updates: the bigoted university, the catfishing, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. My manager attends a notoriously bigoted university (#2 at the link)

I feel okay with writing in with an update now, along with further details, because this supervisor has resigned from my firm.

The people who guessed Liberty University were correct. Unfortunately the advice given wasn’t actionable, because the entity paying for the degree was the U.S. military (my former supervisor is a veteran). Readers, if it angers you that your tax dollars get funneled to places like Liberty via the GI Bill, contact your Senator, I guess?

I am polyamorous. This is a big part of my life that also affects my work life — e.g. when my non-marital partner got Covid, I was his sole source for Paxlovid and emergency supplies, and I had to take off work to tend to those issues. Whether or not poly is considered queer/queer-adjacent, poly people are subject to a lot of discrimination that is perfectly legal. Coming out is extremely fraught.

In my year of working for her, I never got a sense from my former supervisor about her personal views on the people Liberty hates. Regardless, I’ve stayed wholly closeted at work. Call me a coward; you’re not wrong. America hasn’t reached a place where I can expect any reaction other than revulsion, and it scares me to death. Much love to everyone who has the courage to live in their full authenticity, and happy holidays to all.

2. What do I do once I retire?

I wrote in asking about what to do in retirement. The most useful comment was from someone who said, basically, think about what you most value at work. I realized that being a professor was a part of my identity I didn’t want to lose. I didn’t want to work (not the research and teaching – I was ready to stop), but being a professor was still part of me. At a party I heard someone refer to themselves as a retired librarian. And I thought, I can do that! I can be a *retired* professor. Other comments were less helpful (the number of people who suggested quilting, or the people who suggested ways I could keep teaching and research after retirement, well if I wanted to do that I would just keep working).

So I retired last summer. And in a pretty satisfying way. I and another professor took a small group of students to Germany for ten days at the end of the term. Then I and my family (kids, husband) met in Finland (where my daughter is getting an MA) for a vacation. That was great! But life happens. Amidst all this my husband was diagnosed with two serious illnesses, one progressive, incurable, and ultimately terminal. So, the silver lining is I am here to go to hospitals and doctors’ appointments with him. He is stable, for now. And I am doing different things: another trip back to Europe last summer, auditing a class, exercising more, going out more with people (while trying not to catch anything). So, my advice would be to give some thought to retirement before you jump in, be aware that any plan can be derailed, and if partnered learn to do everything your partner does because divisions of labor emerge subtly over the years and one day one of you will have to do it all.

3. I’m managing the mom of the ex-friend who catfished me

I would have certainly taken your advice, and I appreciated your words of support.

The day after I wrote in, “Michelle” told me she remembered who I was. I told her I had remembered too, it just took me a second. We expressed how great it was to see each other again after all these years. She’d show me pics of her grandchildren and talk about her kids like any other proud Mom/Grandmother would show their coworkers. There was never any weirdness.

Michelle recently retired and sadly, she suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I went to her funeral services and obviously saw her daughter (my former friend). We hugged and I told her how sorry I was and how nice it had been to see her Mom again. She said she appreciated that I came to the service. Some of her extended family members remembered me and it was nice to see them, too (although not under happy circumstances).

Someone on my team who was close to Michelle said that she did tell her that I “basically lived at her house,” but she didn’t say that Michelle had said anything about why I had stopped going over. Like many of the comments said, she probably didn’t even know. I think my team member was trying to get some dirt out of me and asked if something had happened to make us stop being friends, and I just said no and kind of blew it off.

Certainly a sad ending to this story, but I did get some closure to an old wound.

4. My friend says we’re not supportive enough of their business idea

My friend and I who are on the same page resolved to take your advice and that from readers of being supportive but not initiating anything. However, I forgot the next time our friend spoke about opening a B&B and asked if they thought about all the things involved that would have to be done and so wasn’t as noncommittal as I should have been. In any case, our friend hasn’t made any further movements in making it a reality, so maybe there’ll be no need for concern going forward.

{ 144 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #1: You aren’t a coward. You are taking care of yourself and your family. That’s what matters the most.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      As a queer person, the decision to be/stay closeted is not a cowardly decision. You (the OP) are the best person to make the decision of whether to be out or closeted.

