how can I come out as queer mid-career?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’ve been with my employer for over 10 years and in that time my personal identity has shifted significantly from the professional identity I projected at my hiring. I allowed my colleagues to assume I was a straight, cisgender woman in a monogamous relationship. That was never true but when I was younger I was willing to hide key parts of my identity for a significant career opportunity.

Something about having my colleagues “in” my home via Zoom has made the separation between my personal and professional life more upsetting. Addintally we have an active team working to deepen our diversity and I struggle with the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ identities from that work. The reality is I am a non-binary, bisexual human in a polyamorous relationship. How can I redefine myself as a queer person at work?

Readers who identify as queer or otherwise LGBTQIA+, what’s your advice? (I’m asking others to hang back on this one; let’s hear from people with personal experience.)

{ 394 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Reiterating the request above: I’m asking readers who identify as queer or otherwise LGBTQIA+ to weigh in here and others to hang back on this one. Thank you.

  2. ABK*

    “The reality is I am a non-binary, bisexual human in a polyamorous relationship. How can I redefine myself as a queer person at work?”

    Can you take it one identity at a time? Coming out as all of them might feel like a lot for your colleagues and super vulnerable for you. You could choose the pronoun first, or introduce a S.O. or two and mention that yeah, you have more than one S.O.! it’s cool! If they’re different genders, people will catch on to the Bi part naturally. Just start opening up about your personal life bit by bit and people will appreciate being let in and start connecting the dots about your whole identity.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I agree with this. It doesn’t have to be everything all at once – change your pronouns, start mentioning significant others, it will come naturally and doesn’t necessarily need to be one big formal announcement.

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        Maybe it’s because I’m an accountant in the Midwest, but reading through some of these comments I’m surprised by how commenters seem to think the “change your pronouns” part isn’t going to be a big deal at most workplaces.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I live in the Midwest, albeit in a major metro area and work at a company that touts its DEI initiatives – I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone, but I feel like it’s a good place to start if the LW is comfortable, and it may be the thing that has the biggest day to day impact on their mental wellbeing.

          1. Allypopx*

            ^ being misgendered is, probably, more of a day-to-day drag on OP which I think is why people are focusing on it. And I think we’re more comfortable suggesting it because OP has already stated their organization is taking DEI steps – granted, omitting LGTBQIA+ folks, but that could very well be more of an oversight or a “we don’t think it’s relevant because we aren’t aware of that as a thing in our workforce” thing than a malicious action.

            1. Hamish the Accountant*

              I’m not surprised that people are focusing on it – I agree that it’s likely to be the biggest thing they can change to make themselves more comfortable. What surprises me is that there seem to be a lot of commenters suggesting that “mention your girlfriend” and “mention your pronouns” will get similar reactions from colleagues.

        2. AwesomePossum*

          I think it might be regional? I’m in the Northeast and “my preferred pronouns are they/them, thanks!” wouldn’t even get a raised eyebrow.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Same (except in DC), and our corporate culture is such that if someone’s going to respond to such a reasonable request with eyerolling or negative commentary, someone from leadership is likely going to come and have a chat with them about inclusive workplace expectations. I don’t see it as any different than calling someone by a preferred name rather than their legal name, TBH.

          2. Remedial Chaos Theory*

            I think regions do play into it, but I’ve gone from a company in the Northeast with — let’s say, really horrible pushback on pronouns — to another company in the Northeast with no pushback on the day to day, but still some frustrating policy with regard to paperwork.

          3. aebhel*

            I’m also in the northeast (Rust Belt) and it… definitely would where I am. It is regional, but it’s more a rural/urban and thus conservative/liberal thing than the general area of the country.

            That said, being constantly misgendered at work can be incredibly draining, so I can see why people would focus on that as the first step (and also, frankly, some people get really weird about the intersection of bi and nonbinary identities, so it might be less fraught in some ways to lead with the nonbinary part).

          4. mairona*

            I’m in Georgia and while changing pronouns would likely be greeted with minimal fanfare or protest in Atlanta or my little progressive bubble of a town, but in most parts of the state, this would probably receive eyerolls at best and open hostility at worst.

        3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I think that’s because it shouldn’t be? Changing your pronouns shouldn’t require much more of a conversation at work than saying “by the way, please referred to me as (pronouns).”

          Additional discussion may be warranted if you feel like you want to have it (ie, “I identify as (blank) and would like my coworkers to respect that by using (pronouns) for me”), but should never really be a necessity for any of this.

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            It definitely shouldn’t be, but in a lot of places it is.

            I guess I’m partly surprised (pleasantly, I think) that people are casually saying to change pronouns at work like it’s not going to be a big deal – and partly disappointed that this is not reflective of reality in many places and so might not be the most useful advice.

            1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              I totally get both of those feelings.

              I’m still fighting to get my workplace to allow any mention of my pronouns in emails (we have a very rigid institutional look to our email signatures, and pronouns are not included/allowed/in keeping with organization’s vision of what the signature field should look like.) There’s some weird resistance about putting the information somewhere it will be front and center to the public we interact with.

              That having been said, the coworkers I’ve directly asked to use my preferred pronouns do so in person with only occasional errors – of which I try to be forgiving, given that this is a change from how they’ve usually referred to me for the last decade.

              1. Mid*

                I’m in a similar boat. I can’t casually add pronouns into my signature, I can’t wear tee-shirts or jewelry that would announce my pronouns, and honestly, I don’t have the energy to explain what my pronouns are and what they mean to my coworkers. Some day I’ll come out, but not today.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              I understand this! I was on a local message board recently – and I live in the DC area – where people were talking about pronouns in email signatures and the vast majority said they refused to do it, felt it was performative, or had some other negative commentary. This surprised me because my fairly conservative organization offers this option and it’s used pretty widely by leadership and many in the organization. I figured if we’d pulled ourselves out of the dark ages it was more mainstream than it actually appears to be.

              1. theonceandfuturegrantwriter*

                In a liberal workplace in a liberal area like DC, I could totally see how pronouns in an email signature feels performative and virtue-signal-y. In a conservative workplace in a liberal area, it sounds like it’s seen as the standard thing to do for internal and external communications in order to bring your communication style in line with the norms of your community. In my Rust Belt state, it’s kind of a big deal to include pronouns in an email and the only people I know who do so are the grants officers at a private foundation (who can do whatever they want because they’re giving away money!) and staff at the nearby super-lefty private college.

                What is performative in one context (because everyone in that professional world is already on board with pronouns) can be boundary-pushing or even radical in another context (where the email-er is breaking new ground with professional contacts who might well be dead-set against having the pronoun conversation at all).

                To be honest, I don’t understand why it’s not more common – we recently onboarded a bunch of new customers at my workplace and many of them have gender-neutral names. I am so thankful for the sales rep who took the time to add the new customers’ pronouns to our contact sheet!

          2. Anonnn*

            Yeah, I’m in Texas and changing your pronouns at my workplace would be 100% ignored by the majority of staff. Including the bosses. Maybe two of us are progressive thinkers; but the majority of my co-workers are Bible-thumping “it’s a mental illness” believers.

            1. Yes ma’am*

              And besides that we have been taught from way back to use ma’am/sir as a show of respect. Serious question- what is an equivalent non-binary respect term? I understand that a simple yes or no is a reasonable answer, but it’s seen as curt and maybe even rude in the south.

              1. Pallas*

                There really isn’t one! Frustrating to Southerners in particular, I know, but plenty of languages and regions do without.

                If they use an alternate honorific like “Mx” (rather than Mr/Ms etc) you can deploy that when referring to them formally, as you would if they were Mr. Guillen or Ms. Nakamura – but using somebody’s correct pronouns and speaking to them with respect is all that most people need.

                And, if you goof and say “ma’am/sir” don’t have a meltdown. Just quickly say “Oh, I’m sorry to ma’am at you, clearly I haven’t had my coffee yet. So about that account –”

                (And, for what it’s worth, some non-binary people don’t mind if people use certain gendered pronouns and honorifics. Follow their lead, or gently/politely ask their preferences as you would ask about how to pronounce an unusual surname.)

              2. RoseDark*

                Raised in Texas, identify as genderfluid/non-binary:

                THERE ISN’T ONE. Sorry to yell, but I’m that passionately frustrated about it. I have trans friends and coworkers who can pleasantly respond “oh, I’m a sir/ma’am” when misgendered, but as an AFAB if I say “oh, I’m not a ma’am” people literally roll their eyes and think I’m taking offense to the age implications of miss/ma’am rather than the gender implications. It’s frustrating.

                In a professional sense I’ve tended to use “friend” as a gender-neutral way to address someone. “Hey friend, can you put on a mask for me please?” or “Hey friend, unfortunately I can’t have anyone sleeping in here; could I get you a coffee or water to help you wake up?” But this isn’t a good solution and some people deeply hate it in a shut-up-I’m-not-your-friend way that I can’t handily avoid.

        4. many bells down*

          I think it definitely depends on location and industry. However, my husband works in a very white-male-dominated industry and he’s had several co-workers change pronouns. Management sends a “John Smith in accounting is now Jessica (she/her) please update your records accordingly” and it’s never once been a big deal.

        5. Catalin*

          It may very well be a ‘big deal’ in the workplace, but there is also the potential payoff of indescribable freedom and joy of having your identity honored and affirmed. Any time someone comes out as being non-hetero/non-cis/non-monogamous/non-standard, there are consequences. Some consequences/reactions are great, some are awful.

        6. A Library Person*

          I work in a town with a longstanding reputation for being liberal and even here in my large and generally queer-friendly workplace people get misgendered all the time, even people who have only ever used one set of pronouns during their time here.

        7. ABK*

          Touche. Def a big deal! Start with the others? Non-monogamy is also a show stopper for a ton of people though. So I think the point is to pick one to do first and weave in the others over time.

        8. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

          Um, yeah. I’m in Portland, OR and am too chicken/lazy to be out about my pronouns at work because one of my coworkers has made attack helicopter jokes.

        9. Beth*

          We’re mostly not focusing on whether it might be a big deal because it’s not really the point. OP knows their workplace culture, given that they’ve been there a while; they presumably have a sense for how much of a Big Deal coming out likely to be, and have decided they want to be out as a queer person regardless. What they’re asking for is advice on how to make that happen on a practical level. One easy way to come out, especially if you don’t want to do a big announcement, is to simply note the places where your identity is relevant to daily life—and pronouns are a big one for that, since we use them for each other all the time. That’s where the recommendations to change pronouns are coming from.

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            Personally, I think that not considering that it’s going to be a big deal makes the advice on how to go about changing pronouns at work less helpful. It may be “not really the point” in that someone needs to change their pronouns anyway, but outside of particularly progressive locations and workplaces… I know personally if I just said “Oh, please use he/him for me” to a colleague out of the blue with no further explanation, it would be an absolute clusterf*ck.

        10. tamarack and fireweed*

          I’m in interior Alaska (long-out lesbian married to a woman). It would not be a big deal in mine.

          (This doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter people who are clumsy about it, or even occasionally hostile – though honestly this is stigmatized enough that I have not *heard* anyone be hostile. People are coming out as trans* all over the place. When I say “not a big deal” it’s let’s say less of a deal than announcing you’re pregnant.)

        11. Anax*

          I worked for my local legislature in the Midwest for five years, came out (FtM) around 2015, and really didn’t have issues, even though I was dealing with legislative staffers and lawyers from around the state, often older folks from more rural areas, and even though I don’t pass, so my pronouns often come as a surprise.

          It’s a scary, difficult thing, but if you’re working for a generally functional workplace, and your manager and HR support you, the social contract of “don’t make things weird at work” helps a lot with more incidental/occasional contacts. (As does “Midwest nice”, I think, lol.)

          I believe my manager shielded me from some of the more difficult folks, but I did also have in-person meetings with folks outside my work group, and no one made it a problem. Even though the legislature was voting on transphobic bathroom bills at the same time, and I was dealing with the staff of those legislators. People usually don’t want to make a big scene with coworkers if they can help it, so if they don’t believe they’ll have broad support for bad behavior… that helps.

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            This is great to hear! I wonder how much of it is down to this part: “if they don’t believe they’ll have broad support for bad behavior… that helps.”

            It feels to me like most people know that even if they’re homophobic, they should keep it to themselves when dealing with gay colleagues because society as a whole has become pretty accepting and in some places even protective of gay people.

            But I don’t know if we’re there yet with trans people. I can see legislators who are hearing about the bathroom bills etc being aware that someone will put them on blast on Twitter if they treat a colleague in a transphobic way… I’m not sure the same is true in most small workplaces. I hope so, though.

        12. Working Hypothesis*

          I agree that it’s likely to be a big deal to some colleagues, but I still think it’s the best place to start. A lot of people these days are recognizing themselves as a different gender than the one they had always felt forced into, and so changing the pronouns you use at work is unlikely to lead to the “why didn’t you tell us sooner?!?” questions that LW might get if they first addressed the bisexual/ polyamorous aspects of it.

          After their colleagues have gotten somewhat used to the new pronouns, they can start casually and matter of factly referring to their partners, in the plural and by their respective names and proper pronouns. Anyone who expresses surprise at a mention of a partner who has not been previously discussed at work can simply be told cheerfully, “Oh, we’ve been together for a while, but it just never came up.”

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            I’ve clarified this in a few different comments, and I won’t respond to others after this one but – what I’m surprised about is not that people are suggesting it as a place to start. What is surprising to me is specifically that many commenters are talking about changing pronouns like it’s obviously not going to be a big deal. Oh, just add it to your email signature, and mention your same sex partner… they’re really not the same level of shock/big deal in most places. Talking about coming out as trans/NB as though it’s not going to be a big deal just makes for bad advice, for most workplaces.

        13. Katie*

          I was thinking that too. I work in the Midwest at a fairly conservative company that employs mostly cis straight white men. I have not come out as bi because I know it would hurt my opportunities. I hate that and not coming out weighs on me, but I need to take care of the money side of it. I can’t imagine how hard changing pronouns would be in an environment like that.

      2. JM60*

        it will come naturally

        With co-workers sometimes acknowledging the appearance of others who pop up in the background of Zoom meetings, it could just be a matter of saying something like, “Don’t mind my wife/girlfriend/etc. They’re just passing through.” If that doesn’t happen naturally, something else that would bring up your partner probably will eventually.

    2. Catalin*

      I agree with ABK. I found that it was easiest to just…start being un-secretly queer. Talking about dates with girls and ex-boyfriends in the natural course of conversation was a low-key way to just slide right out.
      I worked in a location for years and then came out and no one blinked. I actually found a LOT of support at work and discovered a queer community I was previously unaware of in my office. I hope your transition is as smooth as mine.
      Also, (I realize this may be controversial and apologize if I deeply offend anyone), but there’s really only so much our coworkers need to know about us. You need to be addressed by the correct pronouns, that’s in the ‘public realm’.
      Sexuality and polyamory don’t necessarily “need” to come into the public realm unless they apply to your working situation (bring a date(s), talking about your partner(s) at work in social contexts). (this may vary in accordance with work culture)
      Keeping things low-key is a great method. Good luck!

      1. Wendy*

        Good points. I think you’ll have an easier time coming out as bi and non-binary than as poly, unfortunately, especially since there’s been so much pushback on people who assume bisexuality means an inability to be monogamous :-/ (Some assume that, others strongly reprimand them with reminders that a bisexual person in an opposite-sex relationship is still bisexual and bisexuality doesn’t require you to date two genders at once, and poly bi people get missed in that discourse.)

        signed, a monosexual pan cis woman married to someone everyone assumes is a cis man but is actually a trans woman who isn’t out to the entire world yet

        1. Rebecca Stewart*

          Yeah. I live in a polyfi V-shaped triad, with a bi man and a trans woman who is also bi. (I’m the hinge.) After a lot of discussion, what we tell most people is that the household is me, my sister, and my boyfriend. It therefore reads that I’m older and still somewhat protective when I go with her to the bathroom so she doesn’t get harassed (roll eyes). I’m honest about it being the triad where I feel it’s safe to be, but my family of origin will not be okay with it, and there’s a lot of other situations where it’s just easier for us all to lie.

          Boyfriend tends to be out at work about it, but he reached the DGAF point a long time ago, and he’s got a rather specialized skill set; if they give him grief, there’s other people who will hire him and probably for more money. Girlfriend is varying degrees of out about it, and I’m comfortable with that. If it’s easier to be my sister sometimes, I can live with that too.
          But when he and I marry, I’ll give her a ring too, and then it will be her call as to what she says.

      2. John Smith*

        +1 on this. Any decent human will see you as you and shouldn’t be swayed by your sexual orientation/identity. Those who are aren’t worth worrying about.

        For me, I was chatting to my new colleagues a few weeks after starting and the conversation came to personal matters. I just used the term “my partner” and when I was asked what *her* name was I just replied “Jason” (trying to keep the smirk off my face) and carried on talking as though I was talking about the weather. I think if you make it an issue, other people will also make it an issue.

        Shouldn’t need to be said, but good luck.

      3. CG*

        Came here to say roughly this. I didn’t have as much to “come out” about as OP, but my advice below is based on what worked for me. Everyone has absolutely their own style and comfort level, but here’s what I’d do (in my workplace where I’m in a comfortable position to push back on people who are being jerks):

        Pronouns have a clearer work tie/professional presence than sexuality in many environments, so if one of your goals is to have your coworkers address you by your correct pronouns, I’d start there. Maybe tell a few close work friends that you’re NB and want to start using your pronouns at work, start adding pronouns to your signature block, and see if your friends can help a bit with word of mouth. If you feel comfortable, maybe flag it in a small team staff meeting or to your boss, and otherwise be prepared to answer some questions or share some pronouns explainers. After that, I wouldn’t have a specific, one point of “coming out” on the orientation/sexuality part to the whole office – just start mentioning partners if it makes sense. OR mention these three pieces to a close work friend or two, then have clear “duh, of course OP is NB/bi/poly! You didn’t know?” backup if it ever comes up in the office.

        Not a perfect solution, and reeeeeeeeeeally depends on your office. but that’s roughly what worked for me and what I was comfortable with in my situation.

      4. Elly*

        Yep – this is exactly what I did. I didn’t formally “come out” to anyone at work, just didn’t hide that I was dating women or make a big deal of it.

        I wonder if this is a generational thing? I’m a Millennial and I don’t really know anyone who’s had a big “coming out” moment, and I also don’t tend to assume that people are straight or cisgender by default. We all kinda just are who we are and date who we date and there’s not a lot of emphasis on it. (This could also be because I work in the arts and spend most of my time in that community.)

        1. Anonymouse*

          I think that’s more a function of being in the arts than a generational divide. Quite a number of my friends (I’m trans, they’re also trans) had big coming out moments they spent a while being anxious about. One of them works in government and the people they work with are wildly transphobic. It’s still a mess.

      5. Littorally*

        Yep. At one point I was talking with a few coworkers about why we stay with Current Employer, when Other Employer in our field in our city pays more. We talked about benefits, about culture, and I casually said, “Yeah, Current Employer has the best employee benefits for LGBT folks by a mile, so I’m here for life I guess!” Like it was no big deal, and the same way other coworkers were talking about our boss’s willingness to flex schedules to hell and back, or our sick time policies, or paternity leave policies.

      6. Snuck*

        This is what I’d say too. There’s no direct need to come ‘out’ about specifics for your sexual life at work ever… unless you work in/alongside sexual health/sex industry sort of stuff where it may be relevant or a GLBTIQA specific role or similar. (I identify as part of the queer crowd, but not gender fluid)

        You should be able to start revealing personal human life stuff though – just think through how much you’d tell workers about your life if you were not in a committed relationship and only tell the committed stuff – as other people do. You can hide some of it by saying less specific things – you don’t have to talk about multiple wives and husbands, just say “my spouse…” and “We have a dog” and “At Christmas we’re inviting everyone to our home” let them assume whatever they please from that… You don’t need to label it for them.

        As for the pronoun… this is trickier because it’s ‘in their daily contact’ – just quietly correct them, saying “can you refer to me as …” if you feel strongly, but it isn’t something I’m experienced in so feel limited to comment. I think the difficulty with neither gender is there’s a good substitute in popular use so think that through carefully and know what you want to keep it simple?

        And there’s alway going to be surprised – people you thought would be difficult, and won’t be, and people who you know will be annoying, who will be. This isn’t you. This is on them. They are probably difficult about other things… don’t let them decide your day, instead hang with the people who are awesome.

    3. anonymuss*

      Not to be that person, but…I know a number of non-binary people who do not use they/them but in fact he/him, she/her, she/them, he/them. It’s assuming quite a bit from the letter that a pronoun change is the first order of business here.

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        While there are plenty of NB people who do use binary pronouns, it’s not a huge assumption that OP may want a pronoun change. If they do, that’s likely to be the thing that’s making them most uncomfortable at work. If they don’t, a reasonable person is unlikely to be offended that people were concerned about this item for them.

      2. Letter Writer*

        I’m the letter writer. You are correct that I”m not sure if I want they/them pronouns in my workplace. My partners use they/them for me but I’m still she/her and mom to my kid. I’m not out at all in parenting circles and so keeping my she/her pronouns at work has been default mode.

        I’ve also watched several folks try they/them pronouns and be constantly misgendered. I like my colleagues, I don’t want to be angry at them if they misgender me. However, I realize I’m also not giving them the chance to get it right.

        1. K`shandra*

          Since you mention Zoom meetings in the OP, I’ll note that the organization with which I have used Zoom the most has started adding pronouns to display names there. It strikes me as something that would be easy to recommend to your company’s DEI committee, and adding (she/they) to your display name would “[give] them the chance to get it right” without being quite as load-bearing (if you will) as adding them to an email signature that might get seen outside the company.

        2. John Smith*

          English legislation always uses the masculine form when referring to a person, but we have interpretative legislation which makes clear that where the masculine pronoun is used, the feminine pronoun is also intended (and vice versa. This, btw, is before non-binary was a “thing”). Recently, we’ve had legislation that, rather than use “him” “he” or “his”, uses instead “person X”. It’s not common yet, but it’s getting there even if it is only to try and make legislation easier to understand and read, rather than trying to be inclusive.

          It would be difficult to construct a reasonably understood, easy to follow sentence that caters for all variances of identities, so I’m quite happy to accept one blanket form on the understanding that it’s not accurate. So, for example, I’m happy for people to assume that the partner I mention is female and that I’m straight (until the contrary is shown), but even then I much prefer “blanket” terms even if such terms are stereotypical. It’s just a straight(LGBTQ+)forward way of putting things as far as I’m concerned. But then, my sexuality, gender and sex are probably the least significant parts of “me”. Other peoples’ views will undoubtedly differ! :)

        3. Pallas*

          It’s totally fair to let people know that she/her doesn’t upset you, but they/them is your preference.

          That can reduce well-intentioned people’s initial anxiety about getting it wrong (and defang jerks who might otherwise misgender you on purpose).

          As new people come into your office/life you can introduce yourself with they/them pronouns and let it gradually become the norm. Or if you meet less resistance than you expect, or you find it more emotionally urgent than you anticipated to universalize those pronouns, you can shift to they/them exclusively after a bit and enlist the help of the folks who have proven themselves reliable allies.

    4. Cringing 24/7*

      I think this one-at-a-time advice is spot on. My spouse (they/them) just recently came out at their work as non-binary and didn’t also include their demi/ace-ness nor their pan-romanticism, because that just felt like too much all at once. They handled it by going to their manager first (because they knew their manager was an ally) and asking how it needed to be addressed, before going to HR and getting a plan put in place for a workplace announcement. Their workplace is surprisingly progressive for us living in the southern region of the USA, but even so, we predict some people in their workplace to push back against using their proper pronouns.

      I think the most important aspect of their coming out that translates well to your desire to come out, is that my spouse has been in their workplace for 5-6 years at this point and everyone knows them, so a huge part of their announcement was, “I’m not a different person than the person you’ve always known, you just know more about me now than you did before.” There’s a lot of homophobia, transphobia, and general bigotry in our state, so it was important to address coming out in a manner of, ‘You’ve known, liked, and worked alongside a queer person all this time, and there’s nothing about me to fear – I just want you to use my correct pronouns and stop calling me by the wrong titles.’

    5. Beth*

      YES. I can’t agree with this one more.

      Your personal identity is the topic I would act on as far as being out at work goes. Read the room: if your current employer has shown clear signs that they can deal with it, then proceed.

      That’s for the personal identity — non-binary and bi. Your relationship is a different level. (For most mainstream people, poly is a lot harder for them to cope with than gender identity or sexual orientation.) Unless there’s a really obvious NEED for it, your relationship structure shouldn’t really be anyone’s business at work anyway — if you’re legally espoused, that’s relevant, and you have an absolute right to designate your emergency contacts (and the beneficiaries for your benefits, if that applies).

      Other than that — again, read the room and take it in steps. I know how strong the wish to be authentic can be, and it sucks that some people are able to deal with one set of worldview challenges but not others.

      One thing to keep in mind: you will go through this process at every job. I originally came out (to myself, that is) in grad school in the mid-eighties, and my current job is the only one where I’ve been out from the start. At some jobs, I never came out at all.

      So if you find that you can only be out on some facets, or to some people, remember that there will be other jobs and other work environments. Every time you come out on any level is practice for the next one.

      1. Beth (oop, looks like there's two of us today)*

        I don’t agree re: poly identity! There are all sorts of reasons people should be able to talk about their partners at work. Needing a legal relationship isn’t the usual baseline for that; people should get to say who they went to that new restaurant with, or whose parents they’re visiting this weekend, or who’s coming with them to the company picnic, or who’s picking up the kids today, without it being a big deal. Maybe there’s less of a need if a specific person’s approach to poly-ness is more in the ‘open relationship’ vein than the ‘multiple serious partners’ vein, but people do have a legit need to be able to reference serious partners in a casual, work-appropriate way, and that doesn’t go away just because there’s more than one serious partner.

