletter, the damage is done either way.

    2. PollyQ*

      Re: Gawker, only sort of. They outed VC Peter Thiel as being gay, which led him to back a lawsuit by Hulk Hogan against Gawker for invasion of privacy for posting a clip from a heterosexual sex tape. It was that lawsuit that led to Gawker’s bankruptcy. So outing Thiel ultimately led to their downfall, but it wasn’t itself the thing that brought them down.

      IAAlsoNAL, but I’m not sure how much legal protection OP would have if he were unwillingly outed. It might be considered harassment or creating a hostile workplace, but I’ve never heard of a case like that, so I doubt it would be a slam-dunk win.

  19. Texas*

    The fact that the VP emailed you to harass you about the interview is so messed up because 1) “no” is a complete sentence, and 2) now there’s written record of him outing you in emails that could technically be seen be others in the company (since it’s over company email).

    I’m also so confused as to how the VP knows you’re gay. Is he just pulling employees into his office about this interview hoping one of them will in fact be gay???

  20. Interviewer*

    I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. Make a note of the dates/times of the in-person conversations, along with the comments the VP made, and forward the emails/meeting invites to your personal email. You now have a track record of the pushy attempts to out yourself at work. If you see any employment-related repercussions of this decision (denied promotions, raises, schedule changes, other benefits), you could have a case for retaliation. Stupid VP.

  21. Dasein9*

    Document, document, document! Your boss is treating you like The Gay Employee (TM) and if you don’t comply, may trade you in for a Better Cultural Fit Gay Employee (TM). But the fact is, even if you were an expert in the field of LGBTQ studies and an experienced corporate trainer, you still wouldn’t have an obligation to educate your own co-workers about this stuff. It is not your job to teach your own colleagues this material.

    If your coworkers see your phone, then they likely know that your phone background isn’t just a friend.
    “Being out” and “people knowing” are not equivalent, though, and you have the right to be as forthcoming about your home life as you are comfortable with.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Absolutely. If OP is going to CC HR (and I think they should strongly consider it), include the whole paper trail to show that they are clearly not comfortable and VP is leaning on them. It may still “out” OP to HR, but that may be a preferred path than VP’s unwanted article.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP, please document all transactions with this VP that are not strictly professional in character. And DON’T keep it on your local server. You can always forward his emails to your personal email account, along with any notes you want to take.

      I harp on this point a lot at AAM, but I have reasons.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I harp on keeping copies at home – printouts, if necessary – always. Never trust a company to keep your emails or continue to allow you access to them if it’s not in their best interest. I haven’t had bad experiences with this specifically, but other experiences have made me very cautious.
        Especially since reading the book about Theranos (Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies at a Silicon Valley Startup). The thing that broke the case open was an email printout an employee smuggled out under his shirt.
        There was another employee – a manager, IRRC – who forwarded emails to his personal account in spite of a rule against this. A higher-up found he had done this and threatened him with lawsuits to make him delete the emails from his personal account.
        So always check the rules… although even if there’s no rule against forwarding company emails, they might still punish you for it. I would still keep printouts. And of course, don’t tell hostile managers you have them!

  22. MJ*

    In a sense, the VP is harassing you. Please let your boss know and save and forward the emails to them.

  23. Elenia*

    God, so annoying. There is some gentle pressure on me to join our company’s diversity and equity and inclusion task force because I am a minority and I feel the same way. Not my job to educate you, plus I’m not your token asian. I am here because of my work, not because of my color. Now leave me alone!

  24. HailRobonia*

    If they are sincerely concerned about inclusivity, they could put an open invitation out to employees “we are looking to interview one or more employees of X demographic for an article in an upcoming company newsletter.”

    1. Generic Name*

      Exactly! I feel like it would be super easy to send out a mass email that says something along the lines of: As we gear up to celebrate Pride Month, we would like to feature articles from our diverse community in our company newsletter. Blah blah blah…

      I get the feeling that the company doesn’t celebrate Pride Month in any meaningful way (and that they aren’t all that inclusive, as demonstrated by the VP’s harassing the OP). If they did, there would be an established process for newsletter features and whatnot.

    2. meyer lemon*

      Even if people opted in, I feel like a staff newsletter would be an uncomfortable place to invite employees to open up about personal identity and marginalization-related issues they face in the workplace. As the LW says, the likely effect is to have other staff members think of them primarily as “my gay coworker” or “my Black coworker” or whatever the case may be. And this would just feed into the existing problem of marginalized people being treated as ambassadors for their identity and being asked invasive questions.