      1. foureyedlibrarian*

        Yes! Kit Connor (actor who is on the show Heartstopper), barely an adult, was literally bullied into coming out by adults on Twitter. Don’t be like those people. People “come out” on their own time and their own terms. Your timeline doesn’t matter

        **this comment is meant generally and calling anyone here out

        1. Fishsticks*

          God, I still feel awful for him. He’s eighteen! And only JUST eighteen at that! We really don’t allow people to take their time or have any privacy anymore. It’s the dark side of representation – it’s essential, it matters, it’s so incredibly worthwhile, but demanding everyone identify themselves right off the bat all the time or be hounded and bullied is just so hideously damaging.

        2. MizzMaryMack*

          I am pretty dam sure my son is gay. He’s also not dating anyone yet. He can come out to me when he’s ready, or assume I know, or maybe he’s not gay, or some other thing I haven’t thought of.

          I want him – and you OP – to be safe and happy. But it’s hard to be happy if you’re not safe.

    2. Fikly*

      This. Doing what you need to do to safe isn’t cowardice, it’s bravery.

      And reword this: Much love to everyone who has the safety to live their life in full authenticity. Because anyone who tells you that it’s your fault that you don’t have that safety is victim blaming. It is never, ever the job of anyone in any minority to put themselves at risk for the benefit of their “group.” Just like it’s not the job of any person of color to explain racism to a white person.

    3. Kodi*

      Absolutely 100% agree. It’s not cowardly in the slightest to keep you and your family safe. I am so sorry that you have to hide who you are, as a bi person, I know staying closeted isn’t easy and it can be incredibly draining. I wish you and your partners the absolute best.

    4. JSPA*

      Not cowardly, but it may also help to Remember that a lot of other people also have defacto family– for whom they are the only support in emergencies– but instead of “other partner” it’s a “spare” grandpa / auntie / cousin / sibling.

      And thanks to blended families, it’s not weird to say, “I’m their only family who can do this, but it’s a complicated to explain how we’re connected, so I don’t even try anymore.”

      That’s going to feel a lot less fraught and judgement-triggering than, “and there are therefore more variants of sexytimes involved than I’m assuming you’re having” (which isn’t particularly relevant when you’re being Covid support, anyway).

      [Yes, I get that partners are much more than sexyimes toys! But its a modern western fixation that adding someone to your life as a romantic partner is a much bigger deal than adding someone as another sort of familial relation.]

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I live with my spouse and roomies. I still help take care of whoever is sick, regardless of marital relationship. They’re part of my household, thus “family”.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I thought something similar, but then I realised you are opening up something of a conversational wormhole; one you wouldn’t worry about if they were your relative or bestie from high school who moved in with you and your spouse. If you said: “Oh drat, I forgot to pick up some medicine for poor sick Colin”, it wouldn’t take long for a colleague to say: “Who’s Colin?” or “Who he is to you?” or “How did you meet?”. You would need a cover story to bring it up; the OP correctly identified that they would need one with the former boss.

      2. NotBatman*

        Also, it may help to remember you’re probably not the only one forced to remain closeted in this toxic environment. If you supervisor is going around disclosing that she attends Liberty University, she’s no doubt also forcing coworkers with other identities (gay, Jewish, Muslim, immigrant) to hide parts of themselves just to be safe at work.

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        One time I had to explain how my great-aunt was related to me in two different ways. I nearly needed Powerpoint and a couple of semaphore flags…

        Lots of people have complicated families.

    5. Jellyfish+Catcher*

      Seconded, came here to say the same thing, you’re not a coward.
      It’s called a “personal life” for a reason: it’s……Personal, thank you very much.
      Nobody at work (or anywhere else ) is entitled to any specific info on that subject – carry on.

    6. ferrina*

      You’re making tough choices to stay safe and protect your family. You aren’t obligated to put your livelihood on the line. I really wish we lived in a world where this is a non-issue, but we don’t. You’re doing what you need to; hopefully someday you won’t need to choose between safety and being open.
      In the meantime, best wishes to you and your family!