        It’s true that it’s not always safe to do that. It’s true that a lot of people will find poly relationships unfamiliar and difficult to wrap their heads around even if they’re reasonably OK with monogamous gay relationships. Sometimes people do have to keep their poly identity quiet; I’m not disagreeing with that. But that’s not because poly people don’t need to be able to talk about our partners! It’s because of stigma and concerns around it impacting our livelihood.

        1. another Hero*

          yeah, I agree that polyam is the one that’d be the biggest risk to bring up in a lot of workplaces, but plenty of people talk about family members, partners, and close friends at work. I don’t need to know that one coworker has a husband and a sister and a new niece, but it’s not weird that I know any of those things. It wouldn’t be weird for OP to say “my husband” at work, and in a world where they hadn’t, it wouldn’t be weird for OP to say “my girlfriend” in most (?) workplaces. (or “ugh, dating is the worst,” or whatever.) colleagues don’t need to know the specific setup or terms of the relationship, but the kinds of talk many people take for granted would out OP as bi and polyam. (Personally, that’s kind of how I’d approach coming out for those ids is by…not actively being closeted anymore. letting it come up when it comes up.)

        2. vlookup*

          Agreed with this! It’s a judgment call whether it’s safe to be out about being poly and whether it’s something you personally want to talk about at work, but I don’t think poly relationships are inherently inappropriate or not relevant to talk about, for all the reasons it’s normal to mention other kinds of relationships at work.

          I’m not poly but I am gay and feeling like you can’t talk about your life and your relationships in the ways that other people can frankly sucks, and comes with real personal costs.

    6. The Other Katie*

      This is what I was going to say. You don’t have to have a meeting or anything. Just start talking about Alex and Jane and when asked, make it clear that they’re both your partners. If pronouns bug you, make them clear or correct them. Basically, just start living your life like a cis straight person would, and stop hiding those parts of yourself.

    7. Tara*

      I agree, I think one at a time. Casually bringing up being attracted to women or talking about an ex-girlfriend is probably the best way to test the waters. If you use they/them pronouns outside of work, it might be good to reach out to your employee resource group and see whether they could do something around encouraging pronouns in emails or something, or just mention it to colleagues you’re close to in a team meeting.

      Honestly? I’m not sure I would come out as poly in a work setting. If it’s weighing on you that you’re closeted about that part of your identity, then go for it, but I’d think about whether you could handle bad reactions. Though I suppose that’s the same for all of them, I just think the reactions are more likely to be bad for poly.

    8. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      I agree — this is basically how I have handled things, and I’m not “out” in every sphere at work. My coworkers know I’m part of a three-parent family (*we are not polyamorous; we are a polycule) because I have pics of my son up everywhere, pics with his dad and his other mom, and talk about doing things with him and each of the others a lot. My boss and two coworkers that I am very close to know I am asexual; others just know I identify as queer. I’ve never bothered telling anyone I’m nonbinary/agender explicitly because I use female pronouns and I just dress how I like, which means a lot of jeans or jeggings and long tops; it is coded female and since my body codes female and people know I am a mother, it doesn’t feel like worth the hassle to explain that while I fill the social role of mother, and while this body feels more comfortable in certain styles of clothes, those do not match my brain’s image of ‘what I am’.

  3. Allypopx*

    It doesn’t have to be as big a thing as you’re certainly making it in your head.

    “Addintally we have an active team working to deepen our diversity and I struggle with the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ identities from that work”

    I would reach out to whoever is in charge of this work and say “as a bisexual, non-binary person it’s bothering me that there isn’t more work being done to deepen our diversity in the LGBTQIA+ sphere”.

    If you have pronouns in your signature that don’t match your own, go ahead and change them. (if you don’t, that might be a good suggestion to make in terms of that diversity work). Maybe let your manager know so they can help fend off any questions that arise, or even announce it more broadly if you’d like to. That also doesn’t have to be a huge deal. “I’ve been going by they/them for awhile now in my personal life and ask everyone uses those pronouns for me moving forward. Thank you!”

    The poly thing….I am not in a polyamorous relationship now but I never was fully out at work in that sense when I was. It was just personal, and I didn’t want my romantic life to be the subject of a lot of questions or overexplaining. That was a personal choice for me. You can do whatever feels comfortable for you. But people may ask a lot of questions (even in a real effort to understand or show interest in your life!) and that can be tiring. Daunting, even, if discussing it is new for you. I’m not talking you out of it, just expressing you can draw lines in how much you share by your own comfort level.

    You don’t need to do this all at once, or all of it, or any of it, but I think just be simple and matter of fact about it is going to be way less scary than having a big coming out moment. And if anyone asks why you haven’t expressed these things before you can just say “I’m pretty private, but with all our work around diversity it felt like a good time make the change”. Or even just “I like to keep aspects of personal life pretty private but I felt ready to share this.”

    Good luck!

    1. Deborah*

      Agreed on this. You can also start shifting your language. So like if you are chatting with colleagues about your partners, your could refer to multiple people as partners without making a point of it, as though it was completely normal to have multiple people of different genders. That kind of thing. I know I mask a lot when I not sure if it’s safe, and I drop the masking language a little when I’m testing the waters. Often that can feel more authentic without making a production that would feel really anxiety inducing and possibly dangerous.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        This is a good way to get started if you’re nervous about the reactions.

        Similar to Allypopx, I’ve never really gone into too much detail about my open relationships at work, except with a few people I’m closer to than others. I don’t hide it, but really who I’m dating in my off hours really isn’t the business of most of my coworkers. As for being bisexual, I don’t think I ever really made any kind of formal announcement there either. I just started talking about this woman I was seeing and we went to xyz cool event this weekend and left it at that. A few people were a bit surprised and asked follow up questions, but I just kept it light, “yep, I’m seeing a woman right now. She’s great,” and moved on. Granted I live in a very liberal part of California, so I understand not everyone will have this chill of a reaction.

        If you do want to get involved with your office’s diversity initiatives you may need to make a bit more of a formal statement, at least to whoever is heading it up, but I still think if you go in acting like it isn’t a big deal, it won’t be as big a deal as you may be making it. Just remember, it doesn’t need to be all or nothing, or a big, grandiose statement at the All Hands Meeting. You totally can just stop editing yourself and let the information slip out naturally if that’s what feels right to you.

        1. Anax*

          Yep, I’ve talked about both my partners in a similar context at work (I’m in a polyfidelitious triad), just like I talk about my cats or what I’m knitting, and outside a clarification question or two, it’s been pretty chill. I’m also in liberal California these days, but was dating them and out in the Midwest, too.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            This was something my QPP and I talked a lot about when she started her new job. She’s my son’s ‘other mother’ and she and I have a relationship stretching over 20 years (both asexual, not a physical relationship). I have a husband and she and him are NOT in a relationship, but we refer to ourselves as a three-parent family. She was navigating how to explain her relationship to our son, who she has no legal connection to, so that she could take the time off for his medical appointments and care for him when he is sick. At her work, they know she has a female partner and a son whose biodad is active in his life and lives with us. At my work, they know I have a husband and a partner. At my husband’s work, they know he has a wife and a roommate. None of these spheres will ever overlap, and none of them are lying. We each define the relationship we have to the others.

            I had to remind my partner when she was thinking about this that she could mention our son’s dad/my husband — after all, since we’re both AFAB, no one would think we conceived him together.

  4. LDN Layabout*

    I (very out with my ‘normal’ life, not so much work and family) have started slowly doing the coming out process at work.

    My current strategy is ‘open but subtle’, so I’ve joined the LGBT+ network, I don’t censor myself in situations where I’d be talking about women as I would do about men previously (but I also don’t seek out opportunities to talk about dating at work in general…) and when it comes up I’m more open about talking about things like queer media.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      I agree with the ‘open but subtle’ approach. This of course depends a ton on your workplace and how safe you feel there, but I would stop holding myself back from mentioning my girlfriend (I’m also a woman) in conversation with coworkers. For something where it will almost never come up, like bisexuality (for me, I’ve never encountered a work situation where this was relevant…) I mostly just let people think what they think. Just bluntly saying “hey just FYI, I like people of ALL GENDERS” seemed…weird and out of place at work. But if asked I’m honest and matter of fact and shameless about it.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Yeah, I’ve never just gone ‘HEY GUYS, BISEXUAL HERE’ but there have probably been enough infodrops for people to not assume I’m straight anymore.

        I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m likely not going to be one of the people able to talk about my identity as part of the org’s diversity work but I’m comfortable enough just not shutting up anymore or panicking if something queer slips out where before I’d censor myself.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Yeah, this is where I am in my own experience.

          I didn’t even realize I was queer until after starting this job. But as I gradually became more comfortable with my identity, I also started shifting my clothes, hair, etc. to be more queer-coded. Also things like talking about friends using nonbinary pronouns, mentioning a pride party I attended when talking about our weekend plans, advocating for more inclusive language in our communications etc.

          My boss can be a bit oblivious to these kinds of signals, but I think sobbing at my desk after the Pulse shooting got the message through.

          As for inclusion work: you don’t have to be explicitly out to be openly pissed off that they’re excluding LGBTQIA+ from this stuff.

          But it sounds like you DO want to be out, so that’s a great reason to bring it up.

          “Y’all might not already know this but as someone who is nonbinary bisexual human*, I’m really upset that the DEI work isn’t inclusive of this.”

          If you join the committee, it gives you an easy way to “rebrand” yourself as LGBTQIA+. If you don’t want to join this committee, you can be firm about saying that: “I’m not in a position to take that on, but please remember that there are other ways people are historically excluded from opportunities, and they’re not always obvious at a glance.”

          Bonus points: also push for disability and neurodivergence inclusivity since if they’re ignoring queerness I can’t imagine they’re thinking deeply about what DEI actually means.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            *using their preferred nonbinary pronouns. I don’t want to imply that people should use nonbinary pronouns when they know that person uses binary ones.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Dammit I’m messing all this up. Sorry.

              The * in the first post was because I’m someone who personally views monogamy / nonmonogamy on a different “axis” from queerness. I’m someone who happily goes many years without a relationship, so I’ve experienced toxic monoganormativity(?) from that perspective and don’t want to minimize the ways polyamory is othered or anything.

              The * in the reply was in reference to the last sentence in my first paragraph.

              While I’m still here, I’ll say that my subtle approach is also working great with my (Catholic) dad. Being permasingle is a bit of an unfair advantage though, since I’m able to gradually wean him into understanding without being dishonest with him or unfair to a partner.

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Yeah, being ace, there’s not a lot of places to drop that. It came up with one coworker because she was discussing why she uses bi and not pan, even though she’s said if she were young and coming out now, she’d probably use pan (but she has used bi for 30ish years and it is what she’s comfortable with). It came up with another because we attended a LGTBQA+ club session as part of our diversity outreach on campus (college workers) and in the club they proclaimed that the A stood for Ally, which no, it does not. (There’s a word for allies already, and that’s straight/cis; they don’t need a queer identity because THAT’S THE POINT). It came up with my boss because we are doing Safe Space training and she wanted us to do more to work with queer students and recruiting them to our program, which is a part of student support.

          But it isn’t the kind of thing you just stand up and announce, really.

      2. many bells down*

        As a bi woman in a heterosexual marriage I think that’s what I struggle with. It just never really seems relevant in the same way that other queer identities do. I don’t think I’ve ever been “out” at any job but my current one, and that was only because we were talking about Pride and a co-worker joked that as the only gay person in the office he was the only one allowed on our float. And I said “but I’m bi, so I guess I have to hang one leg off!”

        1. Lilo*

          To me, there’s an aspect to which, as a bisexual individual in hetero relationship, you can feel awkward about comparing yourself to other LGBT relationships because you successfully “pass”. I don’t really need to conceal anything about my current life, and it’s not like people talk about exes that much.

          A friend of mine who has also dated women in the past but is married to a man noted that she had elected to date mostly men because she was a teacher in a conservative area and it was just easier.

          But then there’s the point another friend (who is bisexuality and married to a person of the same sex) argued that “hidden bisexuals” could also help normalize bisexuality by being open about it.

          Anna Paquin actually just talked about this too.

          Obviously this isn’t as relevant for OP, who is currently in a poly relationship. But there’s definitely points to be made on both sides.

          1. cat lady*

            I’m asexual/aromantic, and I have reservations about claiming a “queer” identity for similar reasons– I “pass” as just being straight and single, and my identity is by definition about a lack of a relationship, so the only time it naturally comes up is if someone is doing the “oh you’ll find someone” or “the right one’s out there for you!” (interestingly, a lot of people seem to attribute my lifelong singleness as repressed lesbianism– I’ve gotten a lot of “someday you’ll meet the perfect boyfri- partner.”)

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              This was why for a long time I didn’t really think of myself as ‘queer’. Being ace is integral to who I am and how I view the world, but I am in a straight-passing marriage with an AMAB cis partner, I am AFAB/NB but present female and use female pronouns. It wasn’t until one time I was talking to a friend who is a lesbian about queer identities and she really helped me understand that it is as simple as if you are not straight, you are queer/LGTB, and you can claim that identity (though of course you do not have to do it for others/publicly, it is always a choice).

          2. Jessica Fletcher*

            I started to say “different gender relationships” instead of “hetero relationships”! I feel this is more accurate. I identify as queer and may be attracted to a person of any gender. We don’t stop being queer/bi/pan/etc just because we’re in a relationship!

        2. Wendy*


          People always seem to default to the same two reasons for why it’s important that bisexual people in M/F relationships come out: because representation is important, and because you’re still a valid part of the queer community even if you don’t “look” that way from the outside. I’m living a third reason: fifteen years into our marriage, my husband is now transitioning to living as female :-P I’m sure he (eventually, “she”) would not have been as comfortable coming out to me if I hadn’t already been out as pansexual first!

          1. Coenobita*

            I’m living the third reason too! I’d only been in serious relationships with men before and was doing the whole internal “can I even claim this identity!?!?!” thing. Then my spouse transitioned and now, guess what, I’m a woman married to another woman. So I sort of did come out mid-career, even if it was a sort of secondary coming out or coming out by proxy. The most awkward part for me was feeling like I needed to clarify (to colleagues and others who’d heard me mention my husband before) that I was still married to the same person. I really didn’t want anyone to think something salacious happened, like I’d left my husband to get married to another woman!

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Why is that “salacious” rather than “something that occasionally happens as people self-discover”?

              1. Coenobita*

                I guess it just seems like DRAMA, you know? Especially if I was talking about my husband one week and my wife the next!

        3. not owen wilson*

          I’m a bi woman in a relationship with a cis man, so most of my coworkers assumed I was straight. Recently I came out to my favorite coworker in the context of a conversation about relationships — my current boyfriend is my first partner, so instead of mentioning women I’ve dated in the past I dropped in a crush I had on a female friend of mine, haha. I acted surprised I hadn’t mentioned it by now, he asked if that’s how I figured it out and I was like “nope, been out for a couple of years now!” and that was that. But it helps that there are a couple of other LGBTQ women in my group, so I’m not the first one. I’m not sure that I would have said anything if I knew I’d be the first.

        4. alienor*

          I have that issue as well. I’m a bi woman and I used to be married to a man, but have been single for years, and it feels like it wouldn’t be relevant unless I started dating a woman. (And even then, the idea of having to explain to people that no, I haven’t suddenly become a lesbian, I’m bisexual, have always been bisexual, and have known it since I was approx. 10 years old, sounds really really exhausting.) So I just kind of don’t say anything, which is getting easier as I get older because there’s not a lot of public interest in the love lives of 50-year-old women.

        5. Employee of the Bearimy*

          Yeah, I feel the same way. In fact, as someone who only started identifying as bi a couple of years ago (but has been married for well over a decade) I’m technically more out at work than I am among friends/family, just by virtue of occasionally checking the LGBTQ+ box on forms. Other than that, it wouldn’t really come up and there’s no reason to volunteer it.

        6. tamarack and fireweed*

          Good friends of ours are three sisters, all bisexual. One is not partnered / long-term single. One is married to a woman (one child). One is married to a man (also one child). All three are fully out, but in particular the third is quite clear about her membership in the queer community. She advocates for queer youth, wears rainbow pins, is a pillar of her community etc. (It may help that the man is bi, too.)

          Back in the LGBT community of 90s usenet we had this long-running discussion about whether people in your situation were “really” be. The discussion was rather tedious and kept revisiting the same repetitive stations over and over, as you might expect. One feature was a fictitious character named “Sally Picketfence” – a bi woman married to a straight man, living in a suburb and tending to her proverbial picket fence, evoking happiness in mainstream middle class suburban society with no ambition to rock the boat. Some wanted to deny Sally the label “bi” because her life is for all observers indistinguishable from that of a straight person. I don’t see the utility of that when it comes to identity.

          Sure, there are queer people who just want to live a mainstream life, and there are others who lean towards counter-cultural attitudes. (Just like there are for straight people.) My own sensibility is with the second, but that doesn’t make the fist “not-queer”. So… don’t hang one leg off the float! Sure, if you want to infuse the queer dimension of your identity with life you may have to work a little bit harder than a same-sex partnered or queer-partnered person, but it’s up to you how to do that. You may be judged on the credibility of how you come across (eg. if someone who is completely invisibly bi, closeted, and other-sex married were to write firebrand op-eds drawing on “their experience as a queer person” some more visible people might rightfully prefer the voice of someone who’s out), but the key to that is being authentically you.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I like what you said. As someone who has recently really realized the term nonbinary/agendered applies to me (but has always felt it, just not in a way I could name), it has been a bit of a struggle because I like soft things, and most soft things are female coded. I like clothes that fit closer because things moving a lot can chafe my skin very quickly in a sensory way, and that tends to be female coded (yoga pants, jeggings). I used to dress very androgynous in baggy clothes, but I don’t like that look now and it never felt comfortable. In terms of AFAB-body composition, I have huge boobs and even in a sports bra they’re noticeable. I breastfed/pumped for my son, so even though I didn’t want it to be, it was pretty necessary to talk about AFAB body necessities in that sense at work. So, I’m AFAB. And I dress feminine often. And I don’t want to change this body to “look NB” as if there even is such a thing. But it doesn’t make a difference to the fact that I do not, and never have outside of pregnancy/childbirth/breastfeeding, felt like I am female (and wow was pregnancy etc such a time of body dysphoria for me that I did NOT expect).

        7. 'Tis Me*

          Ditto. One of my close work friends knows coz it came up in discussion but my now-husband and I have been together since I was 20, I don’t think my *parents* know (the husband does). Being some flavour of demisexual doesn’t come up often either when you’re in a long term relationship (and that I only worked out relatively recently – I just thought that e.g. Having been friends with the now-husband for 2 years before realising I like-liked him made me a bit slow about some things)…

          For OP, I would start off by approaching the DEI committee and asking if they’ve considered doing anything for Pride month etc, pointing out that it’s an area that currently appears to be overlooked. From there, you should get a sense of whether it was an oversight or deliberate without needing to out yourself until you’re comfortable doing so?

      3. Anononon*

        Same for me, as a straight-presenting, cis, bisexual woman it has rarely come up. The only time it has, was when I mentioned going on a date that evening and a colleague asked what ‘he’ was like, so I just breezily said that it was a woman and answered the question normally! Now I’m in a long-term relationship with a man I don’t see that it would ever come up.

        I’m not sure how I actually feel about that overall though. Sometimes I think I’d like to get involved in (or start, in the case of my workplace) LGBTQIA+ stuff but worry that people will question why I’m there.

        1. Ismonie*

          Exactly this! Since I’ve been with my male partner for forever, and don’t tend to mention other people I dated, it is weird when I’ve specifically outed myself. I’ve had to say “I’m bisexual” which just feels like I don’t want to be closeted, but I wish there was a different way for me to be out that doesn’t feel so awkward.

          1. cleo*

            I relate to this – I’m also a bi woman
            and I’ve been married to my husband almost 20 years. What works for me is to casually drop in references to my volunteer work with a couple lgbtq+ groups or what I read for my queer book group or what I’m doing for Pride. Sometimes it works better than others – it’s actually most effective for coming out to other lgbtq+ folx. I’m sure some straight people just think I’m a really enthusiastic ally. Also, pride pins.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          ace woman married to a dude here, and yeah, I don’t “come out” because asexuality is a thing that really largely *is* sex-specific, and therefore inappropriate at work under pretty much any circumstances so I mostly pass as a straight ally whether I want to or not. Nobody has tried to gatekeep me though.

          1. Ms Frizzle*

            It’s so hard to talk about asexuality at work! I’m (casually) out as queer or bi, but never bring up being ace unless I’m talking to someone who will already know exactly what that means (and only when it’s relevant).

        3. Beth*

          Speaking as a lesbian—the vast majority of us won’t question you being there at all! Either you’ll tell people you’re bi (a totally relevant and normal thing to announce in the context of an LGBTQIA+ group, in a way that it might not be in work culture as a whole), or we’ll assume you’re some variety of non-straight because you’re there, or we’ll assume you’re a very enthusiastic ally (which…in the end, has a certain amount of overlap with “might not be straight,” just because a lot of us have been that Overly Invested Ally before; there’s a bit of a pipeline).

          I won’t guarantee you won’t get ANYONE being unwelcoming, because there are jerks in any community. It does happen. But the vast majority of us aren’t turning away friends and allies.

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            >there’s a bit of a pipeline

            One of the things I’m enjoying about this article’s comment section is the little asides on queer culture. This one made me smile, it’s so true.

          2. hellohello*

            my friends and I joke that if you had a “straight but not narrow” pin in middle school there’s a 90% chance you’re queer now

            1. Forrest*

              My lesbian best friend had a “token straight girl” T-shirt made for me in our last year of university, because that was our in joke. I wore it out that night—

              — and snogged our other friend, who became my first girlfriend.

            2. Anax*

              You know, the only person I heard use that one was my sewing teacher, who was about sixty – who really was straight, go figure! Wonderful lady, though, helped me plan out genderqueer ren faire costumes so I could mix-and-match my gender presentation on the fly. :)

          3. not owen wilson*

            Of my high school friend group, all six of us identified as straight back then and all but one of us are queer now. It’s funny to see how we all flock together before we even know, isn’t it?

            1. A Library Person*

              This is the same with me! So many of my high school friends identify as queer now, but somehow I was the only one who was even moderately out at that point (no judgement!).

          4. Idril Celebrindal*

            Ack! Well…yes.

            Speaking as a person who didn’t realize she was demisexual and panromantic until her mid-thirties…this. I finally put it all together and went, “Omg, so many things make so much more sense now!” The odd thing about demi/ace is since I really had no idea what people meant by sexual attraction, I just assumed that what I felt toward men was attraction and what I felt toward non-men was close friendship. It wasn’t until recently that I figured out that wasn’t the case and that I do, in fact, know what attraction is and it isn’t just toward men. Whee, heteronormativity!

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              So many times I was shocked/surprised to find out that a) someone was physically interested in me, b) two friends I thought were just friends were actually together/hooking up/etc, c) other people did not just see movie starts in the same way you look at classical artwork (I can admire the craftsmanship, it doesn’t mean I need to own the David), etc.

              I knew I was ace long before I knew there was a word for it, but I grew up Catholic so I just assumed for a long time that it was because I had a “calling” to be a nun or something. I’m not catholic now, but the nun thing never really sounded like a bad idea.

          5. Bi employee*

            Okay, love the “overly invested ally” pipeline comment. I personally dithered for years at my last location about joining our workplace Pride diversity group. I couldn’t bring myself to do so, because there was one employee I REALLY didn’t want to be out to (he was related to a couple of very close friends of mine and I didn’t want to risk them hearing it from him rather than me, but wasn’t ready to risk telling them either), and I didn’t want to pretend I was an “ally”. But I SO feel this comment!

      4. Elenna*

        Same – I’m pan and I’m not currently dating anyone and there’s not really a casual way to say “yeah not dating right now but if I was they could be a girl! or a non-binary person!”. I’m reasonably sure my team wouldn’t care, but also it just doesn’t come up. And I personally don’t particularly care if my coworkers assume I’m straight – YMMV of course.

      5. Tau*

        Just bluntly saying “hey just FYI, I like people of ALL GENDERS” seemed…weird and out of place at work.

        See also: reasons I really, truly struggle to come out as ace in any sort of halfway natural fashion. Seriously, I have been identifying as asexual for sixteen years and still have not worked out how to tell people without it sounding absolutely dramatically TMI. I generally go for attempting to come out as some flavour of queer – had some success here via mentions of going to meetups for LGBTQ groups, this can be dropped in the conversation as an “oh I did X this weekend”/”oh I need to drop off early today because I’m going to Y.” Harder in times of pandemic, of course.

        I’ve also heard the suggestion of: if you don’t have a current (apparently)-same-gender partner, drop mention of an ex into the conversation. And if you don’t have a suitable past ex, invent one.

        1. another Hero*

          it came up for me when all my colleagues (library) watched the 2019 Little Women movie lol (though those were also-aro reactions). general queerness is pretty easy to signal for me but ace mostly just comes up with people I assume are going to know what it is.

    2. High School Teacher*

      That’s how I started. I was 3 years into my career when I came out publicly on social media. Before I did it, I texted my friends at work something along the lines of, “I’m bisexual! I’m going to start being more open about my identity at work, and I wanted you to know.” The response was overwhelmingly positive.