      1. kt*

        I think what would be great about a well-written solicitation, though, is that a straight employee could write about the volunteer work they’ve done for an org that provides supportive housing for LGBTQIA youth who’ve experienced homelessness, or someone could write a quick history piece about a historical figure who contributed to the field, or whatever. Like we had a quick thing on Garrett Morgan who patented an early form of the traffic light during Black History Month, as I’m in a transportation-adjacent field, and we supported a local charity that was picked by folks active in the Black ERG and there was a discussion of what the charity does. You can do stuff that’s fun or impactful or interesting and also doesn’t require a sort of public recounting of trauma for the purpose of bringing an emotional redemption arc into the reader’s day (which I think is the underlying purpose of some of this pressure to recount personal stories, especially stories of adversity — it make the reader feel, “Wow, I read something & empathized with the person’s story, therefore I’m a good person because I felt feelings about someone *different* and now we’re coworkers so everything is fine and I helped make it fine.”)

        1. meyer lemon*

          I don’t disagree that there is a thoughtful way of addressing these topics in a staff newsletter, but I don’t think leaning on members of marginalized communities on staff to mine them for their personal information is the way to do it. Either way, I wouldn’t trust this particular company to do it well, at this point.

    3. Elenna*

      Yeah, exactly! I said the same above. And if the company were genuinely inclusive, there would probably be some people who were already a) out and b) willing to talk about their experiences, knowing that a genuinely inclusive company wouldn’t start thinking of them as The Gay Employee.

      But you’ll notice that the VP didn’t do that, which implies that he probably doesn’t think it would get any responses, which makes me pretty skeptical about their actual level of inclusivity… (is that a word?)

    4. Sutemi*

      And if they want to run such an article, is LW even the best person to interview? They have only been with the company and working for less than a year after graduation. Wouldn’t someone with longer tenure at the company and more career experience have more valuable insights?

  25. AnonEmployee*

    Why are some people so obtuse ? No means no, and yet, that’s not enough for this VP? It can be a challenge for those from a different perspective to understand change is not as straight-forward as they want it to be. If VP continues, you should loop in HR. Sorry you are dealing with this!

    1. Generic Name*

      I don’t think the VP is obtuse. The OP has said no several times, and the VP isn’t taking no for an answer. That’s not obtuse, that’s not giving a crap about boundaries. I don’t think the VP is challenged by anything; he just doesn’t care. I too am sorry you’re dealing with this. Your gut feelings are spot on and the VP is way out of line.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I feel like the VP knows of ONE gay person at the company and can’t give this one up just because he said no.

        Gee, can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t be feeling cool and froody about being the only one out here.

  26. A Genuine Scientician*

    People who are actually allies act so radically differently than this VP.

    As a grad student, I was affiliated with a few different research labs. All of them had more than one openly gay person in them, which is a way higher rate than the baseline in any of those departments. Because those particular professors were well known to be safe. They didn’t pressure you at all; social events were given as a blanket “feel free to bring a +1”, they never asked prying questions, and the most it came up being initiated by the professor was them sending notice of an LGBT event to the entire lab list with an “FYI” (or, very rarely, in a one-on-one meeting, the prof asking if I was interested in applying for a particular LGBT fellowship, or letting me know that a particular academic conference I was going to had an LGBT-based networking event). One of those labs at one point actually had more LGBT members than cishet members, and consistently has slightly more women than men, despite the professor being a straight white man in Computer Science. When it’s *actually* a safe space, people in the minority both seek it out, and are more comfortable being open about their reality.

    On the other hand, one of the labs run *by* an openly lesbian professor was considered informally to *not* be a safe place to be known as an LGBT student. It wasn’t that she would hit on her students — she was far more professional than that — but she would do weird things like decide she knew someone was gay based on their interview without them telling her that, and then tell all of the current lab that they were before they arrived. Which just, no, you don’t do something like that. Even if you’re correct that they are, it’s still their choice to let people know. At least one student that happened to then spent the first 6 months of his time in the lab repeatedly telling people that he was not, in fact, gay, which could not have been a comfortable thing for him to have to keep talking about.

    1. deesse877*

      oh damn about the unsafe lab. That rings true for my experience of the academy, and of senior faculty, though. There are many who go through life under the assumption that “I am smart, so all my thoughts are true.”

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        “Don’t kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about.”

  27. Mandi*

    This definitely feels like a PR stunt vs. a sincere attempt at inclusivity. My guess, OP, is you’re the only gay employee he knows (or thinks he knows) and his whole PR campaign hinges on you agreeing to this. That speaks volumes.

  28. AnonEmployee*

    Oh, right, just as others have added, no one, but you, should decide when and where to out yourself! It’s gross that VP, due to their position, is pressing you to do this regardless of how you feel about it!

  29. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Just going to +1 everyone else describing how gross this is.

    If a LGBTQH+ coworker came to me with this scenario, I’d offer to be a positive reference for them in a heartbeat and would encourage them to start interviewing immediately if not sooner. Being on the wrong side of a VP is nowhere to be.

  30. Pascall*

    So frustrating how the onus is placed on the LGBT+ employee to educate others.