    7. Dinwar*

      It’s sound tactical reasoning. Let’s say that the manager is fine with it. She may tell others who aren’t fine with it. And poly relationships are the sort of thing that cost people custody of children should divorce or other similar issue arise. Or it could get them into legal trouble–as far as I’m aware most states still require marriage to be monogamous, and violation of that requirement is a crime (whether a particular relationship is in violation of that or not is up to the courts, and who wants uninvited lawyers and judges in their bedroom?!). Physical assault is also a real possibility. And remember, this is all assuming that the manager is a good person who merely lets something slip. If the manager has hostile intent, it can get much uglier. There is no reason at all to invite these problems if you’re not prepared to deal with them.

      And this isn’t catastrophizing. It’s cost/benefit analysis. The cost can be up to and including everything you value; the benefit is…. If you can’t fill in that blank, and it’s not something you are willing to sacrifice everything for, it’s not worth the risks. That calculation is up to each of us to determine.

      This is one reason I love the Wiccan Read. “Harm none” includes not engaging in activities harmful to the self, including outing one’s self when it’s not safe to do so.

      1. BrillianteBrunette*

        In the US at least, laws criminalizing polygamy and bigamy specifically criminalize one person have multiple legal marriages – i.e., relationships recognized by a marriage license. Having multiple physical/romantic relationships where there’s no legal component of the relationship – whether it’s because you’re polyamorous, you have multiple “religious marriages”, you’re adulterous, you’re really into one-night-stands – is not illegal in any state. The LW indicates they only have one marital partner so they’re not at risk of being prosecuted legally just for being polyamorous.

        (Whether the US should allow multiple adults to form legally-recognized spousal relationships or familial relationships for purposes of adoptions, surrogacy, etc. is a different issue from polygamy laws.)

        I don’t want anyone to misunderstand your comment to imply that you can be arrested for having multiple partners or for engaging in sexual activity as a group (assuming everyone is an adult and consenting). When you hear about polygamists, like fundamentalist Mormons, for instance, being criminally prosecuted, it’s rarely, if ever, actually for violations of polygamy laws – it’s for related criminal acts like child abuse, sex trafficking, financial fraud, etc.

        1. Moira Rose*

          This isn’t my understanding of the law. There’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to adultery laws, and something like a quarter or a third of U.S. states have ’em.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Yeah, but there hasn’t been a successful prosecution in decades. In terms of criminal court, it’s a non-issue.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes I mean there’s a difference between having something on the statute book and the police / courts doing something about it. I think it’s technically illegal in the UK to bang your rugs and mats outside your front door before 8am. No police officer is going to arrest someone for that because they’d be laughed out of court and told to enforce some proper laws for a change. No sensible police officer in the US is likely to want to arrest someone for adultery, they’d just be laughed at for being really old fashioned and out of touch, surely?

              Unless someone consciously revokes it, you wind up with odd, out of date legislation that’s still legally in force but completely ignored by everyone.

              1. Trillian Astra*

                Ah… those are the laws that they use to bust consenting adults who like to have things like “key parties” (if anyone remembers what those are) and then publicize their names to ruin reputations. All it takes is an election year and a highly conservative sheriff wanting to get reelected to ruin everyone’s fun and reputation all in one shot.

                Parties are busted all the time here in the US. All it would take is a disgruntled coworker or manager to place an anonymous call to the authorities about something serious, akin to swatting, because they have a bent nose about their underling’s “lifestyle” (man how I hate that term…but I digress…) and all hell would break loose.

            2. ursula*

              This is not really true. Anything that stays on the books remains a tool that any agent of the law can suddenly decide to enforce, even if it hasn’t been used in a long while. The comment below from UKDancer notes that no sensible police officer wants to arrest someone for adultery, but no police force is composed solely of sensible officers (and certainly not in the US, where the climate around such things is changing at an alarming pace). I do understand where these comments are coming from, but I would discourage people from thinking that “this hasn’t been enforced in decades” means we won’t see enforcement at some point in the future, or that people aren’t right to protect themselves from it.
              In any case, as a queer person, I absolutely agree that LW#1 has nothing whatsoever to feel cowardly about.