      That was 3 years ago. Since then, the payoff has been huge. Now I have rainbow flags in my classroom and lead trainings on creating safe classrooms for LGBTQIA+ students. I come out to my classes on day 1, and several students have told me that encouraged them to be more open about their identities. I’ve been watching as more and more colleagues add pronouns to their email signatures. You should do whatever works best for you – some of my LGBTQ+ colleagues choose to be less forthcoming about their identities. But I’ve loved being publicly out.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think that’s great if you can do it :) Especially when you have a lot of kids around you (literally had a close-to-tears conversation with friends this weekend about how much joy it gives us to see the generations younger than us able to be so much more out – and we’re only late 20s/early 30s!).

        I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues who are fully out and engage both internally and with the public in terms of their identity, I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to it.

      2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I’m at a community college, not a high school, but I’ve started adding “we” when I talk about LGTB/queer issues and even just that small addition has helped students find and confide in me when they need to.

    3. A Library Person*

      Your last sentence made me imagine myself, a decade and a half ago, flamboyantly bounding into the office yelling, “OMG did anyone see ‘The L Word’ last night?!?!”

      1. A Library Person*

        (I’m not going to defend that show, it obviously had some indefensible problems. But it was very much a part of the lesbian/queer female zeitgeist when it was airing.)

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Let’s be honest, many shows of that era had their issues but were still formative and important for their impacts on us. I’d class it alongside Buffy, Queer as Folk etc.

          It’s ridiculous to realise how much you hold back, but yes, if I’d mentioned having a tv/film marathon and someone asked what and it was queer content, I would literally say something more innocuous which is both ridiculous and sad.

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            Maybe this can be a subtle way to come out. The idea of always answering

            “Any big plans for this weekend?”

            with “Oh, my partner and I are planning to stay in and rewatch The Birdcage/Love Valour Compassion/Kissing Jessica Stein/Philadelphia/To Wong Foo”

            is making me grin. And would actually be pretty accurate for us.

            1. curly sue*

              Xena! My first girlfriend and I had steady Xena-watching dates, and we definitely weren’t the only ones.

      2. Hamish the Accountant*

        Ha! This made me grin.

        Yeah, lots of problematic stuff on that show in hindsight, but still.

      3. restingbutchface*

        This comment! I just had a full on flashback to the horrible moment when I realised my cis het male coworker thought I had a crush on a boy called Shane and not… Shane.

        Such a terrible and problematic show but it really did shape the conversation and landscape for gay women (in the USA at least) in a really tangible way.

        We just don’t talk about Max.

        1. Trans and queer*

          Well, that tracks with how the T is often left out when it comes to queer pride/the queer community! (Said with love, not as a criticism.)

          1. restingbutchface*

            I am now choosing to believe that Max’s horrific character arc was a very meta metaphor for transphobia within the community and I just didn’t understand it before. I prefer that reality :)

  5. hellohello*

    I’ve had good luck with just… not policing my language anymore. I let myself speak naturally at work about my queerness, the same way a heterosexual colleague would speak about their straightness. So no big announcement or anything, just mentions of ex-girlfriends, that I’m part of queer organizations in my free time, or that I have personal experience as part of the LGBT+ community when it comes up in conversation. Things like pronouns, if you would like your coworkers to start using different ones, probably require a more formal announcement/request, but personally I’ve enjoyed just being myself when the topic of relationships comes up and letting people figure it out for themselves.

    (This isn’t to say that a more formal coming out to colleagues would be wrong, and it might feel good to do so with coworkers you are particularly close with, but the above has worked really well for me. I am lucky to be in a very accepting work environment, though, so mileage may vary based on that.)

    1. AMT*

      This is roughly the same as the strategy I’ve used. I’m a therapist and have never really “come out” in workplaces as a trans guy or as bisexual, but at some point, I stopped censoring mentions of exes, gay hobby groups, or my having been a member of the girl scouts. I will say, though, that I’m much happier working in a space in which no one assumes that I’m cis/hetero. Yay for private practice.

    2. Sophie*

      The informal coming out strategy worked great for me too. I was sceptical it would, but it turns out there is huuuuge power in the Ask A Manager truism “act like how you want people to respond, and mostly they will”.

      90% of people in my office didn’t skip a beat when I referred to my partner as “she” for the first time, and the remaining 10% only took an extra split second or two to process and then take their cue from me that it was no big deal and therefore they should act as such.

      I agree you might need a more formal statement for pronouns if you want everyone to get quickly on board. But I thought I’d add this story as another testament to people stepping up to the expectations you’ve set for them.

    3. M-C*

      That’s totally what I’ve always done. No need for coming-out drama, but a well placed Monday morning ‘exhausted, you know Pride weekend isn’t ever going to be restful but… oh the sunburn! at least the 5 visitors are gone! blah blah blah’ goes a long way. If you don’t have a serious relationship you want to mention on hand, with an obviously named person, and can’t fall back on ‘Debbie loves garlic, so we have to stop in Gilroy’ etc. (and you can always do the playing with the dog screensaver or whatever). It’s not hard to follow any coworker anecdote about their spouse/SO with one about some one of your own, and everyone gets the point.

      That said, you should try to evaluate how it’s going and how fast you want to go. If you’re just testing the waters, it’s fine to come out about anything beyond pronouns to people you like and are pretty sure aren’t going to freak out. But these people like you, and they will keep that info to themselves as in many circles any form of queerness is still considered vaguely shameful, something to keep private. If you want everyone to know, you need to identify a chronic gossip, one who doesn’t like you much. They will be thrilled to inform the entire world with a thoroughness your friends would never think of mustering.

      I would like to emphasize that most likely you already have some allies in place, that you don’t recognize any more than they recognize you. If they’re not queer themselves, you can still find out about the multitude of friends and relatives of queer people. My little sister, when she spotted a likely new one at work, used to go sit on their desk and say meaningfully “my sister lives in San Francisco”, which almost invariably led to further revelations :-).

  6. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Does your organization do any sort of initiative for Pride Month? If so, that could be a really easy way to put your identity out there without making it a Big Deal. If there’s a committee or something that is discussing LGBTQ issues in the workplace, you could volunteer for it. My org has groups for a number of different marginalized identities and have making a big push towards diversity and inclusion. You could also add your pronouns to your email signature. I’m cis, but I added mine to signal that I’m a safe person.

    I’m not out at work, but I’m also not “not” out, if that makes sense. I’m not currently in a relationship, so it hasn’t really come up, but a few of my closer coworkers are aware due to casual conversations we’ve had. It’s not something I have actively tried to hide (and it doesn’t sound like OP has either).

    I feel like I’m being really rambly, but this is such a hard thing to give advice about since I have no idea what the culture is like at OP’s workplace. I’m also not sure if they want to make a Statement or just be more casually open about their identity.

  7. Hamish the Accountant*

    I wish I had more advice for you, OP – all I have is solidarity. I’m a trans man currently out everywhere but work. I will be coming out at work at some point but… It’s very tough to navigate, especially if you’re in a conservative industry. The fact that you have a team at work who are trying to address diversity could be a good sign. (“Could be”, not “is”, unfortunately.)

    I completely identify with becoming less willing to hide parts of yourself. It just gets tougher, doesn’t it?

    I will say that when I was more actively poly, and dating people perceived to be the same gender as me, I handled it by just casually mentioning my girlfriend etc. as though this were no big deal. That was usually fine. No need to have a big coming out. Obviously, you want to think about whether the colleagues you’re making these comments to would agree that it’s no big deal. Mentioning I took my girlfriend out to a movie over the weekend when I was perceived as female – usually okay, in this day and age people generally don’t want to display over homophobia even if they are homophobic. Mentioning I took my girlfriend out to a movie when that colleague knew I had a husband – more of a judgement call.

    Gender stuff is harder because you’re probably asking people to change how they address you. I haven’t worked up the nerve to do it myself yet, even though I’m in a pretty progressive firm and I think my bosses will be supportive.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I’m curious – and I don’t mean this to sound like you don’t know your own workplace or experience! But are you assuming that things will be difficult for you because you’ve seen other people go through it? Because you’ve heard transphobic or bigoted comments? Or mainly because it’s kind of a fraught subject in general? I don’t mean to say everything will be sunshine and daisies, but I do wonder if you have some totally understandable anxiety around the subject that’s contributing.

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        Partly because it’s just a deeply personal and fraught thing. Partly because I know that my colleagues, while in general accepting of queer people, are very much not knowledgeable about the queer community and even less so about trans people specifically. (Ex. a colleague mentioned that one of her kids went to some kind of march in support of LGBT people, and that she was proud of them for that, but in telling this story couldn’t remember the letters “LGBT”.) If I had to guess I would say that most of my colleagues are at the age/knowledge level where they don’t really realize that trans men exist. Add to that, I’m currently pregnant, which is confusing the heck out of even my supportive family members as to what it says about my gender. (Nothing. I want a baby and have the parts to make one.)

        So I’m not anticipating hatred but I am anticipating a whole lot of well-meaning awkwardness. (And, okay, probably crap from one or two of my colleagues, but I think management will shut that down.) And I really just want to be able to concentrate on my spreadsheets and tax returns, you know?

        The other side of it is that I’m in public accounting, so after my colleagues, there’s the question of coming out to my clients. I’m one of our more senior accountants and handle some of our larger clients. Some of them I know will be totally fine with it, but for ones that aren’t – do I just swallow it and ask them if they’d like someone else to handle their account? Should I be expecting management to fire them as clients if they’re transphobic to me? Do I even want that? I dunno. And then it’s likely to go on for at least a year, as my 150+ tax clients come back next year and say “Oh, Anne did my taxes this year and she knows my situation, could you give my file to her?” and I need to have the “Yep, that’s me” conversation with them. It’s… yeah, fraught.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Totally understand and appreciate your answer :) I hope you can navigate it and that you are pleasantly surprised. I suspect it might be/feel harder since you’ve been there awhile and it’s a change – I have a friend who transitioned a few years ago and started med school shortly after, so the people around him have always known him-as-him (though he is out about being trans).

          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            Thanks. Honestly, I’m considering doing something similar. I’ve been doing my Macc in the evenings so I can eventually get my CPA – I might just do my master’s full time for a while at the same time as going on testosterone, and re-enter the workforce as obviously male (probably even in a different city.) Very tempting. It’s a tough call because I do like my firm and it’s very progressive for the accounting industry.

            1. Remedial Chaos Theory*

              Hamish, I switched jobs and industries a couple of years ago, with school in between, doing pretty much exactly this. Started transition at a job I needed to leave for a number of reasons (among them, bigoted management, and extremely low pay). It didn’t go great, which hastened the leaving. I went on t, had surgery, and took a full time course relevant to getting into the new industry. By the time I was job searching again, in a new area, I was getting reliably sir-d on the phone & Zoom (in public, this can sometimes vary, but generally people are as likely to lean “weird young man” as “weird older woman”), and my voice really helps sway that balance, too. I’m not saying you have to go for it, but it’s a very reasonable plan, imo.

        2. restingbutchface*

          Yeah, this is a lot. Your concerns are not inappropriate. Educating people is exhausting and also, you’re not obligated to do it (but having been in a similar position, you will end up doing it). Take care of yourself and protect your emotional energy.

          With you in solidarity and congratulations on the baby! I hope all goes well and you can find a way to let us know when the baby arrives.

      2. NoBrasEverAgain*

        I don’t know a single LGBTQIA+ person who hasn’t had some concern about coming out in certain settings. It’s still “a thing” except for in the most accepting spaces, and since work is how you get paid and move up professionally, it’s really difficult for that to be a safe space for that.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I totally get that! I didn’t intend to sound dismissive, I was genuinely curious. Any reason would be valid and so would no reason at all, just a feeling – it’s his experience, not mine.

          1. NoBrasEverAgain*

            No worries, you’re good. Just wanted to chime in saying it’s a pretty universal thing (regrettably)

    2. Anon for this one*

      Hey, same boat! I’m out to my immediate supervisor and that’s it. I feel bad making them hold on to my “secret” (not sure how secret it actually is…I am actively transitioning, my face and voice are changing), but my anxiety about how my transition will be perceived by our mostly white, male, conservative internal clients is through the roof.

    3. Letter Writer*

      Thanks for your response. I think many of my colleagues would be confused but fine. However the leader of our DEIJ group has said transphobic things outside of work and on social media. I raised this with one of our bosses, without outing myself, and I was told that religious people just felt that way. Obviously thats not an acceptable response in so many ways.

      If I could ask for whatever I wanted I would say I want my pronouns to be my name and I want everyone to stop thinking of me as a woman. Being gendered feels awful. And I don’t want to lead the DEIJ group on queer identities. I want them to hire a professional and pay that person to do the emotional work. I will gladly participate. But I don’t want to be the educator.

      1. Antony J Crowley*

        I’m sorry you had to hear that, and I’m sorry that was the response when you brought it up :(

      2. Hamish the Accountant*

        I have so, so much sympathy. I feel the same way about a lot of this stuff. It’s really tough to navigate and I hope it doesn’t end up being too much of a difficult journey for you.

        What a shame that the current DEIJ point person is a transphobe. Uggghhhh,

        1. Anax*

          UGH. I hate to say it, but that seems like such an endemic problem right now; I know that back in the midwest, we had whisper networks in trans circles about which queer events were “safe”, and which were run by TERFs. Trans identity does seem to be harder for a lot of folks – especially older folks – than sexuality.

  8. Pip*

    You could bring up to your boss about the option of adding pronouns to zoom names eg “Name (they/them)” as a way of introducing your nonbinary identity gradually, and then if it comes up you could discuss it a bit more if you’re comforable? In terms of your partners, I think just mentioning them in day to day conversation would work. “What are you up to tonight after work?” “Oh I’m gonna watch a movie with my partners/boyfriend & girlfriend” or something along those lines?

  9. Lilo*

    My advice would just not to police your language and just let it gradually come out over time. I can see a general announcement being harder to react to whereas a “oh yeah partners and I went hiking this weekend” being easier.

    1. Lilo*

      (I’m bisexual but in a long term heterosexual relationship. Bi erasure is definitely a thing that happens. How it comes up is I might mention an ex girlfriend.)

      1. Zephy*

        Also a bisexual person in a committed hetero relationship (I married a cis man). I struggle a lot with bi erasure as a person who “passes” for straight, especially in a work context. It doesn’t really come up much, in the first place, and I also don’t have any ex-girlfriends I could mention if I ever wanted to casually work my sexuality into a conversation – my now-husband is the second significant other I ever had, and the first one also happened to be assigned male at birth, so I’m straight “on paper” as it were. It’s more than my colleagues need to know about me, really, but on the other hand I think it’s also important to remind people who might be waiting to spew bigoted garbage that the LGBT walk among us and look just like everyone else. But on the OTHER other hand, I don’t know who among my colleagues are also LGBTQIA+, and maybe I don’t want to mark myself in that way unless and until I know who my allies are, you know?

        1. Anax*

          Have you considered… accessorizing?

          Legitimately, I suspect a discrete accessory in bi-flag colors would be a good way to test the waters, maybe a bracelet or something. I don’t think most bigots recognize most queer flags other than the rainbow, but anyone who’s looking for friendly support will zero in on it.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            This!! I have a cute little decal a friend drew for me as a commission, of a calico cat in the ace flag colors, working the different ‘sets’ (diamond, club, heart, spade) into the patches, taped to my plexi barrier. Once I finish Safe Space training that will go beside it. I also have, on my work desk, the ace playing card the same friend made me with the poly symbol and colors. It is less noticeable but there. This way if students are aware they know how I identify, but I don’t have to have the same (rather awkward and unnecessary) conversation 500 times with students from a lot of different cultural, racial, language, etc. backgrounds.

    2. Anax*

      I figure any context where I would talk about my cats is fair game to talk about my partners, for what that’s worth. Not everyone will remember I have two partners, or that I have four cats, but I don’t think I’m oversharing if I talk about either group in the context of “what I’m up to this weekend” or “a funny thing that happened yesterday.”

  10. Anon for this*

    As someone very similar to you who made the same choices early in my career, I’m also struggling with this! For the record, I’ve never had anyone act weird when I came out as bisexual at work. I do conceal the fact that I am gender questioning–I can’t give you great advice there, but how safe you are coming out about it does very much depend on your workplace. I’ve known some people who came out as nonbinary with no work repercussions, but I also know I’ve been held back at a previous workplace because I wasn’t gender conforming enough for my boss (and she said as much!), so this is very much dependent on your workplace and your own willingness to risk having to deal with discrimination at work.

    I’m not out as polyamorous at work and probably never would consider mentioning it unless 1) I was living with and/or raising kids with multiple partners, which is something I don’t think I’ll ever do, or 2) Someone at work found me on a dating app. My own personal comfort level with this may be different than yours. My husband works at a school and he would never be out to his students. I think some of his colleagues know, but only because they’re good friends. I don’t think he would ever consider coming out to his whole workplace.

      1. Anon for this*

        Believe me, I know it, but I’m not going to pretend coming out (or even being a little bit non-conforming) is always the safe choice!

    1. Letter Writer*

      I had a similar experience. I was told to get a promotion I need to “look more like Cis-man A or Cis- woman B”. This actually helped me come to terms with my gender when I realized I could never be either of those people. Now that we are remote and I only have to conform from the shoulders up, I am much closer to that promotion.

      The poly thing is a challenge. I have a kid and I would never ask my kid to lie about our family. One of my partners is professionally out as poly so a simple google search could out us. We aren’t hiding. However, I don’t feel comfortable saying, “I want camping with my partner while my other partner took the kid to see his parents. It was an awesome weekend and a triad victory”. I guess I”m saying it’s hard not to share the things that bring my joy.

      1. Anon for this*

        Oof, I’m so sorry to hear about that feedback. I wish I had better advice for you, but the truth is that some people are incredibly crappy about gender expression and they will find ways to make life at work harder for you. It’s a big part of my own reluctance to pick a label or pronoun, to be honest. I’m working on getting to a place where I have enough financial security to walk away if I must.

        In other circumstances I’d say that if your triad is a family unit you should be able to tell the truth about your family, but a workplace that is THAT blatant about discriminating based on appearance is not likely to be kind about polyamory. It sucks! I’m sorry! This is why a lot of people choose to remain closeted!

      2. Rebecca Stewart*

        It really is. It’s hard not having a safe space to just say, “Girlfriend got her grades back and made straight A’s last semester! Since we couldn’t go out yet, I made her favorite meal and a cake.” But I think once the three of us are as married-as-three-can-get we may change the language, and let the chips fall where they may.

  11. Teapot Unionist*

    Life is much better once you are out. I agree with the other posters that it doesn’t have to be a big announcement, more of a gradual and natural evolution. I would start with the part that feels the most stifling–is it being assumed to be cis or assumed to be straight that is hardest? I made the decision when I left teaching that I couldn’t be closeted anymore. I assume I have lost out on promotions (and maybe positions elsewhere) due to being openly gay, but my mental health and wellbeing are priceless.

    1. Hamish the Accountant*

      >I assume I have lost out on promotions (and maybe positions elsewhere) due to being openly gay, but my mental health and wellbeing are priceless.

      Amen. Now if we could just convey this to my mother. :)

    2. Letter Writer*

      Gender is the most stifling. But hiding my poly identity is also very hard. Maybe because the bisexuality is tied in with the polyamory.

    1. Hamish the Accountant*

      It becomes a work issue when you’re being regularly misgendered at work or feel hesitant to honestly answer “So what did you do this weekend?” because it would reveal that your partner is the same gender as yourself. This stuff becomes extremely wearing and stressful.

      1. Siege*

        Yeah, I’m half out at work (FTR, my workplace is crazy in other ways but our diversity is pretty good – we have one cishet white dude on a staff of twelve, one other person is poly, one person is in an open relationship, we have out trans, ace, enby, and LGB staffers) but it can get tiring not explaining why my partner and I don’t live together because despite all that diversity I actively distrust four staff and am not comfortable with my boss knowing because she’s not always the best at boundaries. I’m out as bi and poly to half the staff, and it’s how weird our workplace is that I trust them to understand not to mention my partner’s wife or my ex girlfriend.

        The good news is that one of the four is leaving this month!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          ‘Why don’t you just come out at work? I support you!’

          ‘Yeah, but I know George, Zippy and Bungle over there WON’T and I frankly don’t need that hassle’

          1. BookishMiss*

            Or the variant “George and Zippy won’t, and Bungle will fetishize me, so no thanks.”

            I’ve had to deal with both in various jobs, and… no thanks. It’s hard, because I want to be me at work, but I also want to be recognized for my work product, not for being “that bi chick with a bunch of partners.” It’s a grey area that i feel like I’m figuring out all over again with every new job or team.

          2. Antony J Crowley*

            The idea of the characters from Rainbow being unsupportive of queer people has made me laugh! I like to think they’d be confused but supportive.

            Also, I always thought George was a girl. Took till I was embarrassingly old to figure it out haha.

        2. M-C*

          Yeah, live-in arrangements can be something else too. There was the meeting where I burst out laughing and had to explain that I had a girlfriend, and I had a roomate, and they were not the same person. And furthermore my girlfriend had a roomate too, who wasn’t a girlfriend either. The joys of late-blooming relationships :-)

      2. Ames*

        I just repeat ad nauseum ‘saw family, saw friends’ (the truth) without adding ‘got laid’ after hooking up with my friend with benefits.

    2. kib*

      This. But also if people like, get nosy, you just say it casually. Like I’m a lesbian, so when talking about dating, I’d say “my girlfriend”. No one made a stink about it, and if they do, that’s THEIR problem, not yours.

    3. nonbinary writer*

      Being misgendered and having people assume the gender of your partner can be deeply invalidating and painful for queer people, who are often demanded to keep parts of themselves hidden for the comfort of others. Me asking people to use they/them when referring to me or to talk about my girlfriend as a girlfriend and not a boyfriend is not a “private, personal life issue,” it’s allowing me the same comfort and freedom that cis heterosexual people have to talk about their own lives.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      Because everyone assuming you’re ‘normal’ aka straight is exhausting. It just really is.

      You would be amazed at what your LGBT+ colleagues have to consider and think about and agonise over when they’re just having a quick chat about their weekend or literally any aspect of their personal lives that could feature in incredibly generic small talk.

    5. peasblossom*

      I think this really depends! Importantly, OP has identified that it is more than just personal life–queer issues are being left out of her company’s diversity initiatives. OP doesn’t have to take charge of fixing that, but it’s one way to see that there are slippages between personal life and work.

    6. hellohello*

      Are you queer yourself? This is a genuine question, because as a queer person myself I experience so many ways my identity comes up at work in entirely work appropriate ways. Talking about your partner/spouses at work, talking about volunteer experience or hobbies which for queer people are not infrequently in an LGBT+ space or LBGT+ related. Even just using pronouns, something every English speaking person does every day, is making a statement about gender. Whether people refer to you as he, she, they, or another pronoun is hardly a private matter and something that can immediately flag you as not-cisgender.

    7. ThatGirl*

      Because a) being misgendered can be really damaging and b) why shouldn’t I be able to talk about a girlfriend or wife the same way I would talk about a boyfriend or husband? People do that at work, it’s part of normal conversation. Now, if you (broadly speaking) are a private person who wouldn’t talk about any of that at work, that’s fine – but my coworkers mention their spouses (and kids, and pets, etc) with some frequency, why shouldn’t people with same-sex or multiple partners be able to do that too?

        1. Maeve*

          “My husband and I have been married for 10 years! We’re getting a babysitter for the kids and going out to celebrate!”

          “Eww Sally can you please stop talking about your sex life at work???”

    8. Person from the Resume*

      It depends.

      I am a lesbian, but not currently in a relationship. And I work from home so there’s less water-cooler talk and personal conversations. When we get on a Teams meeting, there’s a topic and agenda. I’m not out to my current team. In early stages of dating I wouldn’t mention that with work colleagues no matter if I were straight. I’d only mention a relationship or partner once they become serious. OTOH my team may well wonder, about the 45-55 woman who never mentions a husband or kids or grandkids. Frankly I think as a woman not having kids I’m more of an outlier because that is such a standard of heteronormativity and that might be a rather large sign to my team that I’m not straight.

      But if I were in a relationship, I do not want to hide or lie about the gender of the person I did X with when it comes up. I did come out to someone at work when they asked about my weekend and how I knew about the roller derby team. A: My girlfriend was involved in the local team. That feels like censoring and lying and hiding in the closet instead of just being private. And that feeling sucks.

      Here’s the thing. Heteronormatively sucks for queer people! Because heteronormative assumptions mean that queer people have to correct mistaken assumptions and come out so many times over and over again. And you never know if the person asking is coming to be homophobic so then you do the is it worth it to make the correction or can I just treat my partner’s gender as a little white lie so as not to derail this simple conversation with a coming out.

      Not to mention those homophobic people who think saying that you are queer in someway is talking about your SEX LIFE! A straight man can talk about his wife and it’s just talking about his life. A lesbian mentions a wife and somehow that’s oversharing about sex. Clutch your pearls!

      It does make me wonder if we would have all been better off if the term “homophile” would have taken off than “homosexual.” There were folks advocating for that in the early days of the gay rights movement. It’s not just about sexual attraction; it’s also romantic attraction and everything else that goes into a romantic relationship.

      1. Letter Writer*

        I agree that homophile might have played better. People on here have said talking about polyamory is like talking about my sex life. However, 95% of what I do with other partners isn’t sex. We have dates that are about life, going to kid’s soccer games, etc.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Ace/greysexual woman here, with an ace partner and a demisexual husband. Literally nothing we do is about sex, although we do have a son together (biologically mine and husband’s).

          I have told people it is like the world’s longest slumber party with your two best friends, except in my case my two best friends are NOT best friends. I’d like to be able to mention our bond at least in passing, but as an ace woman I HATE that people will immediately assume it is le sexytime (or worse, that my husband is “lucky” because he has two wimmens, ew….. I’m the hinge here, he doesn’t have two anything except headaches!lol!)