    Google is free. Smh. Or PAY an actual professional freelancer/contractor who is educated and has experience in diversity training and workshops. Don’t thrust the responsibility on a junior-level employee who is:

    1) Not comfortable with it.
    2) Not being compensated.
    3) Not even out.

    You would think this would be common sense. But no amount of ignorance surprises me anymore.

  31. AKchic*

    Here’s the thing, LW: you didn’t actually come out and say you were gay to this VP. This VP *guessed* based on a few conversations and what they knew about you. They made the (correct) assumption. They are also pressuring you hard and making you fear that they will out you even if you don’t agree to this interview.
    Yes, you have every reason to believe that you are going to be the token Gay Employee, because to this VP, you already are. They are pushing you to do something you’ve already declined to do multiple times. And why? So they and they company can look good to the world without doing anything meaningful. They get a pat on the back for *hiring* you, (subtext: “despite your unfortunate social flaw” *snooty look down the nose*). They will treat your difference like a lopsided boob or a skirt tucked into your pantyhose or a credit card being declined at the country club (oh. the. horror). And they are doing this to you because they either don’t have BIPOC representation, they missed out on the appropriate “month”, or the “designated minority representative” (in their eyes) turned them down and “made noise” about how discriminatory the optics could be.

    And I recognize that I am pushing some heavy 80’s-style vibes. It is intentional. A lot of upper management types haven’t outgrown that mentality.

  32. Alexis Rose*

    I was audibly saying “NO NO NO NO NO” as I read this. This is awful.

    I would feel like a zoo animal, on display to educate others, if it were me. What a gross feeling.

  33. Llellayena*

    Dear VP (and HR),
    Since you asked, I would like to provide one suggestion for making the company safer and more inclusive. Respect your employees as individuals who have differing opinions, approaches and needs. This includes allowing employees to be as private about their personal lives as they want to. Insisting that an individual share their private experiences in a public setting, even with the goal of being an example to others, negates the “safe” and “inclusive” environment for that specific individual. I do not wish to be interviewed for or mentioned in the newsletter for Pride month. Please respect my individual choice. Thank you.

    1. AllTheBirds*

      “And know that if you go against my stated wishes, you will be contacted by my employment lawyer.”

  34. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    That’s rather deplorable that the VP is using you for company advertisement. You should be able to do your job without that person bothering and harrassing you. It has nothing to do with your job. I would document your interactions with this person and check your company policy. You could escalate it to HR if this VP posts your private information in that article but HR is more about protecting the company.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Which is exactly why good HR will shut this VP down: because if this happens, and news gets out into the world, they will look like a crappy company and it will affect them in the financials.

  35. The Token Token*

    This reminds me of how my ex-job automatically put any POC on their EDI committee, even after multiple people repeatedly asked to be taken off the list. It’s like, “We (the mostly white organization” want to make you (POC) feel included by setting up a committee where you solve problems for us, even though we won’t listen or take this committee seriously.”

    Barf barf barf.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Barf, indeed. I work in higher education. It is common for junior faculty who are women and/or BIPOC to be automatically assigned to all the diversity committees, task forces, etc. Then when they come up for tenure, they’re told that they haven’t done enough research to qualify.

      The system works as designed.

    2. techie*

      Yep, this is super common in tech startups too. For POC and for women (and double for people who are both.) My last company pushed very hard for an EDI group staffed entirely by volunteers (mostly women) who would then be ignored by the majority white male upper management…. who would then turn around and pat themselves on the back because the diversity was pretty good for a tech company. F that.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Major tech firms also, least in my experience of having to remove myself from multiple ‘inclusivity’ boards I’d never asked to be on.

  36. MissDisplaced*

    Whoa! Too much. I guess it was ok for the VP to (privately) ask if you’d be interested in doing this, but they need to back off if you’re not interested and not push. And I can totally see why you wouldn’t be interested. Lots of people just like being private about their personal lives at work. Or, they’re simply “not joiners” in anything like me.

  37. 1234*

    I also want to point out that the OP has tactfully and professionally declined this idiot VP’s interview attempts.

    I also feel that this VP is simply doing this interview as a way to show off “hey look at how diverse we are!” The funny thing is, companies that are actually diverse/LGBTQ+ friendly don’t need to scream it in company newsletters or interview their employees. They are doing so by the other methods Alison mentioned in her response – mentoring diverse groups of people, examining company culture, etc.

  38. Campfire Raccoon*

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this, OP. It’s gross and I wish I had something useful to add.