              1. ursula*

                Sorry, meant to add: being the subject of an unsuccessful criminal prosecution is also still a really big deal with long-term impacts on people’s lives. TL;DR: laws rarely used but left on the books can create immensely messy situations both legally and socially.

              2. New Jack Karyn*

                I am a queer person too, and I’d be hard pressed to find a case of someone being arrested for adultery in the US within the past ten years. We can talk about the possible social and economic reasons why someone can very reasonably choose to not tell others about being polyam. I don’t think fear mongering about potential legal trouble helps anyone.

    8. Nelalvai*

      Agreed. LW, if I went to a school with a Reputation and then had to tell someone where I got my degree, I’d be saying it like this: “Liberty UniversityandIdonotatallagreewiththeirviews.” The fact that your manager hasn’t? Maybe doesn’t *guarantee* anything about manager’s views, but it is strong motivation to stay in the closet.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Would you really? I went to a university that often elicits slight weirdness from people who hear about it (for a completely different reason) and I try not to call attention to it or indicate in any way that there might be something special about it, because it’s tiresome having to manage other people’s feelings about my education. I’d hope people will draw their own conclusions about me based on my behaviour, instead of assuming their knowledge of my alma mater makes them an expert on my opinions.

        1. metadata minion*

          “Slight weirdness” is very different from “the only thing most people know about this school is that they are horrifically bigoted”. I know people end up at places like Liberty for many reasons, but I wouldn’t want to have to hide who I am from my boss or coworker until some unknown time when they mention that actually they’re fine with queer people. Giving that little disclaimer would get the suspense out of the way and let me feel safe.

        2. Appletini*

          Choosing an educational institution with Liberty University’s reputation and proudly talking about such a school are both behaviors.

    9. Deborah*

      Yes, exactly! I came here to say this, too, and was glad to see it already here as the first comment.

    10. Jedi Beth*

      Second this!

      LW #1, I came out as gay — to myself and a very few close friends, ONLY — while attending graduate school in Salt Lake City in the 80s. It is NOT cowardice to remain closeted when in a hostile environment. Anyone who tells you so is full of it.

      You don’t “owe” it to anyone to be public about your private life when being public will harm you and those you love. It’s idealistic to think so, and you don’t live in idealism, you live in reality. Reality bites. The bite can be fatal.

      Poly is less likely to get you murdered than being gay or trans, but you’re at least as likely to pay an appalling professional and social price.

    11. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      THIS. You don’t owe anyone else this information about your personal life and relationships. You have reason to believe that sharing this information would cause you problems at work. Not sharing is smart, not cowardly.

      Especially these days, with an upswing in harmful rhetoric and violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Anyone who doesn’t fit into a hard-core evangelical model of family relationships is potentially a target.

      Ultimately, you don’t owe anyone this kind of personal information, for any reason.

    12. Echo*

      Thanks for this. I’m agender and I have disclosed that part of my identity to some people in my life but not others. This is a good reminder that it doesn’t make me a coward to control who I disclose to.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Agreed. I’m asexual/aromantic… while being in the closet can be frustrating and uncomfortable, things are just a lot easier when I refer to my platonic best friend as my “partner” and let people assume we’re romantically involved.

    13. Spooky All Year*

      Late but very much this. When the DHS has just released a warning about domestic terrorism against queer, migrant, and Jewish communities, it is not cowardice to stay hidden and not out yourself. I hope that you are able to stay safe and happy with your family, whatever it looks like for you.

  2. Artemesia*

    Re ‘being supportive someone’s business’ — this is the guiltspeak language of MLMs. They counsel their agents to use that language ‘a friend who doesn’t support your business (by buying from you or being a ‘downline’) isn’t your friend’. I would argue that a person who expects free work or business form someone is no longer a friend.

    1. Hello*

      But this person never asked for free work, or for OP buy anything, or do anything aside from “be supportive.”

      A phrase can be sometimes used by evil people and still be a totally normal thing to say.