      2. Rebecca Stewart*

        Yeah, that’s the thing about polyamory. Everyone assumes it’s all sex all the time. Hardly. It’s just like mentioning your husband or boyfriend, except there’s someone else too.

      3. M-C*

        I don’t think slipping something casual about a girlfriend in a conversation is ‘derailing’ it at all.. Most of the time people will say nothing at all, or not at the time (they might come back with questions later, but that’s ok). Just continue smoothly speaking about the main topic. If you act like a girlfriend is a perfectly normal thing to mention, even homophobic people will be at worst speechless with surprise, not launch into a rant about how you’re going to hell. I have come out to literally hundreds of people by now, and nobody has ever had anything to say about it (well, apart from me too! or my brother is gay!). If they react negatively to you, it’s because you’re somehow giving the impression that 1) this is a big deal 2) their opinion matters in the least.

  12. Vicki*

    I’m inclined to agree with ABK, breaking down the levels bit by bit and introducing a little bit more about your life with your coworkers as they become more comfortable with the information you choose to share is probably going to be less stressful for you. I don’t know if you have built up a friendship base with any coworkers you get on with more than others in your department but maybe if you feel more comfortable sharing pronouns and that you’re non-binary with them first it might make it a little less daunting when you’d like to share it with the rest of your team. It might make it feel like you have someone who supports you on your side when you do approach your other colleagues.

  13. peasblossom*

    As someone who is–apparently–cis and straight-presenting, but neither cis nor straight, the struggle of having to manage my public identity as a queer person really resonates with me. OP, it sounds to me like you’ve got two different areas in which you want to change people’s understanding of your identity. One feels more “policy” oriented–the way that you’ve noticed your company is leaving queer issues out of diversity initiative—and the other reads as more “personally” oriented—it (understandably!) bothers you that you’re being mis-identified in daily interactions.

    I’d tackle these two things differently, and, because I personally find policy easier to deal with than getting personal at work, I’d start there. Is there someone you trust/have a good rapport with working on the diversity initiatives? If so, I’d approach them and (as gently as you can) let them know that while the diversity efforts are commendable, that you as a queer person have noticed that queer issues are being left out and you’d like to see them be included. With any luck, this conversation will move beyond the two of you so that not only will there be more support for queer folks at your company, but you also won’t have to come out to everybody.

    However, to help control the narrative of your coming out and to tackle the personal/daily interactions side of things, I’d also find someone you work closely with and trust talk to about your identity. Before you do that, think about what specific things you want them to know and what outcome you want. Do you want them to know you aren’t cis? poly? Do you want them to tell people for you? Help you correct assumptions? Just be a friendly face? In fact, these are questions worth thinking through before you approach the policy side of things too. I personally have found the coming out process much easier when I’m at least somewhat in control of the narrative around my identity. And then enlist their help in changing the company narrative around your identity. It’s easier if you’ve got some on the ground support.

    Good luck, OP! This can be a tough process to navigate, and I hope it goes well for you.

    1. LQ*

      I think it’s really good to split these out as two things. I’ve been very uncomfortable actually sticking my foot out of the closet (though I’d imagine I’d feel differently if I felt I was being actively misgendered), but I’ve been fairly pushy on policy stuff here and there which has had a good effect on policy, but also has the effect of people seeing me as an ally and …maybe not making the default assumptions they’d otherwise make. I don’t talk about dating at work, I don’t talk about home life. I’m very reserved overall in those things. I have a few things I’m safe and comfortable sharing, but they are pretty carefully manicured parts of my life. But since being pushier on policy people are WAY less likely to assume that say…I need a man in my life to make me happy, or any number of things. They just don’t talk or ask about it anymore, which honestly is where I’m comfortable.

      I say this because pushing policy may be an easier way to make some progress with how people interact with you if you’re uncomfortable with swinging the door wide open. And then when (and if!) you are, you will have more support to do so.

      1. M-C*

        People don’t ask about your personal life any more because most people are now aware that if you don’t talk about that it’s most likely because some sort of queer shenenigans are going on :-). Plus even straight people know about the closet now, so they’re more likely to notice the abstentions

    2. Letter Writer*

      I think that you are correct I should find an ally for the personal part.

      With the policy part I”m concerned about becoming the Queer person for all policy discussions. I don’t have the emotional energy to educate my coworkers. I am more then happy to direct them to folks they can hire to do that work, and then I will gladly participate in the sessions that person runs.

      1. peasblossom*

        completely understandable! and as someone who went the policy route can confirm the validity of your fears of becoming The Queer Person.

      2. rc*

        I feel this!! I am often the first line diversity educator despite it being 100% not my job, though I do often refer to other areas/people whose job it actually is.

  14. MassMatt*

    I like the idea about breaking things down gradually. But I would first assess your employer, location, and co-workers. Are there non-discrimination laws/policies in place? What is protected/covered and what is not? Are there any other visible LGBTQ+ employees at your company? If not, are you comfortable being the trailblazer? Is there an affinity group/ERG? How receptive do you imagine your coworkers (and especially, managers/upper managers) will be? I would weigh all this versus the (considerable!) feeling of freedom of coming out.

    Gather your support network and talk with them about what you want to do. They can be a major source of strength and reassurance.

    I wouldn’t worry about this being mid-career. Coming out is not a one-time thing, people need to do it continuously as they move, meet new people, change jobs, etc. and everyone moves at their own pace.

    In general I do think coming out is a major plus for one’s own mental health and sense of well-being, I have asked many people that have done it and have never encountered anyone who wanted to go back into the closet, even those whose coming out processes were less than ideal. Good luck!

  15. BubbleTea*

    I came out at work pretty much instantly (in fact I believe I referenced my wife during my interview, in a way that was directly relevant to the question I was answering rather than just chitchat) so it isn’t quite the same as doing so mid-way into a job role. I simply talked about my female partner in the same way my straight female colleagues talked about their male partners, and I had a photo of us from our wedding day on my desk. A couple of people asked about the photo and I treated the entire thing as though of course people were going to respond respectfully and not be weird about it. And they did! I have at least two colleagues who I know belong to religious groups that don’t allow same-sex marriages, but we simply don’t get into debates or discussions about it. It is ideal and I feel very fortunate.

    I could afford to take the risk because I live in a country where the law protects me from discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and work for an organisation with policies around equality and tolerance, and also in an industry where we work with people from all backgrounds and circumstances. If you’re in a place where those things are less certain, I can imagine it being a lot trickier. Also, being gay but monogamously married probably carries more privilege/less stigma than being bisexual, non-binary and polyamorous, which is deeply unfair and I have no advice about how to handle that :(

  16. nonbinary writer*

    If your organization has any LGBTQ+ affinity groups, that’s the perfect place to start!

    I’ll share some of my experience. I figured out I was bi a solid decade before I figured out I was nonbinary, and I honestly never “came out.” Just joined the affinity group, and would let people figure it out when I swapped from talking about my ex boyfriend to talking about my current girlfriend. This is how most queer folks I know have done it. I’m in a liberal area, and no one has ever batted an eye.

    I changed both my name and pronouns when I came out as nonbinary, so I needed to like, actually officially come out so I could be referred to in the way I wanted. Here’s how I did it: I came out to my boss first, then chatted with HR about getting my email/slack/account names changed. My name isn’t legally changed yet, so we talked through what needed to have my legal name attached and what could be changed. I’m super lucky to work at a supportive org!

    Then, I came out to colleagues I work with frequently during team meetings. My org has a habit of doing “bright spot/share something awesome” stuff at the beginning of meetings, so that was the perfect time to do it. Then I came out to our affinity group, changed my name and pronouns on slack and in my email signature, changed my first name and swapped out my last name for my pronouns on my zoom display name, and then just hung tight til HR was able to change over all my other accounts. I didn’t do a full staff email or anything like that — our org is a bit large for me to have felt comfortable doing that, though I could see that working at a smaller org where you’re all working with each other.

    So far, most folks have been good about using pronouns, and excellent with my new name (the fact that we’re all working from home and talking over slack helps cuz ya know, the name’s right there). There have, of course, been slip ups, but overall the intention to learn and do better is there.

    Good luck and you got this! If the people you work with aren’t homophobic and transphobic, this likely won’t be half as big a deal for them as it is for you. If they are homophobic or transphobic, well, you’ve got my solidarity.

    1. Letter Writer*

      You are so far ahead of me. Maybe I just need to wait. I don’t think I want to change my name. Maybe just go by my last name? I’m definitely still feeling that out.

      1. nonbinary writer*

        Totally! I found that hanging out in online spaces with other supporting trans folks trying out new names and pronouns was soooo helpful. I also have incredibly queer and lovely supporting roommates, and I was able to ask them to play around trying out calling me different things until I found the combo that gave me that sweet sweet gender euphoria.

        I think the most important thing is that coming out should be for YOU, not for the comfort or curiosity of anyone else. Take it one step at a time, only do what you’re comfy with, and remember that being fully “out” isn’t a requirement of being queer <3

      2. Darcy*

        I found it helpful to wait until I was pretty settled on a new name/pronouns. I could deal with coming out at work once but I would have found it much harder to send an update email around later with a different name, and my guess is that two changes wouldn’t have got as good a reaction.
        I talked to my manager first to let her know I was changing my name and pronouns and that I was going to send round an email to the whole office letting them know. I announced it at the same time as legally changing my name which I think made it feel a bit more official/serious.
        Then I emailed everyone with something along the lines of “exciting news! I’ve finally legally changed my name to Darcy, and I’m making the switch to they/them pronouns at the same time.” I think I might have put something about how pleased I was to be at such a supportive workplace too (if I’ve already praised you for it you have to do it, lol).
        I think framing it as something official and exciting helped with people 1) taking it seriously and 2) knowing that they should be pleased for me rather than telling me I was brave or something.

  17. BiBiBi*

    I’m bi, but in a relationship that “looks straight.” When it’s come up in social conversations outside of work, I’ve done what others have suggested, just not policed my language. Recently, we’ve been reviewing the LGBTQIA inclusiveness of our products and so through that lens, I’ve done a bit of “actually, I’m not straight” and offered opinions from my perspective.

  18. middle name danger*

    Chiming in with the chorus of “start by changing your language when talking about stuff.” Some people will catch on. Some will feel like you must have already told them, and THEY are the ones that missed it.

    I came out as nonbinary by taking three weeks off for top surgery, so I’m probably not much help there. I just…let people ask me for my pronouns if they wanted, when I showed up with a flat chest and a deeper voice from T. I have a bi and a trans flag at my desk although most of our office is still WFH.

    1. Hamish the Accountant*

      >I came out as nonbinary by taking three weeks off for top surgery, so I’m probably not much help there. I just…let people ask me for my pronouns if they wanted, when I showed up with a flat chest and a deeper voice from T.

      Power move. Good for you.

      1. nonbinary writer*

        Gotta do my required binder safety plug: if you do, just make sure you’re able to take a break/not wearing it for more than 8 hours in a row. Even just taking a 20 minute break while you sit in your car and eat lunch can go along way in avoiding rib injuries.

      2. Darcy*

        I do want to point out that people can be astonishingly oblivious (or I guess the better way of looking at it is people don’t pay that much attention to each others chests) but in my experience cis people very rarely assumed that I’m trans based on wearing a binder. I’ve had top surgery but don’t take T and strangers basically always use she/her for me unless I tell them not to. If you do wear a binder people likely won’t change how they refer to you based on that (and it would be kind of weird for them to ask… “hey i noticed you’re more flat chested today, are you trans” lol)

        1. middle name danger*

          Yeah, even after surgery many were oblivious. The first coworker to ask said, “I wanted to know if you wanted to use different pronouns since you went through so much to make a change,” or something along that line. Not, “hey, I noticed your E cups are gone, what’s with that?”

    2. restingbutchface*

      The energy of this comment is perfect and I find it aspirational. As Hamish says, a real power move. I salute you.

  19. fish*

    I would just add, from your letter, it seems like you’ve been working at home on Zoom and may at some point be going be going back into the office. This seems like a great period for a natural reset anyways, if that helps ease your worries about making a dramatic transition.

    I haven’t seen my colleagues in person in a year, so it’s no surprise if Brent has a mustache now, or Eric is really into grilling now, or Susan has shifted how they they talk their identity.

    1. F.M.*

      A number of friends online have been talking about the ‘quarantrans’, as in, trans people who did their coming out and/or transition right around the time a lot of WFH started, either by coincidence or because that change in work environment made it easier/revealed things to them/etc. While I’m not about to call it a trend, I do think that having that hard break (for people who could do WFH) between seeing people in person regularly vs. occasionally on little webcams can be very helpful.

      Heck, even I updated my pronouns slightly over that time period, because dealing with my students exclusively online meant a lot more “seeing student’s pronouns by their name on Zoom” compared to trying to find a low-pressure way to ask people to share them if they wanted to. It was a good reminder to me that it would help other people if I made my own more explicit, which forced me to think more seriously about my choices if I did go with explicit pronoun statements instead of letting people assume.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Not having to preform my gender every day made it much clearer to me how much stress that performance was causing. I have a small child and it was exhausting to have her home but also a huge relief to not be in the hetronorimaive spaces around Elementry schools.

        1. Rainy*

          I am a lot more open about being queer than I was when I was first hired at my current employer, and a lot of that is moving from a team that was mainly pretty conservative people to another where people were much more tolerant. Although I’m bi and in a mixed-sex marriage so I “look straight”, I guess, I also hate it when people assume I’m straight, so I don’t shy away from “oh, an ex-girlfriend gave it to me” about a sweater etc. I also flag pretty well to other queer folk, I think; when I’d been there about a year and we had a new hire, she made a beeline to my office after onboarding and said “so I know what the rules say but how is it *really* to be queer here?”

          My preferred strategy is the old drop it in to conversation and assume the listener will be cool maneuver. I’ve been in work environments where it wasn’t okay to be out and I hated every second of it, so at this point I wouldn’t take a job where I had to be closeted. I’m at a point in my career where that’s possible, though, and I feel really lucky that that’s the case.

  20. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I’m a cis, bisexual, and polyamorous woman. I am out at work to people my age but not to management, who think I’m a straight woman in a monogamous relationship with my fiancé, who I’ve dated since high school. This isn’t just to my coworkers: to my parents, my ex-girlfriend is my “ex-best friend,” and they have no idea about other people I’ve dated other than my fiancé.

    I think that the order in which people are most likely to understand what you’re talking about and be okay with it would be bisexual –> nonbinary –> polyamorous. IME, more people understand variations in orientation before they understand variations in gender identity. However, it might be that being called the correct pronouns is the most important thing to you, in which case I’d go nonbinary –> bisexual (which they might assume anyway) –> polyamorous.

    Re: polyamory… a lot of people see polyamory as more “voluntary behavior” than “an innate part of your being.” I find people fall into two groups: those who cannot conceive of anything other than monogamy because they can’t imagine being in love with anyone other than their partner, or those people who can imagine it but think polyamorous people are just incapable of reining in their immoral impulses. And because it is possible to be innately one way but behave another (you can be a polyamorous person in a monogamous relationship and vice versa), the choice to not be in a monogamous relationship is more commonly seen as cheating or flagrant hedonism.

    Basically, that’s always the last element of my identity I reveal to people.

    1. peasblossom*

      Yeah, got to agree here. I hate to say this, but I’d be the most cautious about revealing any poly status although I would want to know a lot more about the company culture before advising revealing gender identity either. I’m not in a poly relationship, but from what I’ve seen, revelations of being poly are likely to not only be read as “voluntary” but are likely to make others read sexuality or gender as arbitrary choices too.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree.

      I do think it may be better to come out in steps. Bisexuality may be the easiest and you can consider formally skipping that coming out and let people figure that one out once you reveal that your poly partners are of different sexes.

      Your NB identity seems like it could be the one that might be most important if you want people at work to use different pronouns or a different name, I’d start there.

      I’m not poly so I don’t know how hard you have it pretending that your partners are not both romantic partners. I’d leave that for last because that seems like the one least likely to be accepted/understood by the average straight person. But if that’s a bigger pain point for you, you could start there.

    3. F.M.*

      I unfortunately must agree on the polyamory side of things; it’s the least likely to be accepted in a lot of places, because it’s the most likely to be seen as cheating, or as being “about sex” even more than other things.

      But I’ll also say that in some ways it’s the easiest to be very casual about, since just not suppressing mention of multiple partners in various configurations is often easier than explaining a pronoun shift. (Or trying to convey ‘bisexual’ if you don’t have partners of different genders to refer to.) Referring in passing a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. as they come up naturally in conversation, can be quite natural; and other people can put together the pieces or not, and ask awkward questions or not, as they feel up to doing. (For better or worse.)

      It’s like the weirdest combo of “easiest to reveal casually without making it a thing” and “most likely to get a lot of weird judgment even from places you wouldn’t expect.” A colleague of mine–in the sense of being friends in the same field, not working in the same place–threw an absolute fit, sent out angry emails, and then ghosted me and a few other mutual friends because we’d had a conversation in a social outing about having multiple partners. She felt that we were judging her for monogamy (?) because we were happily in other situations, and cut off the entire relationship with all of us accordingly.

      So… there’s that. I was very surprised at the time by the reaction; she’s not someone I would have expected it from, and it didn’t even happen the first time the matter had come up, so none of us knew that she had such strong feelings about it until they suddenly exploded. It’s something that, unfortunately, one has to be braced for, just in case.

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        Well that’s an.. odd reaction. I wish more people would realise that whatever mutually consensual relationship someone has is fine, but judging others for their relationship dynamic is not.
        This is pretty much how I handled it though, just mentioned partners or dates as they came up in conversation, and most people connected the dots. I got a few quiet questions about, but they were more along the lines of “How do you find the time? Don’t you get jealous? I don’t think I could ever do that” rather than “You’re a horrible person”. My workplace does have a pretty strong inclusion culture though (and actual policies), so a strongly negative reaction would be unusual. And it’s really nice not having to tiptoe around the issue in conversation.

    4. pieces_of_flair*

      I’m also a bisexual, polyamorous woman and I unfortunately agree with everything about this. LW, in a company where you already know you’ve been held back from promotion because of your gender presentation, coming out as poly seems too risky. Polyamory is just so strongly stigmatized even among progressive people who wouldn’t blink at bisexual or non-binary.

    5. Polly Amory*

      Love that “innate part of my being”. I’m older, living ace at the moment and foreseeable future, but poly at my core.

  21. PolarVortex*

    I struggled with this myself, as a pansexual transmasculine person. First my story. It was easiest for me to start in small ways, with people I knew were LGBT supportive or I knew supported me enough that I trusted them to share. I started being more open about my sexuality first, just mentioning offhand about whomever I thought was hot or dating someone of the seemingly (at the time) same sex as me.

    Coming out gender-wise was (and still is much harder). I started with pronouns only after others started to say pronouns as they were getting on the diversity bandwagon. Those allies made it very easy for me to start. Soon I’ll be outing myself to the entire company in a meeting as trans. It’s terrifying, and I’m not lying that I feel extremely vulnerable.

    But: I will say this. When I first started coming out with my sexuality, people were pleasantly surprised. Very “I didn’t know, but thank you for trusting me”, and it seems so normalized now from the 5 years ago that started. When I started being honest about my pronouns with small groups of people, others who I never thought would’ve cared heard those coworkers closer to me use masculine pronouns and reached out privately. One after another started asking me what I prefer, apologizing if I ever felt uncomfortable or misgendered, and it has been so goddamn sweet how some apologize when they slip up. I didn’t know, never knew, how many people were LGBT allies at my company, and how many people cared about me feeling safe and comfortable at work.

    I share this because those small things are what is getting me to this big step. I know not everyone is going to be perfect, but I know I have those who care. You will have those who care, who back you up, who support you. I think sometimes it is very difficult for LGBT allies to be allies when they don’t realize there’s the opportunity to since it can be a rather “invisible” type marginalized group if we choose to hide our genders and sexualities. I am working with my company on LGBT support and diversity.

    Sometimes I have to be the face of it, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for future employees feeling safe. And moreso I realized that my work, my coworkers, they want me to feel safe and be myself.

    So, I hope you try, even if it’s in baby steps forward by starting with those closest to you. Taking that step might find others who are equally as worried about coming out, or parents of kids who are LGBT. Let me know if you ever need an ear or a resource.

  22. NeutralJanet*

    When I decided that I was comfortable with my coworkers knowing that I’m bisexual, I started just treating it like an established fact that everyone knew, like, one time a bunch of my coworkers were sharing stories about bad dates that they’ve been on and I casually mentioned a woman who said she didn’t want a second date because I wasn’t vegan despite the fact that she herself was not vegan. I got a few surprised looks, but bisexuality is enough in the mainstream by now that I think it’s less shocking than even five years ago.

    I would imagine you could do the same thing about being polyamorous, especially because you do currently have multiple partners–maybe if your team is discussing TV shows you like, you could say, “I couldn’t get in to Bridgerton, but my boyfriend Jason loves it, so I’ve seen most of it,” or if people are discussing how they’re trying to stay active while at home, you could talk about how your partner Eleanor and you go on walks together most evenings, and if anyone asks questions (“Oh, did you and Jason break up?”), you can casually correct them as if it were any other misunderstanding (“No, we’re still together! The three of us are in a polyamorous relationship”). This does rely on your workplace being both fairly queer-friendly, which I assume it is given that you want to come out, and on your team having some casual, non-work related conversation, but I’ve found it’s pretty effective.

    As for being non-binary, do you want to start using different pronouns, or do you just want people to know because you want people to know? If you do want to start using different pronouns, I would tell a few people you’re close with, preferably if they’re the gossipy type, and let them spread the word, so again, it sort of becomes established knowledge. If you do want to continue using she/her pronouns (which I assume you’re currently using), you might have to make more of an announcement, since that’s not necessarily something people can intuit based on other information about you. A good step might be reaching out to the diversity team and saying that you noticed that they haven’t been doing a lot of work around LGBTQIA+ issues, and that you’d be happy to help as a non-binary, bisexual person, or at least give them some guidance if you’re unable or unwilling to really volunteer.

    Because you have been passing as straight and cis and monogamous for so long, it can feel daunting to say now that you’re not, because it can feel like you’ve been lying, but it’s not like you’ve purposely been deceiving people just for the joy of it! Making it more casual than a Official Announcement can make it feel less like a revelation that you have been deceiving everyone and more like this is just a fact about you that not everyone knew before, like any other fact about you that not everyone knows.

  23. Tyche*

    I think it depends a lot on your workplace. I live in a conservative county in Florida so for me coming out would be more trouble than it’s worth at this point. But I’m a pan woman married to a AMAB enby, and we look like a cishet couple. My partner realized they’re non binary last year so at my current workplace I’ve always used male pronouns. Given the culture here I’ve continued using male pronouns (my spouse uses any). I start at a new company soon and I will have to see how it goes, but I suspect it will be safer to continue using male pronouns. We’re also an interracial couple which is enough of A Thing to others as it is.

    It sounds like you’re not in such a conservative workspace though. It may not be completely safe, but you have the right to be out if you want to be. If there’s anyone you’re close with, you could let them know first. They could help get the word out and correct on pronouns as needed. You don’t have to have a big coming out moment if you don’t want. If you do, maybe your manager could send around an email or something like that. Good luck. I really hope it goes well for you and I’m proud of you for wanting to live your truth.

    1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      Exactly. Do what is safe for you. There are so many levels that people have to navigate on.

      A very good friend of mine is cis, autistic, disabled, and bi. She’s very open about the autism (is an activist and blogger) and since the disability involves a wheelchair, it’s very evident. She’s only out as bi to a few people and her two previous partners were cis males, so no one would intuit it. She has said that to her, she uses so much mental energy to explain autism, to advocate for autistics, and to mask when she feels she “has to” that she has no energy left to explain/defend herself as bi since she’s not currently in any relationship.

  24. tiny_strawberries*

    Well, first of all, it’s on them that they’ve assumed you’re cis, straight, and monogamous. Remember that they’re projecting on to you, and it’s silly that it’s always on us to make sure others know about our identities. I have referred to my partner as such forever, and am very ‘out,’ but also am doing some gender feels and don’t know what to make of it in the workspace – probably wouldn’t come up for me unless we were explicitly talking about it.

    I do also struggle with the LGBTQ+ not being included in general DEIA work. I’m in an area where LGBTQ people (but mostly the LGB) are generally pretty accepted, so I think they just don’t consider it a big topic. It’s kind of hard to get people to understand that it’s also important, and doesn’t take away from other topics like racial equity! Hope this goes well for you. :)

    1. Letter Writer*

      Not having to preform my gender every day made it much clearer to me how much stress that performance was causing. I have a small child and it was exhausting to have her home but also a huge relief to not be in the hetronorimaive spaces around Elementry schools.

    2. sam_i_am*

      I really relate to that on diversity initiatives treating queer people as accepted. In my experience, there’s a lot of “oh, no, I’m not homophobic, I’m fine with the gays!” without actual… substance to it? People don’t outright say anything, but they act kind of uncomfortable when you mention things about a same-sex partner or other things that make queerness apparent. It’s this sort of “it’s fine as long as no one acknowledges it”

  25. A Library Person*

    First of all, it sounds like you’re in an okay place about this but please remember to go easy on yourself during this process! I’m sorry to hear that the blurring of work/home boundaries has made you feel pressured to come out, and it’s okay to take it slow and make sure at every step of the process that you’re doing what is right and comfortable for you in a specific context and time. I hope you receive ample support from your partners and your social network(s) (and people in an internet advice column’s comment section) as you navigate this and wish you all the best.