  39. Emma2*

    I wonder if the OP needs to go broader than Alison’s language to make clear to VP that outing him in any context is not ok, this is not just the newsletter.
    Perhaps something along the lines of “I realise you mean well, but this discussion about the newsletter is making me uncomfortable because I am not out at work and do not want my orientation disclosed in the newsletter or otherwise. This is very personal information and I need you to allow me to decide who I share it with and when.” Others may have far better scripts – and obviously I don’t believe that VP means well, but I do believe he may be the type to casually disclose other people’s personal information given the fact he is trying to pressure OP into having his private information printed in a company newsletter.
    OP – I am so sorry you are dealing with this.

  40. Sami*

    Since the OP says this is a large company there are surely more LGBTQ+ employees and some of whom are out at work. None of this has any bearing on the decision of the OP.

    1. Disabled trans lesbian*

      Statistically it is very likely a large company would have more than one LGBTQ+ employee, yes. However, I do not think this matters in OP’s case, and I in fact would caution OP against trying to tell VP this. This VP has proven they are not a safe person for LGBTQ+ people, and I would not want to take the risk of setting the VP onto another LGBTQ+ employee. The safest thing to do is try to shut VP’s attempts to out OP (and any other LGBTQ+ employees) down as hard as possible, which Alison’s advice covers.

    2. Suz*

      Just because a larger company is more likely to have more LGBTQ+ employees doesn’t mean they have any or have any who are out. My previous employer had about 2500 employees but almost all were white men. I was one of the few women there who wasn’t an admin. I don’t recall any LGBTQ+ people on staff. If there were any, they definitely weren’t out.

      1. allathian*

        Same thing here. I work for the government, my agency has more than 2,000 employees. It stands to reason that a number of them would be LGBT+, but if that’s the case, I don’t know any.

        I’m a fairly private person at work, but all of my close coworkers know that I’m married and that my husband and I have a son. It’s come up in coffee-table discussions with people I don’t know quite so well, because my family is something I take for granted I’m able to talk about. We have equal marriage, and if someone uses the gender-neutral spouse instead of husband or wife, there’s no way to know the gender of their partner, especially as my primary working language, Finnish, doesn’t have gendered pronouns.

        I totally respect the right of all of my coworkers to not be out in the workplace if that’s their preference. At the same time, I think it’s rather sad that nobody seems to feel safe enough to talk about their LGBTQ+ lives.

    3. vlookup*

      Honestly, if it’s a large company and there aren’t other LGBTQ+ employees who are out at work, that’s a huge red flag that this isn’t a safe environment for OP to be out, especially not in as public a way as appearing in a newsletter.

      Not only should queer people be able to choose when to come out, but they usually have pretty good instincts as to whether a given situation feels safe to do so.

  41. jess*

    Wow, yeah, this is not OK for the VP to request of anyone, and especially not to someone who just graduated last year so is presumably relatively young. I think this warrants a private discussion with HR, and HR should keep an eagle eye on this VP going forward.

    1. Sylvan*

      I agree! I wonder why he’s chosen one of the youngest people around. There could be no reason except that you’re the only queer employee that he knows of, of course, but it’s weird.

      1. Jacqueline*

        My assumption is that he thinks he can pressure a junior employee in a way he can’t with a more senior one. There are a lot of newer workers who probably wouldn’t realize they could push back on a request from someone high up in the company.

  42. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I wonder if it would be of any benefit if OP reached out to an employment lawyer for advisement? Sometimes you hear about activists in bigger cities that do pro-bono work, just to formally get some feedback on what his options are, as just reading this I felt myself backed into a corner, and I’m not the OP! I mention this especially if OP doesn’t feel comfortable going to HR, because it seems like the vibes they are getting from management is that the company is overall kind of a mess in this regard, and HR is there first to represent the company’s interests more than anything.

    1. Le Sigh*

      Yeah, I was wondering if before reaching out to HR, OP should try to consult with a lawyer. HR being useful here really depends on the company and the culture, which only OP will know. CCing HR may just result in further outing themselves to someone as bad as the VP. My thinking was a lawyer could at least provide guidance on the best way to proceed and protect themselves.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Exactly. Because the firm sounds distinctly unfriendly to minority groups and who knows who else they might also be pushing the same way as OP

  43. Empress Matilda*

    Argh, why are people like this. The VP has clearly shown that he’s not interested in your actual story, just the story that he himself wants to tell. So I would suggest a couple of things:

    ~Get super formal in your language to the VP. Every time he brings it up, use the word “consent.” As in “I do not consent to participate in this article.” He’s not listening to your “no,” but hopefully the word “consent” will take it up a notch for him.

    ~Talk to HR. Or if you don’t have a good relationship with HR, could you talk to your boss, or is there another senior leader that you trust? Somebody in your organization must have both the will and the standing to tell the VP to knock it the hell off – find that person, and ask for their help.

    It does mean outing yourself to at least one other person, and obviously you’re a better judge of that risk than I am. It’s a gross and uncomfortable situation that he’s put you in, either way. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

  44. Suzy Q*

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Alison’s answer is good, and I would add the words “even obliquely” to the sentence about not wanting to be referred to in the article. What an ass that VP is.