    2. Software Engineer*

      Yeah I mean it sounds like they don’t want ac reality check they want a cheerleader. Which isn’t the most useful form of support but it’s what some people want! As long as you’re not going down the road if trying to talk them into something and tell them not to be worried, they can handle anything, of course you’ll succeed because you’re so amazing etc I think it’s fine to express support and be excited for them being excited about it aha just leave it at that. If they ask for advice offer it but otherwise just make supportive and affirmative noises, not much is required

  3. Hlao-roo*

    OP3: Sorry to hear about Michelle. I’m glad you and her were able to work well together, for the time that you worked together.

  4. Artemesia*

    I must have missed that the retiree was a professor. The definition of a professor is pretty much someone with deep intellectual interests. Continuing those interests while retired is easy. I know lots of profs emeriti who do consulting, are museum docents, volunteer in organizations adjacent to their fields, lobby, travel or are still engaged with their professional field. You’d be surprised how many opportunities there are for travel and engagement for an expert in medieval French poetry.

    1. fposte*

      Or you can chuck it all and find new horizons. That’s what I’m doing, and it’s terrifically enjoyable.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      My father in law was an Agriculture professor. I only knew him as a retired professor, even his family noted that for many years after he retired, he may well have done even MORE consultations and visits across the world to examine and introduce techniques than he did while a professor. By the time I really knew him he’d slowed down some, though there was still a two month visit where I would swear he was on the line to Lesotho daily.

  5. Antilles*

    For #4, based on the update that it’s been six months and the friend hasn’t done anything remotely concrete, I’d just write this off as vague wish-casting / day-dreaming in the same way that someone might go “if I ever won the lottery, I’d open a bar” or “it’d be so cool to be a travel journalist and get paid to visit other countries” or whatever.

    1. Meep*

      My insane dream is to own a cat cafe/rescue. I have a concrete plan. Is it ever going to happen? No.

      1. UKDancer*

        Mine is to run a dance studio with an amazing smoothie bar, massage therapy rooms and a library corner. I can tell you exactly how I’d decorate it and what type of curtains I’d have and which massage oil blends I’d use in the spa.

        I have done absolutely none of this because I’d be a terrible business owner and have none of the skills needed for self-employment. It’s a pipe dream. We all have these dreams and ideas but most of the time people don’t want to press them into fruition because of the level of work involved.

      2. Software Engineer*

        Mine is to have a pie based diner. Sweet pies, savory pies, all the pies. I would just make pie all day and leave the boring business side to my husband

        But in real life I’m the person who enjoys the stability of a 9 to 5 and a salary and working for somebody else so I can just be done at the end of the day.

        1. JustaTech*

          There was an interesting article on the BBC this week about people quitting “dream jobs” to get stable jobs that let them enjoy hobbies/family/friends. One of the examples was a guy who’d worked his way up to pastry chef at a Michelin starred restaurant, only to realize that the hours were terrible and the pay was crap *and* it would never get any better, so he quit and went back to school for a programming degree so he could have a regular day job and do pastry for fun.

          My dad was a business professor specializing in entrepreneurship and I really appreciated that he’s never pushed for me to start my own business (literally the last time he helped me with a business plan I was 8 and trying to have a lemonade stand for a day). Not everyone wants to, or should start their own business.

          That said, I’d love to be a customer at a pie diner!

    2. Green Tea*

      Yeah, I remember their original letter and thinking LW just did not understand their friend or social norms at all. The friend was clearly just daydreaming and asking LW not to shit all over their dream every time they brought it up – but the LW interpreted the request to be ‘supportive’ in a different way.

      It’s not at all surprising to me that they couldn’t resist making more criticisms, or that the friend is no longer talking about it with them. Why is it so hard to let someone have an unrealistic but lovely dream of their future to help brighten their present?

        1. Green Tea*

          There was never any indication the friendcwas taking any action toward this plan, or assuming any kind of financial risk. In fact, that lack of action seems to be what what annoyed the LW so much.

          So how does a link about failed restaurants apply here?

          1. Appletini*

            It applies because it’s not very friendly to just eat popcorn and watch someone wreck their life pursuing an untenable dream, and it’s friendship-wrecking to sink a loan into that untenable dream and watch the money vanish. Knowing nothing else about their temperament, to assume the friend won’t attempt something they talk about constantly is just that, an assumption. Some people don’t, but as the link shows, some people do, and fail disastrously. I can’t blame LW for not wanting to see that happen to their friend.