    I’m still trying to figure out whether/how to discuss/announce/??? my emerging sense of myself as non-binary, and one thing I am considering is changing my pronouns in my email signature/zoom name/etc. to “[assumed_pronun]/they” as a subtle(?) gesture in that direction that would hopefully be recognized by people who are more aware of nb identities and ignored by those who aren’t actively looking for it. This might be safer and more effective in a relatively conservative environment. For context, I do not currently intend to exclusively or regularly use they/them pronouns, so YMMV if you plan to use different pronouns than the ones everyone is currently using/assuming for you.

    I’ve found that, in terms of coming out in the more traditional sense of having a(n assumed, see nb notes above) same-sex partner, what works for me is simply referring to them as casually and naturally as a cis/straight person would, which is admittedly easier because they have a name that is pretty strictly gendered. “Yes, I had a great weekend, [Partner_Name] and I went for a lovely walk in the park with a friend.” “My [gendered term for spouse] and I finally got to go bowling again for the first time since 2019! It was great but my arm hurts now.”

    However, I should note that I work in an environment that includes a lot of queer individuals, which makes these conversations relatively safe for me. If your workplace is not even making overtures toward queer inclusion in its diversity efforts, it might be best to start slow and try to find colleagues who are supportive before making a broader announcement. Good luck!

  26. fish*

    One other thought, borrowed from advice here and Captain Awkward. Do you have a few kind, trusted, and chatty coworkers who you can ask to spread your news for you?

    My own experience with “suddenly” coming out at work was to do it while quitting, which you may not want to repeat. But a coworker told his new name and pronouns to a few queer colleagues he trusted to get the language right, and it worked like a charm. By the time he walked in any room, most people had already been told at least once that his name is Alan now and he uses he/him pronouns.

    1. fish*

      And that way too, we were able to intercept a lot of the “wait…does that mean he’s a man or woman?” questions. Not that he never got those, but it lessened them.

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        This is all great advice that I’m making note of for myself. :)

        Side note though – my partner and I are both trans men and find the “wait, man or woman?” comments kind of amusing/affirming. There’s nothing like a “So… if you want to be a woman, why do you keep your hair so short?” comment to affirm that I’m passing well, ha.

        1. Darcy*

          haha my husband gets this. I’ll mention that he’s trans and cis people who’ve met him are like “wait… so he wants to be a woman?” because they just assume they’ll be able to “tell”

      2. not owen wilson*

        This is how my best friend came out in high school! He asked me to spread the word that he was using he/him pronouns now and going by “name” and we both thought it worked very well. I was able to head off a lot of the awkward “sooo….. she’s a man now?” questions from 16 year olds in the rural Midwest who hadn’t met a trans person before. It made it a lot easier on him because I was able to explain it without it being as personal for me as it was for him, you know? After all, it wasn’t my identity they were questioning. This is a great strategy to use when you have someone who you trust to explain it kindly but firmly and squash out some of the transphobia.

      3. Letter Writer*

        The one coworker that will share all news and gossip, unfortunately isn’t someone I can trust with this identity. However this is the method I used to tell people when I got pregnant.

        I gave a trans 101 talk two years ago when we had a trans high school intern. For most of my colleagues this was all new information. I don’t know if they have learned anything in the intervening years. They treated the student respectfully but not with a death of understanding, and my one transphobic coworker avoided the kid for 12 weeks.

  27. QuarantinePuppy*

    I agree with many others here in that your pronouns are probably the most relevant to the workplace, and clarifying them would be a good way to start. I would introduce info about your sexuality/SO’s more casually if it comes up in conversation, you can always mention “oh, my girlfriend loves that restaurant too!” or “my boyfriend had the same major” without feeling obligated to explain any further. I never officially “came out” in the workplace, but I mention my girlfriend just as others mention their husbands/boyfriends in casual conversation.

  28. KateM*

    A question about language: does “non-binary bisexual” imply that this non-binary human is in relationships with binary humans only?

    1. Mouse*

      Probably not. Bisexual does not have to mean “male” and “female”. It can also mean “same” and “other”. There’s been a lot of debate over bisexual vs pansexual but the main difference between the two is that pansexual tends to be used by younger speakers and bisexual tends to be used by older speakers and both terms can mean a variety of things about the speaker’s attraction, but neither term has to be transexclusionary if the speaker doesn’t want it to be.

      1. High School Teacher*

        Exactly! Bisexual means “attraction to more than one gender identity,” not just the two ends of the traditional spectrum. But every term means something different to the people who identify that way. We choose our labels for different reasons.

        1. KateM*

          Removed — that’s not okay here. (These are people’s identities, not math terms.) Leave this here, please. – Alison

      2. Allypopx*

        Hm, I’m 29 I’ve found a pretty even split among everyone under 40, so I’m not sure pan has a young person preference (though older than 40 it wasn’t really a thing so that part I agree with). I use bisexual to honor the history of the term and because pansexual doesn’t feel quite right for me – in my mind it means “regardless gender” while gender expression does play a role in my attraction to someone, even if I’m attracted to all genders. Outside of my own encounters the youths on the tiktok use bisexual a lot too, from what I’ve seen.

        1. Anax*

          Same age, and I’ve also seen a LOT of people in my circles use “queer”, basically for the same reasons; it’s more complicated than “gender doesn’t matter at all”, and a catchall is nice so you don’t have to go into the messy detail.

          (Also, I’ve had a few too many creeps creep on me because “pansexual means you like everyone” or “bisexual means you like guys so WHY NOT ME”, so I like to be a little more defensively vague about it. Personal experience, but I suspect it does play a part for some other folks too.)

          1. Allypopx*

            That too! I shy away from queer a little with people I don’t know well just because I know reclaiming a slur isn’t for everyone and some people have bad connotations with the word, but it does work really well as a vague “not straight but not putting it all out there” word.

          2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

            I find the “you’re bi/pansexual, therefore you must be attracted to me!” really odd. I mean, they are presumably not attracted to every single member of their preferred gender that they meet, so why should I be? Also, I find that the more options I have in terms of partners, the more picky I am, not less. It’s like having a highly valued skillset in the job market, why should I settle for minimum wage, long commute, crappy boss when I can get something closer, higher paid, and where they actually value me?

            1. M-C*

              It’s not odd if you consider they’re primarily creeps, the point is not to understand you but to try to reason you into a tight corner, in hopes that you’ll give up and put up with them.

              1. Anax*

                Yep, that’s the thing. No reasonable person thinks that way, but … well. I was… what is commonly termed “neckbeard bait”, when I was younger, so this was a real problem; several long-term stalkers, more short-term ones.

              2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

                Ok, so odd was the politest term I could think of for that behaviour. And for the type of people who would usually try this, my response is very much “I have the choice of all these wonderful people, why on earth would I choose *you*?”.
                Although then I do sometimes need to clarify that it was a rhetorical question, because how could I not want such a Nice Guy (TM)? /sigh

      3. not owen wilson*

        I’m a bisexual woman! Some people may interpret this differently, but my working definitions are that bi = “attraction to more than one gender where gender is a factor in how you experience attraction” and pan = “attraction to more than one gender where gender is not a factor in how you experience attraction.” I’m 22, and most of my friends choose to identify as bi rather than pan — like, I was just able to name ten bi people I know off the top of my head but I only know one pan person. I think people tend to understand what bisexuality is a lot more than pansexuality, so most people I know tend to identify as bi because it’s a more widely understood term and there’s a lot more history behind it as well.

        1. Rebecca Stewart*

          I went with pansexual because I realized that if I like someone’s personality and wit and find them attractive I really don’t care how they present or what I find when we finally get to pants-off stages of relationship. But I’m not gonna be offended at being called bi.

        2. Bi employee*

          That’s… probably the best definition I’ve seen about the difference between the two (at least as I understand them). Thank you!

    2. nonbinary writer*

      no. bisexual means attraction to more than one gender (and has always been inclusive of nonbinary identities — see The Bisexual Manifesto published in the 90s for more info on this). nonbinary means that your gender does not fall into binary “man” or “woman” categories.

      1. Allypopx*

        Thank you – I don’t want to give anyone homework but I really wish more people would read into the history of the movement before engaging in these conversations.

        1. nonbinary writer*

          I will scream from the rooftops about the bisexual manifesto until I’m blue in the face! One of the most helpful things I’ve read in terms of understanding both myself and the history of the community.

          1. Ally*

            Thank you thank you thank you

            I just want a world where someone can identify as bi, pan, or queer without someone showing up to be mean about it

  29. Other*

    I’m really glad this came up because I could probably use some pointers, too. I came out to my team as non-binary when I changed my name. We use Slack to communicate a lot, so I put a non-binary flag on my status and “they/them” in the message field as a reminder because I’m still being misgendered. People have been great about using my name, but the pronouns are taking more time. I came out a couple of years into working with the company after presenting as cis female, so I know that they are having to unlearn some things. Habits can be hard to break. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered anyone who seems to be doing it intentionally. Our company celebrates Pride month, too, and I think that really helps to normalize it.

  30. CatF*

    I’m (afab non-binary married to a woman) in the middle of this process myself. Have always been out about being queer because that was easy. I just mention my wife whenever it’s relevant. I have never hesitated regarding my (professional) masculine clothing or hair. I think it’s ideal to ask for neither permission nor forgiveness and let people absorb gradually by exposure.

    But my preference for they/them pronouns is becoming stronger over the last year or so and that one is tricky, in part because there’s not going to be a change in my presentation or name to clue people in. I haven’t figured this out yet, and am not sure how much effort I want to put into this with my coworkers who are kind and considerate but not especially savvy.

    Something that’s not an option for me due to working at a very small company but that I’d encourage anyone to do if they can is join LGBTQ+ employee groups. Co-conspirators are not only good for support but also can make coming out easier by modeling correct responses for others and listening for any potential trouble.

    Good luck OP! You’re not alone.

  31. Data Bear*

    Having come out both as gay and as poly at work, and recently having a junior colleague come out as non-binary, the standard advice applies: typically, people respond to the framing of coming-out statements more than to the content and respond in kind. If you treat it like a shameful secret, they’ll probably act concerned; if you treat it like a cause for celebration, they’ll probably congratulate you (although perhaps awkwardly, if they’re not used to people coming out about things). The easiest way to handle it is just to be completely matter-of-fact about it and treat it as no big deal, in which case they’ll most likely just take it in stride.

    That said, I *did* go through anonymous channels to inquire whether my benefits could apply to more than one partner (spoiler: no, and probably not for you, either, because money), because, as someone else mentioned, the acceptance levels go bi > enby > poly, and I felt more unsure about that than about being openly gay in the office, so there’s nothing wrong with feeling out the lay of the land to decide just how out you want to be. But here’s another vote for just casually being open about being queer as the way to go about it.

  32. Sk*

    I’m gay and I find that we’re always coming out.

    As someone who also performs improv comedy, I borrow a tip from that. Listen and look for positive opportunities.

    – Start small if pronouns in your signature, zoom handle, new meetings, etc seems appropriate go ahead and start using your appropriate pronouns. Practice some scripts for correction that feels right for you. Especially in one to one conversation, it’s pretty light to say “I’d like to share my pronouns…” When there’s someone new, introduce yourself and ask their pronouns. Then you might share yours

    – When people are talking about their family and spouse situations, one – notice how they do it and treat your partnerships similarly. As other mentioned, just throw in boyfriend and girlfriend when it’s true.

    – If people are curious beyond your comfort level, it’s okay to not share. Often they’ll find this as an opportunity to discuss these things further. That’s okay, but know you’re not obligated to teach or share

  33. not straight passing*

    It depends a lot on what exactly you want people to know about you. Personally, I’m nonbinary and HATE talking about pronouns for the most part (I use one or multiple of he/she/they depending on context) so the easiest solution for me is just…not ever bringing it up at work. Sometimes people use language I don’t love but it’s not very often and right now it doesn’t feel worth it to go through All That. It sounds like that’s not you though!

    For pronouns, I’d address it the same way you would a name change: let people know about the switch, and correct as needed. Include them in your signature. Etc.

    For your queer sexuality…probably the easiest way to handle that is acting like it’s neither new information nor particularly interesting & talking about your partners as they come up. That’s assuming of course that your coworkers are normal people who will follow your lead and not make a big thing of it. YMMV. Alternatively, find an opportunity to make it relevant, like “I’m in [organization with Bisexual in the name] and the other day we were talking about [thing your coworker would find interesting]” or something. Or, advocate for LGBT+ inclusion and let people draw their own conclusions.

    All that is of course assuming you can trust your colleagues and workplace in general to be chill. If that’s something you’re concerned about, you might want to start by getting a feel for HR or your manager operates as far as shutting down inappropriate attitudes or behavior regarding your gender/sexuality.

  34. Beth*

    When I came out as a lesbian, I never made any kind of announcement about it whatsoever. I just started using accurate pronouns when talking about my girlfriend. I’d previously kept it vague—I hadn’t lied, exactly, but was more likely to say “my partner” and construct sentences that didn’t use a pronoun. Since I was framing it as an everyday thing and not a new announcement, most straight people didn’t want to admit to having missed it, so they instead followed my lead and acted like it was a known thing that of course was no big deal.

    (I got some amusement out of this approach too. A lot of people, you could see this very brief moment of internal scrambling cross their faces as they reevaluated their assumptions and decided not to make a big deal of having been wrong. I’ll admit that it did feel satisfying to put that moment of mental chaos on the people who assumed straightness is the default, instead of putting it on myself by forcing a Big Deal Announcement when I didn’t want one.)

    I’m not sure whether this exact approach (coming out via talking about a partner) is applicable in your specific case. But I do think the overall spirit of “work a small, no-big-deal thing that represents a larger identity into casual conversation, let people figure out their own shit from there” can apply to pretty much any LGBTQ+ identity. For poly-ness, it might be as simple as putting work-appropriate-but-couple-vibes photos of you with each of your partners on your desk. Or you might convey nonbinary-ness by adding your pronouns to your email signature and mentioning them when you introduce yourself going forwards (people who already know you, who you won’t of course be introducing yourself to again, will either hear through the grapevine or overhear when you meet someone new in a meeting they’re also at). In my experience, most people will try very hard to act like they already knew, even if they’ve spent years assuming something else about you.

    1. Darcy*

      I saw the exact internal scramble expression when someone I worked with realised my (trans man) partner had gone to the same school as her. She remembered his family but just couldn’t get the numbers of brothers and sisters to add up (he has 3 brothers and one sister). I’m not sure if she ever worked out why he was missing a sister!

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        Love those moments. A trans male friend of mine, who is an only child, recently attended a party his parents were having. One of the other attendees politely caught up on his news, and then asked how his sister was doing. He was very tickled at having become his own ghost sibling.

  35. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m in my 40s (mid or late) and didn’t really come out about not being straight until maybe 8 years ago? Something like that. I casually mentioned that a certain celebrity looked at lot like an ex girlfriend (I’m female and pansexual) and at first there was a few raised eyebrows and ‘you mean a friend?’ (Nope, girlfriend as in we dated) and then that was that for that day.

    I did get a few comments the next day from people asking me if my husband knew I liked ladies and why did I marry a bloke if I fancy ladies…etc. which led to some uncomfortable conversations about what bisexuality is (one coworker straight up refused to believe it exists and called me ‘confused’ and ‘heading for divorce’. Total git). I didn’t go into being pansexual because I can’t even get my parents to understand the meaning of that one!

    In following years and companies I’ve found the really casual approach works quite well. Offhandedly saying something like ‘oh I dated a woman who studied that’ or similar in the tone you’d use to describe the weather tends to land better.

    Generally speaking my coworkers/staff just pick up information in that manner that state I’m pansexual, same way actually I tend to get across the nature of my disabilities/mental issues (just the depression, I NEVER mention the schizophrenia), how liberal I am on workplace issues etc.etc.

  36. BlueberryFields*

    I’m here and I’m queer! :D As a disclaimer, I am commenting without reading the rest of the comments super closely, so apologies if anything overlaps. I’m a late 20s/early 30s ish, queer identifying woman who is very much assumed to be straight. I was “out” in my previous office, but decided to not be as vocal about it in this office (nothing bad, just different group dynamics). A few thoughts that I have below, in no particular order.

    Number 1: I hate that I have to say this, but make sure you are 100% sure you want to come out in the workplace. Have your coworkers indicated that they are open minded? Do you think you would be at risk of discrimination or violence? It seems like probably not, because there is a diversity working group, but you never know! One way to test the waters might be to reach out to the group, highlight the omission of LGBT+ issues, and see what the reaction is.

    Number 2: For me any coming out at the office is more, “Oh, so I started dating (this female identifying person) and I’m going on a date tonight” as opposed to “this is my sexual orientation specifically.” For my purposes, my coworkers don’t need to know if I am bisexual, lesbian, queer, etc. Obviously this way of coming out only works if you have a partner, but it could just as easily be done with a brief reference to an ex. Or a reference to a local LGBT charity dropped into a conversation.

    Number 3: Polyamory is less of a LGBT “thing” at least in my mind. Of course, there can be overlap, but I’ve got nothing for ya. Captain Awkward has a ton of advice on probably every scenario possible, so I suggest checking that out if you want suggestions on how to come out as poly in the workplace.

    Number 4: Any sort of coming out in the workplace is going to be super casual. People will probably be polite, some people might be confused, but hopefully not ask rude questions. Unlike other coming outs you may have had, a workplace coming out is probably not going to be a Thing. So like add your pronouns to your email signature, mention your partner, talk about how excited you are to go to Pride this weekend.

    1. embertine*

      I think your Number 1: is a great point, because only LW can gauge if they think their workplace will be receptive and if not, how much discrimination they may face. I know that I absolutely could not come out at work where I currently am but at other companies I have made the calculus that it’s worth it.

    2. JSPA*

      While not actively poly myself, I notice that there is, if anything, more slack allowed to people who are either enby or transitioning or have transitioned (from any identity to any other).

      I get the sense that anyone who’s bothered to think about transition or non-dual gender identities for even a few minutes has come to the conclusion, “that might automatically lead to relationship complications, and to complicated relationships.” As common, not-unsupportive but nebby questions go, “are they still together?” (of someone coming out while in a relationship) is high on the list.

      The underlying presumption is probably that you’re bonded to the person you were with, and they to you (whether or not you’d otherwise be a correct gender match) so it’s reasonable that you might have carve-outs or exceptions for each other, while also finding someone who’s a better fit, in that regard.

      Formally, that’s a subtle form of poly erasure…but in the real world, if it actually makes a real-life poly relationship more “relatable,” it’s valuable on some level.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Captain Awkward is great, but/and she’s also been pretty clear that she’s not polyamorous, and that there are poly-related questions she doesn’t feel competent to answer.

  37. Anon for this one*

    Hi OP, I’m in the same boat. I think the answer is: gradually. I started by adding my pronouns to my email signature and was pleasantly surprised that some people noticed and made an effort. (FWIW, I’m based in a fairly liberal city but in a conservative industry.)

    Next I came out to my supervisor. Now I’m trying to work up the nerve to send that email to HR and come out to the broader team. I was wracked with anxiety before each of these steps, but immediately afterward experienced joy and relief. I think as some other commenters have said here, the rewards of concealment really start to pale in comparison to the benefits of living your truth. It’s not like staying in the closet is going to remove uncertainty, either–raises, promotions, and continued employment are never guaranteed. (That’s what I tell my anxious brain, anyway.)

  38. Urban Farmer*

    I am in a very, very similar place. What I didn’t see is that you wanted to change pronouns, and that’s totally up to you. I don’t feel any need to change mine, that’s my choice as it it yours. It might be that I’m a bit older maybe, but I don’t feel the need to be out at work, nor closeted, if something comes up it comes up. I’m a member of our pride/gay/ally group, but so are a large number of people (so cool). For the most part like to keep work sperate from my life, whom I’m dating really isn’t any of my co workers business. I do have the privilege’s that we present as a “normal” cis, married, hetro monogamist and for the most part are. That is related to last year being very poor for being with my other partner so it wasn’t as visible that we are together as well. As far as I know Poly isn’t a protected status for the most part, but a lot of people just stopped caring, so it should be a lot less risk than it used to for employment in many places. You live your life, and be who you are. :)

  39. awasky*

    I came out as queer more than a decade into my career (though different set of identities than you). I was terrified about it in advance. But ultimately, I just said to my coworkers, “I’m dating the same person, but it’s a she, not a he.” There were a couple of awkward questions, but 99% of them were just like, cool. Results are going to vary depending on your coworkers, but I was surprised at just how much they did not care about it.

  40. Anon here*

    Out as non binary; treat sexuality (ace), relationship structure (ambiamorous), and kink as more of a need-to-know basis, which most people do not, especially at work.
    For me, I’d kind of tested the waters a bit with vague general comments about gender before anything else. When none of that got a negative reaction, I started wearing a pride pin, and at some point someone asked about it. Once a couple of coworkers were in the loop I sent round an email to the team. YMMV

    1. Rebecca Stewart*

      That’s where I’m at. Most people really don’t need to know that we’re actually a V shaped poly triad. And some of the people who do know that don’t need to know that there’s power exchange involved and I’m the one in charge.

      Interestingly, doctor’s offices have been absolutely okay with letting my name and number be the contact point when I said, “Look, I handle the family calendar, I make the appointments, and I make sure they’re compliant on their pills and don’t run out. It’s just simpler if you just contact me.” Of course, we do it this way because of the power exchange, but it’s none of their business.

  41. SometimesALurker*

    I’m in a somewhat similar situation! I’ve almost always been at least a little out as bisexual at work, but I’m trying to slowly come out as polyam and nonbinary. I’ve been in my three relationships for 14, 10, and 8 years respectively, so it’s very much talking about my family rather than talking about my dating life when I do talk about them, but I am a bit nervous about the stigma and about the “wait, what?” moments from coworkers. One thing I’ve done is put a couple of photos of my partners on my desk. I haven’t gotten any questions about them yet (I did this maybe 6 months before we went remote, and we’re still mostly remote), but if I do, I plan to say what they are, which is pictures of my husband, one of my other partners, and her husband at our respective weddings.

    OP, you didn’t mention whether the pronouns you use at work are the ones you use in the rest of your life, and many of the comments assume taht a pronoun change is a good place to start. I mostly use the same pronouns in the rest of my life as I do at work, and people incorrectly assume that they reflect a binary gender for me. I’ve found that wearing small, unobtrusive pride pins is helpful. There are some nice enamel lapel pins that fit in with office environments — they can be a bit of a shibboleth if it’s just something like the nonbinary flag, but it’s a start that has helped me ease into talking about who I am at work.

    One of the hard things is that in our society, the closet is still the default for queer people, and any time we enter a new space we have to come out if we want to be out, and it’s just exhausting. Really, it was your coworkers who made incorrect assumptions, but I think that approaching it like you’re already out and just working things in can sort of take the pressure off of the situation, if that makes sense.

    1. SometimesALurker*

      Addendum — one of the reasons I didn’t come out as polyam earlier is that I wanted to really get to know my workplace, and have them get to know me. I live in a very liberal area in many respects, and several municipalities in my area are starting to recognize multiple partners in domestic partnerships — but there’s also a huge backlash in which people are calling polyamorous people perverts and tax scammers (fun combo, right?). So, I don’t want to minimize how varied people’s experiences of coming out can be.

      1. Forrest*

        I must say, I enjoy the combination of impracticality and ruthless practicality of “perverts and tax scammers”. “Ugh, frankly I’m kind of over the whole scene, and truth be told I’d rather not have sex with Frank and Julia, but I guess I’ve got to justify that eighty dollar tax rebate somehow!”

  42. Mouse*

    I’ve previously been closeted when I’ve had work but lately the zeitgeist has changed enough that I would more-or-less feel safe using the correct pronoun for my partner if I had the kind of work where I was interacting with other humans.

    My recommendation is to start with whatever bothers you the most, whatever change would improve your quality of life the most and start there.

  43. Picky*

    I would not start by coming out at work. If you’re not out in other parts of your life, I would start there. Being out at work often means (always has, for me) being the person who gets asked about LGBTQ inclusion, often in ways that are pretty clumsy and can be alienating. Less often there is open hostility, but when it happens that can be devastating. It will be much easier to withstand these interactions if you know there are people who have your back at home, in your family, in your friend groups or hobbies, etc.

  44. Wendy City*

    As a cis, monogamous bisexual woman who started dating women in my mid-twenties, I picked a few close friends at work to come out to first and let them know it wasn’t a secret/they should feel free to mention it in conversation. That got the word out quickly enough, and spared me the ~responsibility~ of coming out to colleagues one at a time.

    I also have found that in most professional situations, simply being matter-of-fact but clear (“my partner and I are meeting her parents for dinner,” “We’d love to vacation there, but as a gay couple, it can be hard”) gives people permission to take it in stride and it not be a Thing.

  45. Hi there*

    I think the question of how you want to redefine yourself depends on what your goals are. Do you just want it to be *not a thing*? If so, then I’ll join the chorus of others who are saying to just be casual about it, the same way everyone else is. At my job (conservative area, liberal workplace with some conservative folks scattered about), I have always just referred to my wife in casual conversation the way that everyone else refers to their opposite-gender partners. I’m not out to clients because I’m still not sure how my supervisors would feel about that, and it doesn’t ever come up with clients, so it isn’t a big deal to me. My wife is out to her clients because she engages in more casual chit-chat with them in her line of work.

    My wife and I have been married for several years, and we have children. It used to make me sad that some people weren’t “okay with” our relationship, but now it just makes me laugh. They can be “not okay” with it all they want, but (1) we exist and (2) we’ve procreated several times over. Their feelings matter nothing at all.