  45. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    What an ass! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, OP.

    Clearly, I’m not a lawyer, but wouldn’t this fall into the legal definition of workplace harassment? The OP is being bullied and targeted by the VP for their sexual orientation. Maybe speak with a lawyer just to cover all your bases?

    1. nonegiven*

      IDK if it actually falls under the legal definition of hostile environment or not. It sure as hell feels like it.

  46. Yvette*

    Sadly I feel that “And consider cc’ing HR on this or talking to HR separately if you think this guy is likely to ignore your request.” would be outing themself. We have seen time and again examples of HR not being a bastion of confidentiality and integrity.

    1. Yvette*

      Empress Matilda suggested
      “ another senior leader that you trust”. That may be a more viable option.

  47. LQ*

    I assume the VP isn’t your boss. If (and this can be a big if) your boss is someone who directly, or through the ear of someone else, could push back on this for you I may go for that too. I’d only do this if your boss could be discrete and would potentially be interested in fighting this battle for you. I’m not a VP but if I found out one of my staff had one of the “VPs” doing this to them I’d 100% be willing to pick that fight, especially if it was from the HR or even grosser Diversity and Inclusion division.

    That said you would likely have to out yourself or at least shrug at it to your boss and possibly multiple people up the chain which it sounds like you don’t want to. (You can try “VP has decided that he believes I’m gay and that I need to be a model gay spokesperson.”) If you think that’s a possibility it could be worth pushing that angle. It’s not going to work all the time but it can work. (This is especially true if this VP is in charge of HR or D&I and if you have another senior manager who is willing to pick a fight with them over this it’s a possible angle to take.)

    Good luck shutting this down.

  48. NotBatman*

    I am so sorry, letter writer. As a person with *exactly* the same feelings (unwilling to lie about being queer, also unwilling to be The Queer Employee, horrified about being outed by well-meaning coworkers) I’m mostly here to express a huge dose of empathy.

    Well-meaning progressive people who want to help: please read the above experience and take note. Disclosing your own pronouns is always good; pressuring other people to disclose theirs is intrusive. Putting up a rainbow flag or a “Support Trans People” sticker in your office is excellent; telling a new hire “we have lots of gay employees such as X Person” is inappropriate.

  49. Heidi*

    One unintended consequence of being out at work is that you may become the unofficial “go-to person” for every single LGBTQIA+ question that pops into your coworkers’ and VP’s heads. And—however well-meaning your colleagues may be—I’m willing to bet that many of their questions are going to be offensive. If you’re featured in a company-wide newsletter (even if your VP disregards your wishes and outs you), you may be opening that door. As the only out gay person at my work site, I can tell you firsthand that no one likes to be the “go-to queer question answerer.” Definitely take Alison’s advice on firmly shutting your VP’s request down. And consider bringing HR into the mix.

    1. Hamish*

      Yup. Last workplace, as soon as people found out I was queer, I was fielding questions about Bob’s neighbor’s “weird” pronouns and whether it would be appropriate/safe if Jane allowed her teenage daughter to go to a Pride parade. I didn’t love it.

  50. Llama face!*

    It’s White Saviour Complex: Səxuality Edition! He ‘knows what’s best for you’ and is determined to do it whether or not it actually helps!

    Ugh this is so gross. I don’t have any further advice, OP, just sympathy. I hope you can get this shut down and not have to deal with any further harrassment from him.

  51. DJ Abbott*

    Hi OP,
    I’m not LGBTQ+ myself… I’ve been working for a long time, as well as a customer of retail corporations, and observed how disrespectful and greedy they are with their marketing.
    The times I’ve been around Pride activities like the parade, there are many corporate logos on everything – Pepsi, Coke, corporate stores, banks, etc.
    They may or may not truly support equality for LGBTQ+ …but I know the main reason they do this is for money. They know many LGBTQ+ people have money, and they want that money spent to buy from them.
    It sounds like your VP is trying to do something similar by using you to promote diversity in a fast easy (for him) way. Since it’s internal I’m not sure why – to raise morale? For recruiting? Since you’re familiar with the business you probably know.

    Another thing I’ve seen more than once is companies doing things that kill morale, then trying desperately to raise it with tactics like this. Your VP sounds desperate, so it might be this. Or it might be he was assigned to promote diversity or raise morale by a certain deadline and he’s trying to do it last-minute by using you.

    Whatever, it’s his problem. *It’s very important for you to protect yourself from being outed without permission or thrown under the bus for not complying.* Let your boss and HR and any other managers you trust know about this, ASAP, and save all the emails from the VP and any others about this.
    Good luck!

    1. DJ Abbott*

      P.S. – Save the emails in a place you can get them if you’re not at work. Some companies have policies against forwarding a work email, so printing them out and taking them home might be best.
      Good luck!