  6. LoV*

    LW#1 You made a sound and tactical decision. Bravery has really nothing to do with it. You did right by your family and that’s what really matters.

  7. Emma*

    30+ years ago, a woman my dad worked with had a husband and a boyfriend and all 3 lived together. I can’t remember finding anything strange about their arrangement, because everyone around just accepted it as how things were and no one talked badly about her. Living in a red state, I can’t help but wonder how many of those same people would now take issue with the arrangement. Regardless…it really doesn’t have to be a big deal. It’s a shame that people make such a big issue out of other people’s personal lives that don’t hurt anyone.

    1. Jam Today*

      One of my mother’s aunts lived her whole adult live with her female “business partner” and a gentleman, I think it was only recently that it occurred to me that the gentleman might also have been a partner (I assumed he was gay, and then a couple of years ago I was like “Oh!
      Hmmmm…” This would have been in the 1960s through the 80s, maybe as early as the 50s.

  8. Observer*

    #1 – You’re not a coward. This is information that you do not owe anyone at work but that could hurt you. Therefore the only calculation that you should be making is what course of action works best FOR YOU and your family.

  9. Cafe au Lait*

    OP #1, while this is mainly aimed at teens who are thinking of coming out I think it applies in your case.

    When you come out can you put money on the table that you earned, drive away in a car that you paid for yourself, to an apartment or house that you pay the rent/mortgage. Coming out at work would’ve impacted all three of those issues. You weren’t in a 100% safe place to out yourself. Keeping yourself safe is more important that being visibly out.

  10. insert pun here*

    A thing to understand about Liberty: Liberty’s online offerings are HUGE. They enroll about 5x as many students online as in-person. If you’re going to get an online degree, it’s sort of the equivalent of a local university or community college — easy, convenient, etc.
    It does require the student to, at best, look the other way when it comes to Liberty’s homophobia and transphobia. But it’s absolutely possible that the supervisor didn’t choose Liberty specifically because they love Liberty — they may have chosen it (and, again, looked the other way, at best, about its bigoted aspects) because if you’re looking to get an online degree, Liberty is just an absolute juggernaut. (And this has all happened within the past ten years or so — fairly recent, in higher ed terms.)
    Or they could be an enthusiastic bigot. Also very possible.

    1. Shhhh*

      I was thinking the same. There are lots of people who chose Liberty’s online programs because they enthusiastically agree with what Liberty stands for, but there are also lots who are merely looking the other way because it’s the best option for them personally. Also, my understanding is that Liberty does a lot of marketing aimed at military personnel and veterans, so the note that the student in this case was a veteran makes sense.

      1. Shhhh*

        That said, seeing that someone attended Liberty in any form makes me incredibly wary of that person. It’s still an indefensible choice.

        1. insert pun here*

          Totally agree with being wary (especially in the workplace.) I would be guarded around this person, too. But I wouldn’t necessarily assume that they specifically wanted to attend Liberty, just like I wouldn’t necessary assume that someone who got a degree from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service chose that school because they’re Catholic. They may have, but they also may have chosen it because they live in DC and it’s convenient for them. Liberty’s online offerings are that vast — that convenience may be the biggest factor for a lot of students.

          1. Beep beep*

            Lol this is so off topic but Georgetown is not remotely convenient for most people who live in DC!! No metro, no parking, traffic is a nightmare, and it takes the 33 bus 20 minutes to get 3 blocks down Wisconsin Ave hahaha

          2. louvella*

            Just because people may choose Liberty for reasons unrelated to religion doesn’t mean it’s an ethical choice.

            1. insert pun here*

              I did not say that I believe that it is, only that it may not be as indicative of a certain mindset as one might initially believe. (I am queer and nonreligious. I would attend neither Liberty nor Georgetown, FWIW.)

            2. Hotcakes*

              Right, but the question in the original letter was about what her supervisor’s “duty” was in that case. She goes on to provide a list of things she wanted to hypothetically advise the supervisor. Her supervisor’s duty is actually “nothing” in this case. She doesn’t owe OP anything, including any explanation or justification about her choice of schools. The OP even suggested that the supervisor not go to that school or hide the fact that she was getting a degree there.