    I think that the more you incorporate your identity into your conversations, the easier all of this will be. Good luck!

  46. animaniactoo*

    Note: I am not talking about my own experience, but I have a co-worker who came out after several years in our office, and I thought this might be useful.

    She never really “came out”. She made a comment here and there. Just things that indicated that maybe the assumption of “straight” was not correct. And she left it there and didn’t elaborate. Eventually I asked if she was gay after she made one of those comments, and she said yes. (My memory is that someone we both knew asked if she had a brother she could date, and she was like “why do I have to have a brother? What about me!?”) I think she had a lot of those one on one confirmation conversations. Now we all know not only that she’s gay but her partner’s name, many of us have met her partner and so on and so forth.

    I’m going to point her this way and see if she feels like commenting.

  47. ChefManz*

    I’ll start my comment with the following: I’m a cisgender bisexual woman, and I usually use “queer” just because it’s easier. I’m in a pretty liberal leaning part of the country, and there are several people who are LGBTQIA+ at my company. These two things will absolutely flavor my response here.

    I have never felt the need to “come out”, at work or otherwise. My sexuality and identity as a queer person is just who I am. Do people look at me and assume I’m straight? Probably. Do I care? Not particularly. If I have a date with a woman, I say so. If I have a date with a man, I say so. I just….don’t make it a thing, and don’t care if other people make it a thing. I treat that topic as assumed that it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t. If I were straight, no one would bat an eye. I have never felt the need to treat my queerness as anything different.

    If you make it a big thing, then other people will follow suit and make it A Thing. If you’re nonchalant about it, then they will be too.

    (All this entirely depends on your location, your company culture, and the like. )

  48. Teacher Lady*

    I’ll be following this with interest. I’m studying to be a high school teacher, and I’m a trans lesbian. I’m not out at work, yet, so I don’t believe I’m in a position give advice. I can say that I support you, LW!

    1. Sarra N. Dipity*

      One of my good friend’s girlfriend is a high school teacher and a trans lesbian. She’s utterly fantastic, so I have no doubt you’re fantastic as well. :D

  49. nonprofit butch*

    Can I be frank? I am a lesbian who is obvious and can’t hide…

    If you date men and appear straight to most people, I don’t think you need to publicize your identity unless it comes up organically.

    Unless weighing in on a subject like this, I rarely announce “by the way I am a lesbian”

    1) What would I be looking for from straight people by announcing that? validation? and
    2) I never need to announce it to other lesbians or queer/lgbtq+ people because it’s obvious.

    What I do say, with pride, is
    “my wife and I will be doing x this weekend” or
    “I’m headed to the dyke march next Friday, can’t wait!” or
    “In my experience, x strategy/process may be less effective with queer and trans populations for these reasons…”

    If you ARE looking for more places to talk an in depth conversation about how/why you identify as a certain thing (bisexual) or what it’s like to be poly, I think there are so many rad spaces for that.

    Like queer or poly groups, organizations, events, with your friends/family, etc… A work meeting just probably isn’t one of those appropriate places.

    After all, do I really want to hear about cis straight man Kevin’s sexuality and gender journey and when he first started realizing he liked girls and how he came to terms with his sexual sense of himself? Nah.

    I hope this helps!

    1. Allypopx*

      This is super valid! I think it’s hard with the nonbinary piece – being misgendered constantly is a lot. And some light announcing may help with the diversity initiatives OP is concerned about. But in general I think your points are pretty aligned with the general consensus of ‘not needing a big announcement’. (Big mood about Kevin….)

    2. LDN Layabout*

      I’m going to be honest, as someone who is bisexual, this is a really unhelpful response.

      It can be really difficult to be bisexual/pansexual when you are with a partner of any gender because people will make assumptions regarding your sexuality that you either have to gloss over, or correct.

      I’m not a lesbian when I’m dating a woman and I’m not straight when I’m dating a man. I am always bisexual.

      1. Allypopx*

        I am a bisexual who is super loud about being a bisexual, and I agree with you 100%,. But I know people who feel a variety of ways about their sexuality being acknowledged in professional settings so I don’t know that it’s entirely unhelpful just because it doesn’t apply to us. It’s just another angle.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Sure, but the problem is that you cannot tell someone’s sexuality from their choice of partner, which is what tends to be the shorthand in society.

          You can make a decent stab at it and a lot of time you’ll be correct, but there’s that constant niggle if you have to repeatedly choose to either ignore or correct people who make those assumptions which I think is one of those extra loads of baggage.

          1. Allypopx*

            Fair, I think it’s ends up being a personal preference whether that niggle matters or if it’s better to not have your sexuality become a topic of conversation in the workplace, and that’s true for any sexuality. To your point, OP does seem to be suffering from niggle overload. (I’m enjoying the word niggle, ty)

      2. nonprofit butch*

        You’re always bisexual, but if you’re dating a man and you aren’t obviously queer enough or involved enough with the queer community for your involvement to come up organically, I don’t quite understand the point of announcing your bisexuality to your co workers. People not knowing you’re gay by looking at you is a privilege in a patriarchal homophobic world, in my opinion. I know it may be hard to understand what I mean if you haven’t had the experiences that someone who truly cannot hide it has had. (And likewise I don’t know what it’s like to be bisexual, of course. I am sure it does cause some degree of emotional pain to have someone not notice a key part of who you are if that’s important to you.)

        1. Allypopx*

          “People not knowing you’re gay by looking at you is a privilege in a patriarchal homophobic world, in my opinion.”

          Not to in any way invalidate your personal experience but some of us refer to that as erasure, not privilege.

          1. nonprofit butch*

            I’ll leave this thread here after this comment, but I think dismissing the idea of people getting certain benefits in society because they are read as straight is not realistic. At the end of the day, your experience in a job interview is not the same as the experience of your counterparts who are more obvious. I am familiar with the discourse on this topic and have heard it called erasure, and as I said, I hear that there is emotional pain involved in not being seen. But you don’t stop getting those material benefits because of the internal conflict you feel inside about it. It’s similar to arguing that someone who later comes out as a trans woman never received male privilege in a patriarchy before coming out, if they had always been read to society as a straight cis male up until coming out.

            1. Allypopx*

              I see that side of it. People assume I’m gay more often than straight, personally, so that might just not resonate as much with me.

          2. Hi there*

            It’s both a privilege *and* erasure, though, depending on the context/audience. I am an ultra-femme cis woman married to a cis woman. We live in the deep South. It IS a privilege to know that when we stop at a gas station in rural Mississippi with our kids, people assume we are two friends hanging out with our kids, and they leave us alone. It’s erasure at other times, for the exact same reason. I’m curious where you live that you wouldn’t see it as a privilege.

            1. Allypopx*

              Well like I said above I partly don’t see it as privilege because I’m not assumed to be straight. But I do live in a more liberal area than you do.

          3. nonbinary writer*

            So I know this is getting a little tanget-y but I wanted to share my experience as someone who went from being able to pass as straight and cis to someone who is easily clockable as queer and trans. Erasure sucks and is painful, but being “visible” — especially as a trans person — is terrifying. My first experience in a more conservative place since transitioning was scary; having people loudly whisper “what is that” under their breath when my girlfriend and I walk into a bar was truly chilling. Having your identity erased is no privilege, but being able to move safely through the world without fear of getting hate-crimed when you walk into a gas station absolutely is a privilege.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          I think this is one of the situations where our own experiences feed into it heavily (and apologies if my first response was snappy, this is one of those topics which is pretty heavy for me).

    3. sam_i_am*

      “If you date men and appear straight to most people, I don’t think you need to publicize your identity unless it comes up organically.”

      People want to be able to be themselves around their coworkers. Not being fully out leads to a lot of second-guessing, “what do they think of me?” Having people make assumptions about you hurts!

      I’m read differently depending on who I’m around. I’ve spent a long time being read as a straight cis person in a straight relationship, but I have *also* been read as queer in places where it was dangerous. Erasure is not privilege. It may confer safety and cause incidental privilege, but not being seen as who you are is not a privilege.

      “If you ARE looking for more places to talk an in depth conversation”
      Where is the letter writer talking about an in-depth conversation? They just want people to know who they are, presumably to not feel like they’re lying to other people or suppressing something that’s important. And I’m not sure how your Kevin conversation is at all relevant. Coming out and telling people your gender is not talking about your “gender journey” and does not seem to align at all with what LW is saying. All the letter writer wants is to be seen as themself.

      You also seem to be totally glossing over the fact that OP is nonbinary and is most likely getting misgendered at work to focus on “straight-passing” bisexuality

    4. vlookup*

      I’m also a lesbian who couldn’t pass (probably even if I tried) as straight, and I want to throw out there that I disagree with this.

      I didn’t get from the OP’s letter that they want to subject their coworkers to the kind of “sexuality and gender journey” conversations that are best reserved for in-group spaces. It’s really common for people to be read as straight, cis, etc. when they’re not and equally common for people to experience this as exhausting and harmful. IMO it’s completely valid to want to share these aspects of your identity with coworkers, even if you “date men and appear straight.” Bisexual women with male partners have every right to want to be out as bisexual! Plus, lots of the discussion has been about how to casually be open about who you are rather than make a big announcement that might feel weird to do at work.

      One of my favorite things about being a lesbian with a fairly masculine presentation is that I never have to come out, 99.9% of the time people just look at me and know, it’s great. But for lots of queer people who look more normative that’s just not how it works in a world where the default is to assume people are cis, straight, and monogamous. If you need to be a bit more blatant to cue people in, I say go for it if you want to.

  50. L*

    I feel like it’s a non issue to tell people! I only ever feel awkward when people talk about their sex lives or sexuality at work, it just in general doesn’t matter to me. I have been queer and very promiscuous (with my friends I’m open about my life), but I never brought up that I was bi or non binary or anything like that. My job didn’t need any of those conversations, and I didn’t need to be a spokesperson i guess.

  51. Forrest*

    LW, I’m queer and in a lesbian relationship (which once upon a time was non-monogamous, but hasn’t been in practice for a long time!) I’ve always come out as in a same-sex relationship at work very quickly, but never about non-monogamy. Just saying that so you can decide how much weight to put on my advice!

    My instinct is that you may be overthinking the “mid-career” “allowed my colleagues to think” part. If you’ve been consciously in the closet at work, then it may feel like a big reversal to you, and like you have to explain or justify why you haven’t come out earlier. From your co-workers’ point of view, I don’t think that’s as big a deal. It’s *extremely* normal for people to come out as non-binary in their 30s, 40s or later, and by no means unusual for people to come out as queer later on either.

    You don’t owe anyone your history— you can change your pronouns, wear a rainbow lanyard or a pronoun badge, start taking about a same-sex partner (or apparent-same-sex partner, depending on how open you want to be about your gender), and you don’t have to explain whether this is a recent change for you, something you’ve been thinking about for a number of years but which wasn’t relevant to work, or a well-established part of your private life that you’ve never shared at work. All of that is up to you!

    Secondly, spend some time thinking about what aspects of your identity you want to share at work, and (slightly different question), which ones you feel most uncomfortable not sharing. What’s your ideal situation? What are the places where you are consciously misleading or covering up, and what are the places where actually it’s something that almost never comes up? How do those things align with what you know of your workplace, and which parts of your identity people will probably be pretty chill and, “oh huh, really?” about, and which ones they might make a fuss about? How much discomfort do you anticipate, and how much discomfort are you willing to barrel through?

    Lastly, whatever the answers to these questions, I want to emphasise that there’s no right or wrong way to come out— there’s just what *you* want and what *you* feel comfortable with. No matter what anyone else thinks or would do, if you want to go in on Monday and start every conversation with, “by the way, I’m bi, non-binary and polyam. Now about those spreadsheets—“ there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. If you want to mention to a couple of trusted people that you have been dating a woman and it seems to be ok, and keep everything else quiet, THAT’S OK TOO. One of the biggest queerphobic myths we deal with is that there’s a right and a wrong way to be out— that we owe other people either candour or discretion — and I just want to thoroughly debunk that right here. You own this entire thing, and you get to decide what your priorities and comfort zones are. So spend some time thinking about them and then be true to yourself.

    Good luck!

  52. Shyra*

    After a few years at my workplace I decided I wanted to go by a different name that fit my identity better. I learned a couple things. One, highly echo the advice to find a few trusted coworkers who can spread the word for you. Two, it was not as big a deal as I was building it up to be in my head. Alison’s standard advice of keeping things matter-of-fact worked well. I didn’t get into explaining my whole identity, just told people what I needed them to do (use my new name). People weren’t always able to make the switch overnight but it stuck eventually, so patience is key. Caveat, I work in a progressive field in a liberal area, so I’m sure it was easier for me than it might be for you.

  53. Middle Manager*

    In the last year I have tried to start doing this. Because I am single, it’s very easy to allow others to assume things about my sexuality as a hypothetical, and it feels very awkward to correct the mostly unspoken assumptions without any specific reason to do so. I’ve taken more leadership roles related to DEI in the past year and have used that as my chance to more proactively “out” myself as asexual and queer. For example, when they’ve asked for representatives to serve on a DEI committee, I emailed the person organizing it saying I’d like to participate as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and represent that voice. It was a little weird for a minute, a few people close to me clearly had to redefine their image of me, but they mostly did that quickly and with minimal weirdness, so overall, I’ve been pleased.

    Wondering if there is a way you can naturally bring it up? Not knowing the context of your work it’s hard to give specific ideas, but if there is a place your office could do better for employees or customers if they thought more about LGBTQIA+ and poly people, maybe you could put that feedback out there with your bosses framed with your personal experience as part of why you recognize the issue?

  54. KP*

    Is there an employee resource group for LQBTQIA folks at your company? I’d start there and see what resources they have. If nothing else, the support from other people in similar situations may can go a long way to emotional/psychological safety as you navigate this.

    (For context, I’m bisexual and married to cis man. Some family and friends know, but I’m not out at work.)

    1. KP*

      For additional context, I’m in the Midwest and there’s a cost to talking about myself fully. The blue hair is mostly fine, but it’s not common knowledge that I’m disabled, queer, and mentally ill. The cost is too high.

  55. Library Ninja*

    As an openly-queer person in the workplace, that moment of recognition when you find out that someone you work with in a straight passing relationship is… not, that moment of recognition can make your day. It’s about feeling less isolated, and also taking one more person out of that exhausting mental math about what it’s safe to say.

    Some things to think about:

    – Do you want people to know that you are not straight and part of the bigger LGBTQ+ community?
    – Do you want people to know that you’re non-binary, and does that involve changing your pronouns? (It may not! I know not all nonbinary people use they/them or neopronouns.)
    – Do you want people to know about your current partners, to be seen or even just to stop playing the pronoun game, and/or not using “friend” when it’s not what you actually mean?

    The answers to all of these questions are probably not going to be fixed points for you, depending on who you’re interacting with, and when. (I am so very out in all parts of my life, but sometimes, I just want to drop the car off at the garage without going through the whole “no, actually my wife will be picking it up,” and playing the guessing game about whether I will get a non-response, an over-enthusiastic “oh, your wife? That’s so great! I have a cousin who’s a lesbian!” or a weird, withdrawn reaction, y’know?)

    As well as all the great tips other people have had about coming out in casual conversation, pronouns and signature files, etc, there is a huge amount that can be accomplished by a tiny rainbow, trans, or bi/nonbinary pride pin, flag or sticker. This will be most noticeable to other people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Many of us have years of past experience spotting a rainbow flag at twenty paces as a survival instinct.

  56. Gwen*

    I’ve really become weary with the language of “coming out” (at least as the ONLY narrative that’s assumed for queer people) because 1) it makes it feel like it’s ok to assume straightness as the default and 2) I sometimes feel like I need to come out to “warn” other people about my queerness, so as not to startle them.

    Instead, I’m giving myself permission to just casually reference it in a conversation if and when I feel like I’d like to speak about it, or to address a situation from that perspective. “Oh, well as a queer person, my experience has been X”, for example. If someone IS startled or taken aback, I get to just smile and move on, refusing to buy into the idea that I owe them a formalized “confession”. Perhaps sometimes it serves as a reminder to those people that making blanket assumptions about peoples identities (or disabilities, or chronic health conditions, or backgrounds) can actually be an oppressive act.

  57. Anonymous Here*

    I am a cis queer woman living in a large (and liberal) midwest city, and I’ve found it to be helpful to “come out” in a more casual way with coworkers. Gendering my partner without really elaborating further, joining our LGBTQ group at work, etc. I am friendly with but not friends with most of my coworkers, so it is helpful for me to be somewhat open about that part of my identity while not oversharing past what I’m comfortable with.

  58. Cambridge Comma*

    When my temp contract went perm I got an alternative lifestyle haircut and put a poster on my office door.
    I’m very femme so got some ‘I wouldn’t have guessed etc.’ I usually answer ‘I think that’s saying something about you rather than something about me.’

  59. John Smith*

    +1 on this. Any decent human will see you as you and shouldn’t be swayed by your sexual orientation/identity. Those who are aren’t worth worrying about.

    For me, I was chatting to my new colleagues a few weeks after starting and the conversation came to personal matters. I just used the term “my partner” and when I was asked what *her* name was I just replied “Jason” (trying to keep the smirk off my face) and carried on talking as though I was talking about the weather. I think if you make it an issue, other people will also make it an issue.

    Not sure if any different reactions to non-binary situations – I’m a totally gay male -and I can’t help on that because personally, I don’t get or understand non-binary (though as everyone should, I just simply accept).

    Shouldn’t need to be said, but good luck!

    1. F.M.*

      “Any decent human will see you as you and shouldn’t be swayed by your sexual orientation/identity. Those who are aren’t worth worrying about.”

      …unless they handle promotions, or might get violent, or can cause other problems at work, or…

      Ideally, none of that is true! But sometimes you can’t tell if that’s true until you come out and find out. “Aren’t worth worrying about” just isn’t true in a lot of places, and for a lot of people, and sometimes you don’t know it was worth worrying about until after the fact.

  60. AnonAnonAnon!!!*

    Frankly, I just leave home at home, even when WFH. It’s none of my coworkers’ business what shape my personal life takes – if I’m a bisexual agender-living-as-cis-woman engaged to a heteroflexible cis man with a romantically exclusive but sexually open relationship – and I am – great. I just don’t feel like my employer or coworkers need to know about any of it. I feel the same about telling my coworkers about my participation in my religious community and my ethnic community… they aren’t entitled to know about it.

    I would imagine I pass as a straight (cis) woman most of the time, due to my general gender presentation and my use of she/her pronouns. But the fact remains that I consider my private life, including but not limited to my gender and sexuality, to be private.

    1. Littorally*

      That’s a fine choice, but it seems pretty clear that the LW is not happy to be presumed cis and straight.

      Also, I take some issue with the idea that a person’s job is not “entitled” to know someone’s gender or pronouns. That’s a really odd take on identity.

      1. JB*

        Is it an issue?

        If my professional choice is to dress as I please (within corporate policy/reasonable business dress) and allow people to perceive and address me however they will, I don’t see any reason why the business I work for should be entitled to more than that.

        I’m a trans man. At work, most people perceive me as a (very butch) woman. I am not about to correct them. I just watched another employee come out as trans; now he’s forced to do hours of unpaid ‘volunteer’ work as, essentially, a diversity mascot.

        The business is not entitled to any truth about my identity beyond what is legally required. Cishet people see us as performing monkeys/curiosities at best, and targets at worst, and nobody is under any kind of obligation to be ‘authentic’ at their job and put themselves in that position.

  61. Beth*

    I ‘came out’ by switching from being vague about my romantic life (using language like “my partner” and simply not using gendered pronouns—it’s easy enough to construct sentences that don’t need them, if you’re trying and also not talking about it much) to saying “my girlfriend” and using she/her pronouns to talk about her. I never made any kind of announcement at all. I think a lot of people assumed there must have been a coming-out they missed, because I could see them do a quick “Wait, did I know that? I don’t think I did” reevaluation, but very few people actually said anything to me or acknowledged verbally that it was new info. (On a petty level, it was sometimes funny to watch people reevaluate their assumptions in this way, knowing they wouldn’t be experiencing that confusion if they hadn’t made those assumptions.) This was perfect for me. I wanted to BE out, not to COME out, if that makes sense; I’ve never been a ‘big announcement’ person.

    If you are a big announcement person, of course that’s an option. Pride month is coming up, and that’s a great excuse to be all “Hello, I’m here!” You could very easily work it into a suggestion for a Pride-month-appropriate expansion of your existing diversity initiative, for example.

    But if you don’t want that much of a fuss—whether because you’re not a fuss person, or because it doesn’t feel right for your work culture, or whatever—I’d strongly recommend finding low-key ways to simply mention it in the context of talking about your life. Maybe your email signature gets pronouns added to it. Maybe your desk (or your desktop background, in a time of remote work) gets work-appropriate-but-obviously-couples-vibes pictures of you and your partners put up. Maybe you’re chatting with a colleague and mention an ex in passing who happened to be a woman. If you act like it’s a normal, “of course this is how I am” thing, my experience is that most people will follow your lead.

    1. Allypopx*

      It’s so interesting, because for me if I heard you say partner and avoid pronouns my queer sirens would start going off LOUDLY. Do straight people not pick up on those cues? That honestly fascinates me.

      1. ThatGirl*

        that was one of the first ways I clocked a coworker/friend – I noticed she studiously avoided mentioning the gender of her dates. and then when we first hung out outside of work she gave me the name of a bar, I walked in, realized it was a gay bar, and we officially came out to each other in a very low-key way :)

      2. Beth*

        They do not! I hadn’t been deeply closeted before this, you’re right–everyone around me who was any variety of LGBTQIA+ was aware I wasn’t straight. It was the straight people who needed telling, because straight people collectively have no idea how to tell when someone is gay.

      3. cleo*

        They do not! It is so strange. My husband is straight and there are times I’m just gobsmacked by his lack of gaydar.

        When I (a cis bi woman who’s been married to a man for almost 20 years) decided that I wanted to be more visibly queer in my life, I started taking little baby steps like bravely buying pride pins and then bravely wearing them at work and in public. And the only people who seemed to notice or care were other lgbtq people. And that actually worked out really well for me. But it was funny, because I felt so brave wearing my bi pride flag pin and the only people who recognized it were also bi.

        1. Darcy*

          my girlfriend literally has the work “queer” tattooed in giant letters on her neck and someone asked her if it was because she’s queer or if it was “an ally thing”

      4. Queer Manager*

        My bi partner runs an LGBT+ club as his school and uses ‘partner’ specifically so the queers in his club know he is queer!! We are both queer yet present as hetero, so we quite a chuckle out of straights assuming things because they can’t pick up on gay cues!

  62. Kathy from the Peg*

    I am happy to use whatever pronouns a person wants me to use. If they want they/them that that is what I will do when I refer to them when talking to another person – for example I use their name and pronouns as in ” Sue is a certainly efficient – I love how they get back to me so quickly”. However I don’t know how the pronoun thing works when I am speaking directly to the person. If I am talking to Sue I would use “you” or their name. When speaking to someone I just wouldn’t say she/her/he/him/they or them. So I guess I don’t really understand when someone says they are being misgendered by incorrect use of their pronouns. Does that mean when they aren’t present people talk about them using the wrong pronouns? Or is it something people do when they are present?

    1. Forrest*

      A mixture of things – you might not use someone’s third-person pronouns if you’re speaking up someone directly, but it’s more common than you think to speak about someone in their presence, or to refer to their gender in some other way— “Sam, this lady wants to know of she can return this shirt” “the men’s loos are over there” “come and sit on my knee so this gentleman can sit firm” “is it Mrs or Miss?” All sorts of stuff like that.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      “OK, Mike you’re training Pat this afternoon for training on the company-internal systems. Is this ok with *you*, too, Pat? Mike, make sure that she/he/they know/s how to fill out her/his/their time sheet as it is due tomorrow and neither of us will be around to help then because we’re at the client X’s office.”

      You will use the third person occasionally to refer to people who are present when you’re in a group.

    3. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

      Next time you’re talking in a group, listen for pronouns. We talk about people in the third person WAY more frequently than you’d think, including at work.

    4. JB*

      Here are some examples of being misgendered to ones’ face. In these examples, Margot identified as nonbinary and uses ‘they/them’ pronouns.

      ‘Everyone, this is our new employee, Margot. She’s going to be taking over Wakeen’s old position.’

      ‘I just don’t know what to do with the men in this office sometimes. Right, Margot? We ladies have to stick together.’

      ‘Oh, Margot, can you explain this new spreadsheet to James? Watch this, James – she’s like a genius with this thing. Or they, whatever, you know what I mean.’

      ‘Everyone divide up by gender for this team-building exercise. Margot, you’re fine with being on the women’s team, right?’

      Etc, etc. And yes, if someone is misgendering us behind our back, that usually gets back to us or we overhear it sooner or later – but it’s usually already obvious because a person who misgenders us behind our back usually isn’t able to keep up pretenses to our face either.

  63. rc*

    “As a queer person,” ____

    I have to come out CONSTANTLY, and that’s my go-to line.

  64. nonprofit butch*

    I wanted to add that I think in some ways, it’s possible the lgbt community and the world in general has become too individualized in our aims.

    I think instead of the goal being “make sure everyone at work knows I’m bisexual” the goal could instead be to use the social capital you do have after 10 years to bring your workplace more in line with the values that:
    1) would make it a great place to work for another lgbtq+ person
    2) make it part of creating a better world for people overall including lgbtq+ people, to the extent that’s possible in your workplace

    I really only use my identity sparingly when it would help strategically. “As a lesbian, can I say that having a gendered dress code is really not inclusive blah blah blah” If you use it too much it loses its power :P

    1. fish*

      I agree with you, but I don’t think these aims are totally separate. Visibility in and of itself improves the world.