  52. Cat*

    Two things should be learned from this.

    1) The VP should have learned that their organization isn’t safe, because OP isn’t sure how people will respond. Instead of bullying OP they should have started work to make it safe.

    2) OP should now know that the place isn’t actually safe, due to VP’s behavior.

  53. Batgirl*

    “I don’t think some fluff piece about a random entry-level employee is going to make them feel more included in the company”
    Is it worth spelling this out? “Not only is it not in line with my own policy to protect my privacy, I don’t really want to be part of an inclusivity attempt that would certainly backfire if it were suggested that employing a gay person into an entry level position was anything but unremarkable.”
    Possibly even “I can’t actually share what the experience of an openly gay person in this company would be, because I’m not out at work”.
    I mean, what is OP even supposed to say? “I was somehow outed as gay and yet still have a job, yay me?!” If they were asked about co-workers reactions their honest response would be “Dunno, because I wasn’t even out until pressured to do this interview.”

  54. Maltypass*

    The sheer unmitigated gall of the VP to say that you should do it to help the other LGBTQIA employees rather than he, the VP, who holds the power to actually affect policy, is truly something. Good on you for standing firm, and so sorry you’re dealing with this mess

  55. Ciela*

    I wonder if a very clear “No, I am not discussing my sex life in a company newsletter. It is very weird that you keep asking about it”

    It *is* very weird for the VP to keep asking…

    1. Sylvan*

      I get what you’re going for here, but please don’t frame being gay/bi/etc. as just someone’s sex life. There’s more to relationships than that, just like there is for straight people, and we do have whole communities and everything lol.

    2. Hamish*

      This would really be counter-productive. Being gay isn’t just about our sex lives. I wouldn’t want anyone to say that at my work when there are already people who think I’m being gross and talking about sex when I answer “what did you do this weekend?” with “Oh, I went out to a movie with my husband.”

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I get what you are doing here, trying to shock the boss into being too embarrassed to mention it again, and I see the potential benefits of it, but I also see a lot of pitfalls as described by Sylvan and Hamish. Plus, even if it works and OP gets left alone, the boss will probably just try it with the next person he knows or even just suspects to be LGBTQ.

  56. Sparkles McFadden*

    This is truly terrible. No one should be bullied into sharing any kind of private information in the workplace. Use Alison’s script to reply to the VP. Document everything. As much as I, personally, hate going to HR, you might need to do so depending on the VP’s response.

    Good luck. I am sorry you have to put up with this.

  57. Batgirl*

    I’m assuming HR would have to deal with this as potentially illegal discrimination? I’m assuming the straight employees don’t get hassled to provide a Q and A on their sexuality in order to help others at work?

  58. DoubleE*

    I think there are a lot of well-intentioned people who want to help others, but they make assumptions rather than finding out 1) if the person/ people they’re trying to help actually want their help and 2) if the thing they want to do will actually be helpful.

    In an ideal world, this VP would solicit input from a diverse group of employees about what the company could do to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace rather than plowing ahead with this article when the LW has made it clear they aren’t comfortable with it. If LW isn’t in a position to suggest that, maybe their manager or HR is. For the LW and their colleagues’ sake, I hope this VP is just a case of misguided good-intentions.

  59. Business Socks*

    Ugh…this is Michael Scott levels of cluelessness and lack of regard for others. Makes me wonder if they practice poor boundaries in other ways as well.

  60. anonny*

    The senior people don’t have to be the face of this either, but they are also in a better position to have an impact and make their choices accordingly. They have established themselves professionally and have some clout, which means a) they won’t be known only as “the [fill in the blank]” person, and they are in a position to really influence change. Not the same situation, but I worked for a senior leader who was pushing for parental leave coverage in the company. She was a woman who had a toddler and was pregnant. I talked to her about it, and she said at first she didn’t really want to put herself out there to push for it. But she looked around and realized the old men who were her peers (and largely had stay-at-home moms for wives) weren’t going to push for it, so who else was? But again she could make that choice because she also had a strong professional reputation and some clout.

    1. anonny*

      Ugh nesting fail – this was in response to the person who asked why the senior leaders had to be the face of this.

  61. anon4this*

    “The VP asked me to meet with him privately and told me that he is interested in writing an article that would essentially be an interview about my experience as an LGBTQ+ employee”
    This part bothers me the most. I would have asked him to clarify which letter I was and how exactly he came to this conclusion. This is beyond obvious tokenism, which usually doesn’t extend to invisible minorities.
    He does not know you or anything about your situation.
    He’s also not well intentioned. He wants to falsely portray his company as pro-something that they’re not. It’s really weird.
    I don’t know how well you like your job, or the VP’s standing in the company, but it may be worth talking to HR, reading over your handbook for how work misconduct is defined, and seeing if your state is LGBTQIA+ friendly.