      LW coming out means multiple people knowing, “Oh, polyamorous bisexual non-binary people are like Esmerelda from Payroll,” instead of, “There are no polyamorous non-binary bisexuals in MY white Christian suburb!”

      1. B*

        Furthermore, framing the LW’s goal as wanting to “make sure everyone at work knows [they’re] bisexual” seems uncharitable, since they explained that they’ve had to hide aspects of their personal life (that their cishet colleagues don’t have to) to advance in their career. The self-monitoring involved in staying closeted can be stressful and tiring. Being out as bi in the workplace isn’t about being The Bisexual Coworker, but about having the freedom to talk about your partner(s) without having to worry about how people will react to the pronouns you use for them, to talk about your community without worrying about how it will affect your career.

        Not to mention, the LW did in fact address wanting to affect policy (“we have an active team working to deepen our diversity and I struggle with the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ identities from that work”).

  65. LWBoston*

    Hi OP! I think the pandemic and surrounding events have pushed many of us to want to bring our whole selves to work in ways that were easier to squish down before.

    I don’t have great advice because I didn’t come out until I switched jobs. I was in my old position for seven years, during which I was married to a man, and then later divorced from that man. That they had seen me through that one big life event made it feel like it was “too much” to later explain that I was bi and mostly dated women. Partly because of the whiplash I expected from them, and partly because I don’t talk about my dating life at work! It feels different than referencing a partner, and for me, crosses a boundary.

    However, in November 2019 I started a new job, and it was a lightbulb moment one day when I thought, “I can just be me.” I found ways to work being bi into conversation (so it wasn’t a “coming out” but simply a fact that my new coworkers now knew) in ways that didn’t include my dating life, and I presented at several large public forums with a focus on identity where I introduced myself as a “cis, white, bisexual woman” as if it was no big deal. It is no big deal! It just had felt like a big deal in my old job.

    So I guess my advice is- make it not a big deal. Share with some coworkers you’re close to, make it clear it’s not private information, and work it into conversation where appropriate. Aligning with a ton of advice on this site over the years, be cheerful and straightforward and if you get weird questions, get a puzzled look and answer as if it’s not a big deal. If you want to use specific pronouns, say so. Your coworkers will adjust, and you being able to be yourself is the biggest benefit. And if all else fails, you could get a new job and start from scratch! :) Good luck!

  66. Not So Little My*

    I’m struggling with this as well. I’m bi in a long-term relationship with one person, so I might appear to be hetero to my colleagues. I don’t really have much opportunity to talk about my exes so I don’t have many conversational opportunities, but I have dropped into conversation things about how I’m familiar with the LGBTQ+ community, so people can at least guess that I’m an ally. And we have an active Pride affinity group and other Diversity and Inclusion groups at my workplace. I’m just not a big personal-info-sharer or pin-wearer, I prefer to reveal things about myself in one-on-one conversations. I’ve been thinking about upgrading my pronouns to she/they instead of she/her, but I’m going to move slowly and start with non-workplace communities before I examine coming out in the workplace. I suppose if I end up changing my name that might be a bigger deal.

  67. Anon for this one*

    No further advice, but I just want to say thank you, Allison, for running this letter. I’ve been lowkey out as bi/pan to my work for years, but adding the “they/them” pronouns to my signature was a real act of bravery for me. It’s nice to be seen, and know I’m not alone here.

  68. LabTechNoMore*

    Being a gay man, I can offer my experience – not sure how helpful it is. Unlike the “open but subtle” approach, I went the “closed but not-subtle” approach. Basically, I got lots of pink, glitter-infused office supplies and more flamboyant clothing. This was a little easier being a jobhopper since I had a new start.

    It… actually didn’t go very well. Being cishet-passing, you find out a lot of people are much more homophobic/transphobic/biphobic when they were otherwise perfectly professional and collaborative before they knew. It can be hard to suss out who will be fine with it and who won’t be. There’s also the whole problem of priming and LGBT ignorance, and how that affect your experience. Being a gay (cis)man is something already in the public consciousness. Like me or not, they at least know that I’m here (even if they to pretend I’m not).

    OP already knows all of this, but for those reading along, there’s a lot of bisexual erasure, even in the LGBT community, and even more non-binary erasure. Additionally, poly relationships are practically nonexistent in public consciousness. Coming out is going to mean OP will have to explain and justify their existence over and over again to a range of receptiveness to the LGBT community in all kinds of combinations.

    I’m seeing above commenters are recommending coming out in “stages” with ordering based on either which facet of your identity is most widely understood (e.g. coming out as bisexual first), or based on which is would provide the most immediate improvement (e.g. coming out as non-binary to stop being misgendered).

    I’ll go ahead and offer another possibility that doesn’t require divying yourself up into neat little boxes and having to decide which pieces of yourself are most important. When you’re ready to do so, you could always come out as Queer, and have an “elevator pitch”/trans101 explanations at hand to provide your pronouns, and also be prepared to handle followups (lots and lots of follow up questions, from bizarre misconceptions of your identity to asking all kinds of deeply invasive lines of questions about you and your body and your sex life and your genitalia, etc etc etc).

    Be prepared to shut down/vaguely answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering, or baiting lines of questions. It can take some time for people to get acclimated to non-het sexuality and non-binary gender identity. You don’t have to disclose everything all at once, but also you don’t have to misrepresent yourself for the sake everyone else’s “respectable gay” sensibilities. Have your “queer101” answers ready for what you are comfortable talking about. Use the vagueness as a cloak, let people get over the initial reaction to your being queer, then let other information out after the dust settles a bit.

    But also, update your resume and have an exit strategy in case your office is too intractably biphobic and transphobic to be tenable.

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      Oh, also if you do go the Out-as-Queer route, in practice you’ll find any vagueness will be filled in with ignorant assumptions about your identity. Some coworkers will see ‘queer’ and hear ‘lesbian,’ or see non-binary and hear trans man, or hear poly and think orgy, so it’s hardly a panacea (no pun intended). And also want to clarify I’m not opposed to the piecemeal approach to coming out either, it’s sounds practical, but just to give OP another option depending on comfort-level.

    2. fish*

      Some good points here.

      1. I think packaging up your entire identity as “queer” and then coming out in one go — “I’m queer, also, here’s what that means for me” could combine the best of “do it in stages” and “get it over with.”

      2. I think your own experience is, sadly, right on. A lot of places that are accepting on paper are only accepting if you implicitly promise you’ll continue to stay in the mold. So, for example, being a gay or trans man but still within “man” norms in terms of dress, behavior, etc. Same for a thread a few weeks ago with many butches saying we prefer not to wear ties. I don’t think we’ve really destroyed gender boundaries so much as simply added a few new items to the acceptable list. (Which is still progress though!)

  69. Fieldpoppy*

    There’s lots of great great stuff in this thread — I’ll just add my $0.02, as a Canadian middle-aged queer person who has been out in various ways since 1988. I’m also a consultant, so I don’t have one group of co-workers — I have new clients and students and project groups all the time, and have to make decisions at least weekly about coming out and how and in which ways. But I have a similar sort of story as you do, LW, in terms of it’s not as simple as saying “I’m a lesbian, this is my wife” — I identify all over the map and have exes of every possible identification.

    Most of the time, I come out casually, either by talking about my “ex-wife” (a term I never used when I was married — it’s safe conversational shorthand) or my “girlfriend,” — or by talking about some point in history where I can locate myself as part of a queer community. Somehow, especially in groups of mostly cis-women, I use she/they as pronouns, because I’m on the genderqueer end of a cis-female spectrum, and I’m okay with “she” until I’m lumped in with other “shes,” and then I don’t feel like it fits. (I know, it’s a work in progress). But sometimes I come out actively and deliberately at the front end of meeting people, because it’s an important part of how I identify and I don’t want to “pass” in a context where inclusion and openness are important.

    It’s complicated to label myself, because I’m pretty firmly in the queer/pansexual/sometimes poly end of the pool, but people *always* make assumptions based on what they know of my history (like assuming because I have male exes as well as female I must be a particular form of bisexual, when I actually identify pretty deeply as queer with cultural dykeness because I was in a long term relationship with a woman in a particular lesbian community during the first two decades of my adulthood).

    So for you, LW, I empathize with the weirdness of “how have I not come out before??” — I’ve ended up in situations like that before. And my advice is to a) do it casually — talk about “my partner” and use “she” (if that applies), or talk about doing some queer event if it comes up. b) tell the diversity people that you would like to make sure their work is inclusive of LGBTQ perspectives, and that you belong to that community (possible script: “I love the work you’re doing on inclusivity — as a queer person without a lot of visibility, it would be great if there were more openings”). and c) be prepared for people to be Confused — they always are — and only explain as much as you feel like you want to. “Why didn’t you come out before?” “You know, I had more separation between work and life before Covid, and now that separation seems to be eliminated.” That’s it.

    Hang in and good luck — you got this.

    1. fish*

      Some good points here.

      1. I think packaging up your entire identity as “queer” and then coming out in one go — “I’m queer, also, here’s what that means for me” could combine the best of “do it in stages” and “get it over with.”

      2. I think your own experience is, sadly, right on. A lot of places that are accepting on paper are only accepting if you implicitly promise you’ll continue to stay in the mold. So, for example, being a gay or trans man but still within “man” norms in terms of dress, behavior, etc. Same for a thread a few weeks ago with many butches saying we prefer not to wear ties. I don’t think we’ve really destroyed gender boundaries so much as simply added a few new items to the acceptable list. (Which is still progress though!)

    2. cleo*

      I think that’s a great point about how to handle “why didn’t you come out before.”

      I worked at the same place for 16 years and never came out – it didn’t seem necessary at first and by the time I realized that I’d bi-erased myself it’d been more than 10 years and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. But now I think that your approach is the way to go and it would have worked in my situation.

      Instead I got laid off and I’ve been out at all of my jobs since then. I’m pretty out on social media and a lot of my old colleagues will “like” my misc pride posts.

  70. A Genuine Scientician*

    It sounds like you do want them to know at least something about these various aspects of your identity. So in that case, I’d honestly consider just waiting until the next time something comes up where you can casually say “As a queer person myself, [thing relevant to the discussion]”, or “My partner/girlfriend/whatever mentioned to me the other day…”. You can then choose how much detail you want to share with anyone who asks any follow up questions, but establishing yourself as matter-of-fact queer person is likely the lowest barrier entry point, and will make it feel much less like you Have An Announcement.

    Be advised that for a whole lot of us, coming out is not a one time thing. Even many years after you’re no longer trying to fly beneath the radar anywhere, if you don’t fit the primary stereotypes, people are going to to forget, and you can find yourself coming out over and over and over again to the same people. (And, for the record, not just cishet people; the person who has forgotten that I’m gay the most often in my life is a friend who is bi and complains about people not realizing she’s bi because she’s married to a man. I’ve come out to her…5 times now? Something in that range because she Just. Keeps. Forgetting.)

    I’d also think a little bit about what aspects of your identity you want your teammates to know. Queer can be a useful sort of umbrella term if it feels like it applies to you — not everyone feels it does, and there’s nothing wrong with whichever way you come down on that. Nonbinary seems likely, particularly if you use different pronouns than what a lot of people guess when they look at you. Bi could well be. The fact that you’re in a poly relationship might be something you don’t necessarily want to talk about with work colleagues even though you do with friends; for many people, that’s a different level of intimacy, in the same way that people don’t necessarily tell their coworkers about their open marriage, but they likely tell their closest friends. Deciding where your boundaries are before you start sharing can save you some headaches later on.

    I’ve been fully out as a gay man for more than 15 years. I am fairly confident that none of my coworkers would have a problem with it — there are only ~16 of us in my unit, and we’re biologists at a university, so the odds of anyone caring are really low in the first place. But I’m also not sure how many of them even know that I am, because it hasn’t really ever been relevant. I’m single so there’s no partner to mention, we’ve not done any social events where anyone has brought guests, I’m cis and binary so there’s nothing signaled by my pronouns, there’s only one other employee in this unit that I’m connected to on social media, etc. I think I might have mentioned it in the diversity statement in my job application, so if any of the members of the search committee remember that, they’d know too.

  71. Ally*

    Agree with the casual coming out. I was not out at my last job. This job I got the lay of the land and then started dropping hints like “oh I went to pride” or “oh I have a crush on Sandra Bullock”, and then full on to some people brought up “I’m bi” because it was relevant

    It is terribly scary and I have definitely closeted myself in many work and non-work situations, even when I probably didn’t have to because things can still be fraught and you never know how people react. So take your time and only share what you want!

  72. Ace employee*

    I’m ace (the A). It would have to be pretty dang relevant before I tell my coworkers I’m not interested in sex. I would very readily call out not including all kinds of diversity in the diversity initiative programming. I don’t think that requires me to talk about my own circumstances with them.

    If what you want is for them to know, then tell them. You don’t have to, but it sounds like you want to. Use your words.

  73. we're all queer here*

    Hi! I’m pansexual and poly. While I’ve been extremely open about it in my current position (I met my now-boss at a friends wedding, while taking pictures with both of my partners, and far more of us here are queer than expected), in the past i’ve been kind of subtle about it. I started with putting up pictures of both my wife and our boyfriend. We had a holiday tree and were encouraged to decorate our desks to match, and so in June when we had a pride tree, I put up a pride flag. We had a survey about how to make the workplace a safe space for the queer community, and I used that as an opportunity to bring up gendered language and making assumptions about spouse genders. A few people realized that when i didn’t say “my wife” and said “my partner” I was talking about the guy other person in my pictures, but not everyone realized, and that was kind of how I liked it.

    You could always reach out to the diversity team and ask if there is any plans for including the queer community in their diversity plans, especially with pride month coming up.

    I would let more of yourself seep into your work persona, and eventually have a chat with somebody who you know to be extremely chatty and just be like “Yeah, i realize more of my queer identity is coming out with the lack of seperation between home and work due to Covid. I didn’t intend it to be a secret, it just never came up!” If you go by a different name than your legal name, you could also request that people call you by your preferred name and pronouns, and just do it super matter of factly. The most recent work email I got about a similar subject was litterally just “Hi all, I just wanted to give you a heads up that my name and gender marker as changed. Please update your contacts and language to reflect it.” and then they changed their signature. I don’t know if there was more of a conversation with management/HR, but that should be all you have to give your coworkers if you want to make that change.

    I would take some caution in bringing up the poly part of things, as that can still be a really difficult subject, and you need to know your workplace to know how safe that is.

  74. Anon MD*

    I have, at various times from med school on, come out as nonbinary, bisexual, and polyamorous at work. Since the majority of this has been in [well known liberal area], my experiences may not be representative. This is more my experience than thoughts about what you can/might/should do. (Also, glad to hear from another nonbinary, bisexual, poly person!)

    Bisexual: came out in medical school, residency. Am not formally out now in professional practice but am not closeted either at this point. In my previous job in [conservative stronghold], I was much more careful. There just hasn’t been reason to talk about it and a random announcement of “by the way, I’m bisexual” is not my style. It has not been a big deal when I have come out at a time when it flowed naturally into conversation.

    Polyamorous: came out in residency and life circumstances have mostly led to only a single (visible–for a while, one was long distance) partner at a time since. It caused some stir and I had to answer a lot of questions about exactly what that meant, but no consequences that I could see. My timing was such that I was relatively late in residency by then with the next step settled, so the risk was lower than otherwise. I did bring both partners to graduation but one arrived quite late due to work.

    Nonbinary: Closeted in [known conservative stronghold]. Applying to my current job in [well known liberal area], I had to write a statement of contribution to diversity. I included all the formal things I had done, but also a little about my gender identity journey. It had been hard to be closeted and if they weren’t going to hire me knowing the whole story, I didn’t want to be hired. Knowing the institution and the area, I was pretty sure it would turn out okay, though. When I started there, I introduced my pronouns as they/them. People have had trouble remembering sometimes, especially those who knew me previously, but mostly there haven’t been repercussions. At least one of the people I work with occasionally seems uncomfortable based on an email I just got forwarded for other relevant reasons in which she says that she just tries to avoid pronouns entirely for me, despite knowing my preference, but she is still professional in person. I have not put one of the employer offered pronoun stickers on my name badge because no one else seems to wear they/them, though there are plenty of he/him and she/her stickers, and I don’t want it to be quite so out there to patients and families.

    I am on our division diversity committee. It was newly formed about a year ago, somewhat before I was hired, and the work I’ve seen so far has been highly focused on issues of race. I’m trying to figure out the best way to promote an expansion of purpose without seeming like I’m sweeping away the issues of race. With an upcoming session on sexism in the workplace (unfortunately still a problem), I think this will come.

    I understand the desire to be out at work, at least enough not to have to constantly worry about whether you’ll say something wrong and give the game away. I moved and changed jobs because I didn’t think I’d feel comfortable enough ever in my old city. Aside from introducing myself by preferred pronouns, though, I haven’t made any sort of big announcement. If I date a woman, I’ll talk about her (I’m AFAB, presenting female, so this’ll be the direction that reads queer). There are plenty of others in the division who I appear to be in same sex relationships, though I haven’t quizzed everyone on how exactly they identify. I haven’t brought up my male partner. He’s married and our respective lives don’t let us see a lot of each other so it’s been easier not to and leave open being able to introduce another partner without sounding poly, if/when I find one, with whom I spend more time and will therefore want to talk about and bring around more.

    1. Anon MD*

      That turned out longer than I expected. One last addition–I dated a man who was paralyzed and used a wheelchair for a while. That caused at least as many questions about my sex life as did any of the above bits of my identity, if not more. All of a sudden, everyone was worried about how I’d have sex and make babies with my partner! I add this just to say that anything out of the expected might cause comment, even if it’s not a (presumed) controversial issue of gender and sexuality.

      1. restingbutchface*

        … do people not have manners anymore? I cannot imagine any situation where I would ask a colleague about how things work in their bedroom, ever.

        Did you have a stock answer to those questions? I’ve been asked how women have sex and my response is absolutely not suitable for this blog but it does shut down any further questions really fast.

        1. Anon MD*

          Didn’t make it back yesterday. . . That was in residency, where the lines get very blurred. Your co-residents are professional colleagues, but also classmates and probably also something at least resembling friends since you hardly have time to see anyone else. My answers were informed by the fact that in our specialty, any physician who didn’t know the answer would have been failing in their training, so I could just say that they should know how it works.

  75. Bi employee*

    I will read all of the comments later but only have a few minutes over lunch so thought I’d throw out what worked for me. For a long time I didn’t bring it up at work for a few specific reasons, but finally decided I wanted to put it out there since I was tired of hiding it. I couldn’t find a way to bring it up in random conversations (since I’m bi and so it doesn’t necessarily stand out to people that I’m neither gay nor straight unless they’re really paying attention), so I finally decided to do it in a formal-ish way. We had a year when our office had a lot of heritage events (Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.) celebrated in a more formal way than we did in the past. Most of them were highlighting members of the group that had done cool things in the past, but I took my courage in both hands and volunteered to give the Pride Month presentation. During said presentation, I decided to focus on terms and ideas (since I know a lot of people don’t know Ace from Demisexual from bi from polyamorous to….), and during the presentation I used words like “we” and “us” to make it clear that I was LGBTQ+ and specifically bi. I didn’t place a lot of emphasis on it since it wasn’t a major part of the presentation, so I’m not sure how many people caught on, but I do know that at least some people did. That for me was the way to give a low-key yet “official” coming out to my whole office at the same time. Nothing much came of it, but I felt so much better afterwards (and one of my good work friends made some really supportive comments after the presentation that meant a lot to me). Don’t know if something like that would help, but thought I’d throw it out there just in case.

  76. CollegeSupervisor*

    I don’t think you necessarily need to make it a Big Deal (TM). I’d let it come up organically. Like, for example, during the DEI stuff, you could bring up LGBTQ+ people and mention you have a strong personal connection to these topics. That might help you kind of feel out what people’s responses might be. Depending on the reception you get, you could do as others have said and share a little bit at a time. Like changing your pronouns. Mentioning SOs when relevant. And from personal experience, I can say that being open at work can make your colleagues feel safer. I came out as bi to a colleague after she organized a display about Bi Visibility. I instantly feel more connected to colleagues when they come out as any form of LGBTQ+ because of solidarity. And if you’re worried about people feeling misled that you didn’t come out sooner, I don’t think you should be. I think most people get the context of how vulnerable these identities can feel and will just be grateful that you are willing to share these parts of your life with them despite that vulnerability. Your mileage may vary, of course. Definitely there are places where this wouldn’t go over well, but it is a good sign that your company is working on DEI in the first place.

  77. HereKittyKitty*

    Obviously trust your gut when it comes to your workplace, but also I tend to have to prompt people to see me as queer because I’m cis and married to a cis man (I’m bi/pan). I often have multicolored hair/side shave and such so most of the time nobody is terribly surprised (lol stereotypes) and I’ve never had anybody really comment about it past a “oh okay!” moment. I’ve worked primarily in AZ, which is fairly conservative and also with a company in SLC that had quite a bit of religious folks, but I’ve never had anybody be weird about it.

    One good way to “come out” at work without feeling like it has to be a big thing is mentioning to that diversity team that you’re part of the LGBQTIA+ community and that you’re open for questions/advice if they want to build out more diversity efforts in the queer community. Something like “Hi! This hasn’t come up much in work, but I’m actually part of the LGBT community! I’ve noticed that you still need to build out your diversity efforts in that area, so please let me know how I can help!” and leave it at that. That would be an excellent starting point and as you feel more comfortable, you can talk more about your life.

  78. B*

    (Full disclosure, I’m not out in the workplace yet.) Would it be possible to try a couple different strategies? E.g. come out to whoever’s in charge of the diversity initiative directly, with that context as your springboard (“As a bi nonbinary person, I want to make sure we’re considering LGBTQ+ identities…”), but don’t formally come out to the rest of the office so much as simply stop censoring yourself when discussing your partners? A casual, slow-motion coming out as people pick up on it; if you treat it as no big deal, hopefully they’ll follow suit. For the nonbinary side, a nb friend of mine recently added their pronouns to their professional email signature and asked a few trusted colleagues to use them—perhaps you could try something like that to test the waters.

    Good luck!

  79. restingbutchface*

    1. If you want people to know, tell the one person who you know will tell everyone else. Job done.

    2. One line in the letter struck me – “ my personal identity has shifted significantly from the professional identity I projected at my hiring”. There are no elements of your current identity that are unprofessional. If that is some internal conflict, make sure you’re fully resolved before you start introducing new parts of your life to your colleagues.

    3. None of your colleagues are entitled to know anything about your life that you don’t want to share. Share as much as you want to, in order to feel sovereign but don’t buy into the idea that people are entitled to know everything about you and it’s your duty to educate them. It isn’t.

    4, Find your allies. Who else is queer? How can you reach out to them! If you can’t think of anyone, that would be a red flag about your company’s level of maturity.

    5. There’s this awful myth, perpetuated even within the community that those who come out later in life aren’t as worthy. Ignore that, it’s nonsense. Have a look on Reddit, there are communities of gay women who came out after being married to men – not quite your situation but they describe some of the same challenges you do. You are worthy, you are welcome.

    Good luck and congratulations on discovering more about yourself. Sending you all the best.

  80. Urban Prof*

    I’m in academia in a progressive city, so it’s easy for me now.

    But I’ve had to be out from the beginning of my career, (20 years ago) even during interviews with not-so-progressive colleges because I had to be sure I could get health benefits for my partner before I accepted a job offer. Frankly, my need to be out helped me determine at which universities, in which departments, and in which cities and states I could safely and comfortably work.

    A few years into my first tenure-track job, my partner was in the midst of transitioning, so I started avoiding pronouns altogether. Ironically, after he transitioned and I began to use his correct pronouns, I (briefly) worried that I was erasing my own queer identity! Thank goodness I got over that misapprehension quickly.

    Anyway, my contribution here is just advice: (1) stop censoring yourself whenever you feel safe enough to do so, and (2) start brainstorming some steps toward getting that unsuitable person out of the DEIJ position, because that mess is just unacceptable.

  81. BlueMina*

    I feel this so much! I’m a bi trans woman, and am navigating this same situation currently. In my case, I work for a two person company that provides IT support to mostly medical clinics (we’ve got around 80 offices total that we support). So, I’ve been dealing with this same issue both within my own company, as well as across our clients. With my boss, I was just straight forward with him and had a direct conversation, explaining why I was coming out now, and what my intentions are for transitioning. With the clients, it’s a bit trickier. We live in a very red state, although we’re in the fairly liberal capital city. I’m pretty sure the majority of our clients will be supportive, but we definitely have a few that I know are fairly socially conservative, so we’re trying to figure out the best way to navigate that. I’m out to two clients so far (with one I emailed the practice administrator and let them know, while I had an in person conversation with the other practice admin), and both responded extremely positively. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come out to the rest over the next year, but we do want to have some plans in place in case anyone reacts negatively.

    I know my situation isn’t particularly analogous to the LW, but hopefully they find an approach that works for them!

  82. Professional Homosexual*

    In my very first job, I worked in a small office that was headed up by a gay man and consisted of me (lesbian), and two straight colleagues. One of my colleagues was very nice but a little clueless and wasn’t understanding what who I meant when I referred to my “girlfriend.” My solution was to stand in the most central part of the office, where everyone could see/hear me, and loudly proclaim my homosexuality for all to hear!

    It definitely got the message across but would not be a strategy I recommend.

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      Can I just say, I wish everyone came out this way! This is why you’re the pro, Professional Homosexual.