    1. Batgirl*

      I so agree on the “not well intentioned” and I am baffled by those going with that assumption. Maybe the very first approach could read as a clueless but benevolent intention to give OP a voice, but as soon as the VP started trying to push past the OP’s discomfort and desire to not be outed, they showed who they really are.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I think the VP likely thinks he is well-intentioned, but he’s not being honest with himself. Any “positive” aspects of his intentions are overshadowed by the superficial and self-serving aspects, and his behavior is way out of line.

        1. anon4this*

          What is one positive aspect of his intentions? He legit built the foundation of the conversation by declaring he knows the OP’s sexuality and would like OP to publicly declare this in front of all of his coworkers and then have a conversation about his “experience”.
          The VP didn’t actually even ask or question if it was positive or negative experience- he just wants the optics of an LGBTQIA+ employee to have a conversation with his employees about working there. That is utterly bizarre to me and I can find nothing positive coming out of it for the company or the OP.

  62. Former Employee*

    Does he also have his “special” Black/Asian/Native/disabled person?

    This is like some really weird variation on being Teacher’s Pet.

    In the immortal words of Nany Reagan, Just Say No!

  63. Mannheim Steamroller*

    “And consider cc’ing HR on this or talking to HR separately if you think this guy is likely to ignore your request.”


    Tell HR that the VP probably does plan to out you, and his blanket refusal to honor your wishes would probably constitute a hostile work environment. See if that gets any attention.

  64. EmmaPoet*

    VP: I want to show how diverse and welcoming we are to LGBTQ+ people!
    Also VP: So I will repeatedly try to push an entry-level employee- who has NOT told me that they are LGBTQ+- to admit their letter and then appear as our token non-straight person in the company news letter when I write an article about how diverse and welcoming we are.
    Speaking as a someone on that spectrum who is also a religious minority, this doesn’t make me feel like a company is a diverse and welcoming place. It makes me feel like they want to use anyone who isn’t a straight cis white Christian as a human shield should they be called out as discriminating. If you want to show diversity, maybe give me floating holidays so I can take off Yom Kippur without burning PTO, and make sure that parental leave covers adoption and has inclusive language. Don’t drag some poor person who clearly doesn’t want to be your poster child onto the cover of your news letter.

  65. HR Exec Popping In*

    Ugh. This is so yucky. I am going to assume the VP is coming from a good place with good intention of trying to improve the organization’s culture to be more inclusive. And it isn’t a bad idea to highlight employees about their experiences to increase understanding. BUT, this VP is coming from such a place of privilege that they do not even understand what they are asking the OP to do.

    OP, use the script that AAM gave you and do not let him bully you into doing something that you are not comfortable doing. I really do hope that one day your company becomes a place where someone isn’t worried about being out and don’t feel the need to hide a big part of their life. But trust your gut and don’t let the VP push you into believing it is up to you to create that culture. Good luck.

    1. Crispy Pork*

      Can we not attribute good intentions to mitigate bad behaviour? VP is being so gross that his intentions are entirely irrelevant.

      1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

        His intentions are entirely irrelevant even if he was being less gross. Intentions are not a magic wand or a Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free card. His impact is what matters- and if his intentions are good, he should welcome being given a chance to address his impact. I’m so sick of the good intentions narrative. I don’t care what your intentions are- if someone tells you “no” you just stop. Kindergarteners can learn this, so company execs should be able to get it.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I think good intentions stopped when he ignored OP’s very clearly stated NO.

  66. Crispy Pork*

    I was cringing throughout the whole letter. This is so gross. I really hope you can alert HR without any negative repercussions for yourself.

    My husband’s workplace has ramped up their efforts to tout themselves as a “diverse” and “inclusive” workplace. But it’s clear it’s a PR strategy than anything else. His (all-male) team won a prestigious industry award but the management picked a woman to receive the award publicly, despite having *nothing* to do with the project. They started promoting women into their upper management teams but they are allllll white. I refuse to believe that in a large, multinational corporate, all of the people who are promoted just happen to be white by coincidence; there is bias at play for sure. My husband is a POC and has perfect performance ratings every year – given to <1% of employees – but I wonder if he's reached his glass ceiling as there is an excuse every time to not promote him. As a POC it's incredibly difficult to make the case for racism particularly at a company where a bunch of white people are patting themselves on the back for being an inclusive workplace.

  67. Darkside*

    I wonder if the VP has some kind of ulterior motive. Like there’s some kind of diversity initiative she’s angling to fulfill and she need “a gay one” to get a tax credit or something.

  68. Salty Bisexual*

    Ah yes, the thing all LGBTQ+ people love most: being turned into involuntary community representatives. There are professionals who deliver workshops and presentations on this for a reason. Workplace inclusivity is a tricky topic at the best of times, especially when you have a personal stake in the matter.

    Honestly OP, I’d go to HR about this now. The repeated badgering signals to me that this isn’t the last time you’ll get this kind of unreasonable request.

  69. SwiftSunrise*

    Honestly, I think this is worth a consultation with an employment lawyer – at the very least, it will give you firm ground on where you stand in your particular jurisdiction, and the most effective language to use when talking to the VP and HR.

    Because Christ on a pogo stick, this makes every cell in my body rise up and simultaneously scream NO NO NO NO NO NO BAD BAD BAD.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. Granted, he’s an entry-level employee and may not have a lot of funds. But perhaps an LGBTQ+ advocacy group could put him in touch with someone who does pro-bono work?

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        most attorneys offer an initial consultation for free. They also usually discuss all the options and possible ramifications. He may get a lot of help figuring out how he wants to respond at little to no cost.

  70. Paul Pearson*

    Ugh, I relate. My company has no decent LGBTQ policies and tolerates a lot of homophobic behaviour from staff and customers – but like clockwork every Pride Month they descend upon me with rainbows, “come Only Gay In The Office, pose for our Rainbow Washed publicity photos!”

  71. Union Maid*

    don’t you have any company policy on harassment or similar (ours is entitled ‘Dignity at Work’)? do you have a union rep? do you have a local LGBT+ rights group who might be able to advise?

    Working in public sector in the UK – this would not only be actionable under our policy, but it would be in contravention of national legislation (Equality Act 2010).
    It doesn’t matter if you are gay, by the way, if someone behaves in a discriminatory fashion towards you due to the perception that you belong to one of the groups covered in our legislation (in this case, due to your sexual orientation) or due to your association with someone in one of these groups, it has the same status.
    Here, if someone mentioned this to me, I would be contacting/ suggesting contacting our local LGBT+ Foundation to ask their advice.

    OP- you don’t have to be alone, and you don’t have to out yourself at work to get support and information.


    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I’m assuming OP is in the United States. While most companies have policies, they choose them on their own and this company may not have a clear policy at this point. Sure, the law prevents them from discriminating, but it can be a real headache to get anywhere with that. I would recommend involving HR, but when it is the VP of the company, that can be playing with fire. Still, I think he should at least talk to them. But I would definitely start by consulting an employment attorney. Allison has pointed out that we do not just sue people. We suggest options and plans, try to give clients a realistic idea of how the process works, and help out in a myriad of ways beyond litigation. Employment laws in the US just are not as worker friendly as in the UK, either in the way they are written or in the ways they are implemented.

  72. SleepyWolverine*

    It’s a trap. Get an axe.

    Seriously, I dealt with something similar in 2007, though it did not concern a newsletter. The President of our company got really chummy with me, talked about her gay friends, and dropped a ton of hints about me, trying to get me to come out. I finally did come out to her.

    Two weeks later, she fired me on the spot for being “careless” and sending a photocopy that had a shadow on it from where they had the original document taped to the wall with a bit of masking tape. This was literally a couple of weeks after I had been given a glowing review, a raise, and increased benefits.

    They then falsified documentation and tried to stand in the way of my unemployment. They literally tried to present a series of four quarterly SOP changes signed by all employees in the company as “written warnings” and got laughed out of the arbitration hearing.

  73. Observer*

    #5 – I haven’t had a chance to read the comments, and I know that this is late. But a thought that MIGHT be helpful.

    I know that this VP is not a completely reasonable person, or you would not need to be writing to Alison about this problem to start with. But would he listen if you pointed something new out to him?

    I’m thinking that he’s not respecting your decision to talk about your orientation because he’s like all of the people who disclose OTHER PEOPLE’S mental health or other highly private issues (aka gossip) in the name of “de-stigmatizing” these issues. I’m not sure you have any chance of changing his mind on that matter. But, you say that ” and, like the rest of my personal life, I’m pretty private about my relationship at work”. Point this out to the VP, and point out that being forced t share your private life and relationship with the company just because you are gay is the exact opposite of being safe.

  74. Donkey Hotey*

    Late to the party. Everything I would have said has already been said multiple times over.
    HOWEVER, I do want to give a shout out to the OP for the use of “trail mix” to describe your co-workers.

  75. EEO Person*

    As an EEO Investigator, I can 100% ensure that you have a claim of harassment (especially if anything comes of the fact that you have said no -being treated badly, less opportunity, even him being rude) you are guaranteed a win if you report this to your state’s investigative body or the federal EEOC. I know most people aren’t fans of formal complaints or lawsuits, but often things only change when there is an actual consequence to discriminatory actions.

    Get a lawyer and get paid!

  76. your LGBTQ work friend*

    Everything Allison said is right but, fam: “I don’t know if anybody has figured out by now that the guy on my phone background isn’t just a friend”? The number of straight men who have a photo of another man as their phone background is exactly zero. You are already out.

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