  83. John Smith*

    I would say younger people have less difficulty accepting “non-normal” things.
    But I’ve lost track of all this labelling of people based on the time period they were born. If it helps, I was born mid 70s (2nd millennium for future researchers). I want to apologise for the real examples of language hereon that will cause offence…. Included because, I think, it’s needed given the context.

    My coming out to my family, just out of my teens, was, well… ahem… Getting absolutely rat-arsed, passing out in my local pub, being followed by an ambulance (that was called by the landlord who was a family friend who called my family telephone number) as I somehow managed to stagger home, then being met by my worried-as-hell dad en route.

    “Dad, I’m gay! I’m sorry!” I sobbed out in drunken, tearful despair, with aforementioned ambulance crew behind me.

    My dad, frankly, was a right wing racist, homophobe. He’d regularly yell something like “fucking cocksucker” when watching a politician he didn’t like on TV. He’d make racist insults, but I also remember that he also put himself between a black person being verbally (and near physically) abused in a shop by a bunch of neanderthals and told them where to go if they knew what was good for them. His caring for that other guy afterwards always stuck with me, especially given his tirades. Anyway, back to my drunken coming out…..

    “Yeah, we know that you stupid idiot. Get home – your mum’s made a stew” (my favourite meal).

    I was thunderbolted. Was this kindness a show because there was an ambulance crew behind us? Because he actually hated me being gay but didn’t want to cause a scene? Because he didn’t understand but accepted? All I know is that I felt love from my dad… My dad who, at times, Hitler would approve of, and at times would be awarded a medal for anti-bigotry.

    I honestly don’t know. But I hope to God that anyone who does come out has someone to support them (and doesn’t come out the way I did, initially)

    The saying is true in many ways….. There’s nowt as queer as folk!

  84. cabubbles*

    I’m a pretty open person, so I allowed it to come up naturally. If people asked about what I did on my day off I didn’t hesitate to openly discuss the gay bar I went to with my boyfriend (I’m a bi woman for reference); I just didn’t explain that it was a gay bar. If LBGTQ+ news was being comfortably discussed in the breakroom, I discussed my perspective. This approach meant that while I wasn’t screaming from the rooftops about my orientation, I wasn’t in the closet either. This method won’t work for everyone or for every environment. It’s tough doing what feels both safe and comfortable. From what I got from OPs letter, they feel generally safe but like they have misled their coworkers. The next time a lack of diversity in the workplace comes up, I would just bring up that LGBTQ+ folks don’t always feel safe and comfortable being out immediately and then use yourself as an example. Also, be kind to yourself. Plenty of people start off careers not having fully realized their own orientations. I had worked for my company for almost 2 years before I became fully comfortable with my bi identity. My coworkers did not treat me any differently for suddenly showing that side of myself, because they already knew me.

  85. Thank you all*

    I want to say thank you to my (fellow?) queer folks who’ve so generously shared their experiences on this thread. Thanks to you I’ve learned things about myself today.

  86. FormerLawyer*

    Poly and bisexual cis-appearing woman here. I’m married to a man, so the straight, monogamous assumption happens pretty instantaneously. I’m just going to reiterate everything others have said!

    I was sooooo stressed about coming out at work, because everyone knew I was seriously dating a man (this was before I was married). I just got tired of censoring my language at work, having to refer to people from my past as a “friend” when it’s clear they were more than that. So I just dropped a reference to an ex-girlfriend at work one day, in front of people I was pretty sure would be cool with it, and that was that. Word got out on its own, and nobody acted surprised when I brought it up in future conversations. It was a non-issue.

    For the pronouns issue – it’s not exactly the same, but similar – I have a student who changed his name in the middle of the school year, and was super stressed about it. He’s been out as trans for a while, but wanted to change his name to one he liked much better – he’d already been going by a name different from his birth name for about a year. We decided I’d just start referring to him by his new name like it was no big deal, and I honestly don’t think anyone else noticed – it’s just like starting to call someone by a new nickname. I think a quick “oh, by the way, I use they/them now” and an email signature line change would be fine in most workplaces these days (unless you’re in a super conservative area). Letting a couple of trusted and supportive colleagues know will also help, as they can start gently correcting people – a bland “Oh, Genevieve uses they/them pronouns now” when someone else refers to you in conversation.

    Also as others have said the poly part of your identity might be best left in your personal life. Even when I was single, I wasn’t the type to really talk a ton about every random date I went on, and even when I did talk about my dating life, it was only to a few close friends who I’d hang out with after work. Now, since I’m out as bi, if I comment about finding another woman attractive (or something similarly bland), it gets chalked up to my bi-ness, which is fine with me. When my husband and I had a serious third partner, she just came to events with us, and we acted like we normally would…. we’re not super touchy-feely types anyway, so I don’t think anyone picked up on what was going on. And if they did, well, they were polite enough not to make any comments about it. The couple of close friends I have at work all know, and that’s enough for me to feel authentically me at work. I mean, I wouldn’t want to talk to my boss extensively about my dating life even if it was monogamous, so there’s no real reason to be more out about it than that.

    Anyway, just be yourself, and it’ll be fine! You’re way more worried about it than anyone else is, I promise!

  87. tamarack and fireweed*

    Whoa a lot to read – you sure get a bunch of perspectives.

    I basically burst out of the closet 25 years ago in a way public enough to ensure I’d have a hard time getting in again. The whole thing from thinking “huh maybe *I* am queer” to full-on out was 2 weeks. If you Google my real name you’ll find all sorts of weird activism related stuff from that time. And that’s fine – it made further decisions about where to take my life easier.

    Now that I’m middle-aged I am pretty much long over having sit-down coming-out conversations (“I have something to tell you: I am gay/genderqueer/NB/…”). Coming out is more of a process, something I do casually whenever necessary – and often enough I’m not even sure when I say something to someone in particular for the first time that makes it clear I’m not straight. Even when it is, luckily by now where I live it’s not something people recoil from. Worst case have been minor flubs. Example, my wife sold a piece of property recently. The discussion with the title company person went like this:

    – OK closing date will be X. Are you married?
    – Yes, why?
    – There’s a form for your spouse to sign. [explanation skipped] It has to be in person. Would your husband be able to attend the closing?
    – Well, it’s a “she” not a “he” and I’ll ask her.
    – Oh, great, thanks! Let me know – if she is not available, she can come in separately, but it has to be before [date].
    [End of charming scene entitled “coming out for middle-aged people in America”]

    I don’t quite jibe with the idea of piecemeal coming out separately along each of the axes of your identity – I’m more of a “whole package” sort of person, and the idea of carefully managing a slow drip-drip of information sounds extremely tedious to me. It should be reserved for situations where you have good reason to think that you may be dealing with homophobia or another kind of discriminatory attitude.

    But on the other hand, I also don’t think that in your typical workplace (in jobs not intrinsically related to social justice, gender and sexuality minorities or “own voice” creative endeavors) it is in any way necessary to ensure everyone is fully informed about every detail of your identity – frankly, no one comes out as Sephardic or adopted or diabetic or … just for the heck of it. So the end result of what I propose is not very different from what others do, even if they get to it differently.

    The suggestion is: Think about what you would like to change about how you can express and are represented in your identity at your workplace. Make a list with the most important things on top. It could look like this:
    – for people to use the pronouns of my choice
    – to be able to talk freely about [person in your life] and [other person in your life] and [other person in your life] and [ex-girlfriend]
    – to be able to show pictures of events in which queer people are openly being queer
    – for people to know you’re a member of the LGBTA+ community
    – to be able to chime into the office smalltalk with the analysis of a pop culture phenomenon from a bisexual or NB perspective

    And then take action down the list: Put your pronouns in your email signature (easy if you aren’t the first, more of a hump if you are – get a good gauge of what the climate is like) and ask a few people to use whatever they are from now on. Start talking about the people you want to (given I’m married to a woman, that’s usually where it comes out for me), and if asked, use a label that feels right. Show the pictures and if asked say “oh, yes, that’s from the Bluegrass Pride event my sweetie and I attended” or whatever. Put a few rainbow stickers in strategic locations. Talk about what you want to talk about.

    And have some good, matter of fact answers (“did you just say ex-*girl*friend??” – “oh, I’m bisexual, I have exes that aren’t men”). Making a few casual friends among the other queer people in your org can help, too.

    Coming out is much more about doing what you want to do anyway than about making a great announcement.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      A few more things. I messed up some of my own pronouns above, but you’ll have to live with it :-)

      Also, I’ve always liked to outsource the coming out thing to friendly helpers. That’s real allyship right here – you tell them what you want spread, and they’ll spread it for you. I’ve for many years now just behaved as if I could assume that everyone knows I’m queer.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Oh, what the heck, one more thing. It’s been consistently my experience in 25 years in various countries that the negative reactions, or the situations where you get tired of being settled with volunteering to teach Queerness 101 to clueless colleagues are FAR outweighed by the random coworkers or community members (or students in my case) who are just grateful to se a public affirmation of a marginalized group. With the pandemic I have ornamented my mask sometimes with (really tiny) pins, and that goes equally well for my rainbow pin as for my Black Lives Matter pin.

  88. Ayyyyy*

    I came out as agender to my colleagues in February this year, and changed my name professionally at work. I had been in my department for 3 years, and the organization for 16. I work in a very liberal workplace, but there’s definitely a disconnect between the generations on feelings towards LGBTQIA2S+ people and all these “newfangled identities” and pronouns and the like.

    The pandemic made me realize I was sick of performing a gender I don’t ascribe to. I spoke with my manager first, who is fantastically supportive, about the name change (mandatory for our organization). Then when it was approved, I wrote an “introductory” email to all my colleagues, as if I was new to the department. Like thus…

    “Hello everyone!

    I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to re-introduce myself. My name is [name] and my pronouns are they/them. This may be a bit of a surprise for some of you, but others may have had an idea that this announcement was coming. I have changed my name in our system as well, and I hope you can all refer to me by my correct name and pronouns going forward. I know there may be a bit of a learning curve for that, so please don’t berate yourself if you get it wrong. What’s important is that you try and, if you make a mistake, I won’t hold it against you!

    If you have any questions, please know that I’m an open book. Don’t hesitate to ask, even if it feels awkward.

    I look forward to continuing to work with you,”

    Etc. etc. That’s not the exact email I sent, but it was along those lines. To be clear, you do NOT need to welcome questions – I would just rather have people ask me about my own identity and what it means rather than ask rude questions to someone young, insecure, scared.

    So my advice is – have an ally in your corner, tell them you want to make this information known, and then just… re-introduce yourself. It’s unlikely you have to go through it all at once, but if there’s a name they should be calling you or pronouns they should be using, that’s a good starting point. You could also include a little bit about WHY… that it’s important to you to represent the LGBTQIA2S+ community, that more people are coming out and you figured it was time for you to do the same, etc.

    I am sad to say that poly relationships are probably going to be your biggest hurdle. Even in the LGBTQIA2S+ community, there’s a lot of stigma.

    I wish you well in this!

  89. Nikki*

    I’m a queer/bisexual cisgender woman in a “hetero seeming” relationship, and I’ve only come out about my sexuality to colleagues that I’m friendly with when it feels natural. I would suggest the same for your gender identity.

    For the poly aspect of your life, that one might be harder to share at work. I don’t have any advice for that one as a monog person.

    You can also join and LGBT+ steering committee or diversity committee at your company! That could be a way to differentiate yourself as queer in some way without coming out.

  90. frozen*

    LW, I know how you feel! I’ve been either very private, or very open, with employers and/or colleagues over the past 15 years of my career. It all depended upon the context of the workplace (and the people who were working within it) at the time, to be honest. Sometimes some people knew, and others didn’t. (But the ones who did know were not going to tell anyone else about it.)

    Most people are very accepting, and sometimes very curious (but in a positive way! They might ask you some questions from that curiosity, but they’re learning and usually would be mortified to cause any offence and mean no offence).

    But some people can be very weird or difficult or obnoxious or intolerant about it. And people will not always react the way you expect. But you do not “owe” any of these people honesty or truth. Never go beyond your own boundaries or what you feel comfortable with.

    Maybe have a chat first with the people on your team that you mentioned are working to deepen the diversity in your workplace? See how you’re feeling talking to them, and maybe be open and honest with them if you feel safe, and just take it from there. Don’t be afraid to do it in stages, or to never actually divulge any of this to certain people if they’re going to be weird about it, or if you just aren’t comfortable talking to them about it.

  91. Portia Longfellow*

    Bi/ace/polyam cis-woman here. There’s lots of good advice here, and I just wanted to send love and support your way!

    For much of my career, I passed as hetero/allosexual. My polyam relationships mostly involved V relationships with me as my partner’s secondary, so to outsiders, it looked like I just had one partner. With a different configuration and/or shared living accommodations, I would have been more open with colleagues about what my partners/family got up to over the weekend. Folks that are really obtuse might just gloss right over those details, and it’s perfectly fine to leave them in ignorance.

    Also, please know that it’s okay to change your mind, even in public. If, right now, you prefer to use your name and no pronouns, and six months down the road you decide to use they/them or neopronouns or anything else, that’s okay! Nothing is written in stone, and you deserve to be respected at all times. Your colleagues don’t need to understand your identity (and it’s totally up to you how much/when you want to educate them), but they do need to use your chosen identifiers.

    1. Anonymous aro*

      “Also, please know that it’s okay to change your mind, even in public.”

      Yes, seconding this! Everything is fluid!

  92. Darcy*

    I don’t necessarily recommend this method but it does still make me smile. The first time I came out at work I was about 20, identified as a cis bi woman, in an office of mostly older cis het men. People quite often bought in cakes on their birthdays so I decided to bring one in for bi visibility day. Sent round a standard “cake in the kitchen” email saying “Happy bisexual visibility day, I bought in a cake!”. Someone yelled from across the office “are you trying to tell us something?” and I heard frantic muttering as someone else pointed out that yes, that was probably exactly what I was doing!

  93. Anonymous aro*

    I’m cis het and aromantic, I am sort of out at work but also not really. We had an anonymous diversity survey at work which had “orientation” data with straight/gay/bi etc and also a “write in your own identity” option so I wrote heterosexual aromantic” in it and probably messed up the data :)

    Coming out as aro is a weird one as people are very much like “But who doesn’t love to be in love?!?” plus on the surface I probably just seem like a woman in her 40s who doesn’t have a partner. I make a lot of jokes about being a cat lady and not having/needing/wanting a partner etc. I do mention that I do on dates to people who ask, though (I date casually/have FWBs).

  94. Just another queer on the internet*

    There’s a lot of people saying hide the polyamorous stuff, as it can indeed be less well-received – but I think I’d highlight the risks there.
    (Also, speaking as a queer, polyamorous mostly-masc-kinda-enby-I-dunno person.)

    The problem here that I’ve seen people face is what happens if Life Events happen. If a partner (who isn’t the one your colleagues know about) is e.g. seriously ill, or is bereaved, or even dies – that’s exactly the wrong moment to have to come out and explain why you need to take time off, or whatever. It *can* work, but I know when my metamour’s brother died, my partner had to take time off work immediately to travel to help her – but she wasn’t out. She came up with a convenient excuse as to why the person was important to her, which worked in the moment, but it was very uncomfortable going forward as she wasn’t able to be open in her small workplace about this really quite traumatising experience.

    In terms of ‘how’ – I did so by kinda alternately mentioning my partners at different points and coming out to those who twigged privately to test the waters. I came out to my manager in a 1:1 meeting, as it was relevant to needing time off.

    For what it’s worth, I’m based in the UK, and I work in tech/healthcare.

  95. nolabels*

    My best experience, as a gay person, started after understanding that, before anything, I am a person, a human being. This has worked for me and I continue having this experience.
    Being in a polyamorous it’s harder than being gay (I was there). There isn’t a really show which could help to normalize that.
    Anyhow, I am not walking around discussing my personal life with everyone, I’m just living my life as I am.

  96. sam_i_am*

    I’m genderqueer and bi, and I just recently came out with my name (I was out about pronouns from the start). It definitely depends on the situation, your coworkers/workplace, etc, how much “work” you have to put in on coming out. I work in a pretty queer workplace, and I was able to strategize with my boss about how best to go about it. My situation of being partly out and in a workplace where I really knew my supervisors had my back did make things easier, but I hope this helps.

    I think the first thing to figure out is *why* you’re coming out. I think you’ve got a grasp on this, that you don’t want to be hiding part of yourself, but focusing and really getting that feeling will help you know what to say and who you want to say it with. With changing my names/using gender-neutral pronouns, I had to tell everyone, but if it’s about your identity being recognized (i.e., I’m bi and I want people to know) you may not feel the need to tell people you have little-to-no contact with.

    Here’s what my pattern was, and suggestions about it. I ended up doing it all in one day, but I’d encourage you to pause and breathe and let the steps settle a little as you go. If your workplace is chatty, you might need to go through more quickly to keep the info from spreading ahead of you.

    * Find allies. Are there people in the office you feel most comfortable with who you can talk to first? It’s really nice to feel like someone “has your back” before you start to tell a wider audience. I’m really, really grateful that my supervisor was one of those people to me. If possible, let them know when you plan to tell a greater group and to help support you (i.e. correct pronouns/incorrect terminology when you’re not around). Once you’re out to everyone, explicitly give those people permission to correct others in how they address you.
    * Come out directly to people you work closely with or who are important in your work life. In my case, I sent slack messages to colleagues I work directly with and my direct report. Sent an email to my grand-boss since he wasn’t on the slack channel at that point.
    * If you have any standing forms of communication like slack, that’s an easy way to tell a bit of a larger group of colleagues.
    * Whether or not you need to tell people outside the organization that you work with will depend! I personally just started emailing from my new email address with correct name, and people picked up on it, but I work with generally cool people, even outside investigators.

    There are two things I wish I’d done differently. I wish I’d used terms for my identity instead of just names and pronouns. I’m genderqueer and don’t like/have some issues with the term nonbinary and I think it would feel better to have people recognize my actual identity.

    This also would probably help with the second thing: I wish I’d done a little more educating (and this probably connects to your diversity program as well). My coworkers are all happy to use my name and pronouns, but they don’t all completely understand what it means to be trans. Sometimes a few of them use gendered terms for me; I’m trying to go back and teach a bit more, but I think it would have been easier if I’d provided more explanation/some educational materials straight off. Educating your coworkers is by no means a requirement, but it may be helpful.

    A number of people I know have felt a similar way about working from home driving them to be more open about themselves at work. If you are changing pronouns/name/something similar, it’s also nice to have that on zoom/slack so that people get used to seeing it! It’s basically constantly wearing a name tag, which helps people connect you with your new (to them) identity.

    If there’s any other advice or support I can provide, I’d be happy to talk more. It’s a scary process, but you deserve to be able to show up to work as who you are (to the extent you feel comfortable doing so, of course!) I’ve had a lot of support in this process, and I’d love to pay that forward as much as I can.

  97. Cosmic*

    Wow hello! I am a nonbinary bisexual person who came out at work…one month ago! I was in a similar position to you – I was out in my personal life, and I had never intended to come out professionally, but it became incredibly stressful and anxiety inducing to have to constantly code switch once we went virtual.

    Some advice from a person fresh off that experience – however you choose to come out, however you choose to tell people, remember that their energy will reflect yours. So if you make it a Big Serious Topic then others will typically respond in kind, whereas if you are more casual about it then others will be too, for instance. I chose to just be very matter of fact with it.

    I chose to come out verbally at the beginning of a regular team meeting with the people I work closest with, and then I emailed a small group of people that I communicate with regularly so they would be aware that the person with the new name emailing them is the same person that it’s always been to lessen confusion on their part. I chose not to make any larger announcement specifically because my biggest fear is being known as “the nonbinary person in *department*” at work – while my identity is important to me, I want to be known first for the work that I do, second for my identity, not the other way around. So for people i rarely interact with who did once know me as my old name, if I happen to interact with them I just address it then.

    Something that was comforting to me was that while coming out at work and transitioning to a new name and pronouns was a huge deal to ME, it didn’t matter much to anyone else. They have all (thankfully) been incredibly supportive and respectful of me, but it’s just a blip in their radar, there has been little to no dwelling on it or feeling like I need to explain or justify myself, Essentially it was met with the same reaction that changing my last name had I gotten married would have gotten.

    Doing this virtually has been great, because I pretty much exclusively interact with people over Zoom, so I can have my name and pronouns right there to remind people and help them adjust so that by the time we’re back in person it will be easier.

    When it comes to my bisexuality, I don’t generally explicitly come out because it’s not quite as relevant. I would suggest as others have mentioned to start just not policing your own language when discussing your personal life and quite quickly people will start to catch on.

    I wish you so so so much luck in this!

    1. sam_i_am*

      I would have said I changed my name recently, then I just checked at it was all the way back in July! The passage of time this past year has been so strange.

      “Something that was comforting to me was that while coming out at work and transitioning to a new name and pronouns was a huge deal to ME, it didn’t matter much to anyone else.” this is 100% my experience as well. I got a lot of “thank you for telling me” and then it was just what people called me. A good balance where it felt like people cared/weren’t dismissive but it wasn’t a Big Deal. I think you’re spot on with the energy reflected back — while it’s not always true that you’ll get a good reaction (because you can never control other people’s reactions), I think treating it as just laying out the facts makes it a less-emotional situation overall.

      While I was out-ish already, work was actually the first place I really changed my name! I think it was just less emotionally charged than, like, family

  98. Sarra N. Dipity*

    “The reality is I am a non-binary, bisexual human in a polyamorous relationship. How can I redefine myself as a queer person at work?”

    Wait, are you me? :D
    …and I look like a cis-with-short-hair straight married woman.

    The only one I have been out about at all is the bi/pan part. I’ve casually mentioned ex-girlfriends in social situations (happy hour zooms, etc). That’s probably the easiest part.

    I’ve made small steps on the non-binary part -we’ve had some company-wide training from an external consultant, and on their wait-for-everyone-to-arrive intro screen, they had text like “please set your Zoom name to your name and pronouns” and I put “Sarra N. Dipity, she/her/they/them”.

    Nobody has said anything. Some of my coworkers have their pronouns in their signatures, but I’m not ready to go there yet. I don’t think it’s something I actually want to share with people directly.

    I’m part of a queer parent group which is made of people across a whole bunch of agencies, not just my company, and I can be 100% out THERE, which is nice.

    Just remember, you’re not obligated to come out if you’re not comfortable doing so.

  99. Queer Manager*

    I’m pan, and genderfluid. Okay with she/her but prefer they/them. I’m in the process of outing myself, ha! I’m currently with a man and present as female. So little words like only referring to him as my partner, help to ease people up to the idea that I may not be straight. In a professional setting (if I were you) I would casually mention my partner did something, followed up with “she does this all the time”. Basically talk about your partner and tack on their pronouns at the end. If your workspace is LGBTQIA inclusive people will figure it out pretty quick.
    In regards to your pronouns. I would start mentioning in conversation that you prefer they/them. First with people you know will be understanding and then it will trickle down.
    If being misgendered is something that really hurts or important to you, I would talk to a safe higher-up. Say something along the lines of “I want you to know that I prefer the pronouns they/them. I would like that reflected in the interactions I have. I will be correcting people going forward”. If they are a good manager they will subtly inform everyone and help you correct people when you get misgendered.

    Hope this helps!

  100. Intentionally Ambiguous*

    Hi. If you are having work gatherings / social zooms where people bring their partners, consider bringing one or both of yours.

  101. Silverose*

    I’m panromantic, gray-ace, polyamorous (and Pagan, so adding a whole other dimension with that). The industry and location definitely matters when it comes to safety of being out at work. I used to live in the Midwest and it felt safer being out when I worked in libraries than when I transitioned to social services. I started policing my language when I started in social services, using gender neutral terms like partner, and never the plural, because clients were never supposed to know details about our lives and might have cause huge problems if they were super conservative. But I also had surprisingly conservative co-workers. But now I live in a much more liberal area and just started (this past week) at a new agency that has a huge push for diversity equity and inclusion, something none of the Midwest companies I’d worked for had ever really accomplished. I caught myself starting to police my speech again this week, saying spouse instead of wife during polite chit chat. In the next sentence, I very intentionally used gendered language to make it clear my partner is the same gender as me. I was only speaking to co-workers and my supervisor – and my supervisor is on the DEI workgroup. And no one made a big deal about it, the conversation just continued flowing on. I’m not currently dating anyone else, but I’m on dating sites and if I start dating, I won’t hide it from my co-workers at this company like I did at even the previous company in this liberal location – because that co-worker seemed very conservative and was starting to flip out just at the idea that I knew too much about how the online dating websites work when I was already married (and I was only trying to help her find better prospects). My coworkers may not need to know I’m gray-ace or Pagan right now, but if they ever come up in conversation, I won’t shun away from the topics.

  102. Ace Poly Enby*

    After reading through the comments, I’d just like to point out that some are perpetuating polyam stereotypes. Polyam is often not very well accepted precisely because people equate it to talking about sex/dating. The comments above, whilst maybe well meaning, that suggest that being poly is a thing that is best kept private or to close friends, probably wouldn’t suggest that about a monogamous partnership of the same depth or duration. Both of my relationships are measured in decades, I go on holidays with both (at separate times), I live in two houses (roughly half the week in each), I have a social life with each, go to life events with both, and we all support each other if someone is ill/injured. It feels like deliberate deception to answer general questions in a way that doesn’t out myself and I understand that the letter writer might find it hard too. That kind of thing can take a lot of brain power.

  103. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    Bi cis female married to a man here. I started volunteering for a local LGBTQ+ group and put it on my LinkedIn. Then I happened to be on a team with the one out non-straight person and we worked with HR together to get the company in the local Pride parade. From there, it grew to going to LGBTQ+ related conferences, snowballed, and now we have an affinity group for everyone.

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