              She said in the letter that the supervisor was “lovely and supportive”, so there really isn’t an issue to be dealt with here. The employer wasn’t even paying for the degree, so the whole thing is a non-issue.

              1. Citra*

                Yes. And just as her personal relationships are none of her ex-supervisor’s business, her ex-supervisor’s personal opinions and why she chose the college she chose are actually–surprise!–none of OP’s business.

                Especially since the supervisor never made a single unpleasant comment and was only ever lovely and supportive to the OP. Maybe OP should extend the same courtesy to others, to live their lives without being judged or speculated about, as OP receives herself.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Well, she was lovely and supportive to the OP, but also didn’t know salient facts about the OP that might have changed that — and I see a large difference between “I what to know this thing about my coworker because I am curious / nosy” and “I would like to know the odds that if my personal life came out, this lovely and supportive person would rapidly cease to be both.”

                2. Appletini*

                  Consider what LW risks if she comes out to her boss and the formerly “lovely and supportive” person turns judgmental and hostile, vs what the LW could possibly do to her boss. It’s literally everything vs nothing. LGBTQ people have good reason to be wary of those who willingly ally themselves with organizations which preach that we shouldn’t exist, and that’s in no way equivalent to the bigotry such organizations promulgate.

                3. Weeta*

                  The replies to this are essentially saying we are allowed to disapprove of the former supervisor’s life choices, but the supervisor doesn’t have that same rights to disapprove the writer. Consider the following. Homosexuality and adultery are illegal crimes in my home country. A person can be put in jail or worse for such crimes of morality. My husband and I both work for large multi-national companies that do a big show of having pride months and things of that nature. However we must be very careful not to affirm these activities especially on social media. Because when we return to our home country it can have some consequences for us if someone sees it and reports it. I would be very uncomfortable to associate with a person who does this but if it was at my job I couldn’t show that. So best for them not to talk about it but the supervisor actually did nothing wrong. She might just be practicing her religious beliefs or like going to the university.

                4. Appletini*

                  Weeta: the boss’s life choices might end up having a massive impact on the LW, depending on what she believes and how she chooses to act on it, but the LW’s personal life can have no impact on the boss beyond how the boss chooses to feel about it, so yeah, these are not the same kind of judgment.

        2. EchoGirl*

          I feel like it’s one thing if it’s past-tense — people’s beliefs do change over time, and particularly if it was right out of high school, there’s the possibility that the “choice” was forced by a parent or something. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be leery, but I’d probably try to give a little more benefit of the doubt. (This was actually discussed on this site fairly recently, that choosing a certain college is often a really complex thing.)

          Current or very recent student, though, would be much harder, especially if it’s a “non-traditional” student situation where parental force is unlikely to be a factor.

        3. All the sides*

          Indefensible meaning you’re unable to think of any empathetic reason why someone would end up in that position?
          (I’d never ever attend Liberty, personally, but I’m well aware of my personal situation and the privileges in my life).

          1. Giant Kitty*

            Indefensible as in there is literally no excuse that justifies ignoring the colleges blatant homophobia & transphobia of favor of whatever convenience it might give one to get an education there- period full stop end of story.

            By going there, one is tacitly supporting those beliefs, even if one does not personally agree with them.

    2. Pipe Organ Guy*

      Something I wonder about: what is Liberty’s accreditation? The institution’s accreditation can affect the value of degrees earned through that institution.

      1. insert pun here*

        They’ve been fully accredited since 1980. The regional accrediting body for VA is SACSCOC and you can verify on their website (not posting the link so I don’t get stuck in moderation, but easily googleable.)

        1. Echo*

          I’d also add that in my experience, SACS-COC is pretty much the most rigorous accreditor out there. I don’t condone Liberty or what they do, but their accreditation is not in question.

        2. Clisby*

          Yeah, that’s why I’m not at all surprised the GI Bill would pay for it. I cannot imagine the military wants to get into vetting the opinions advocated by college leaders. It’s accredited? OK, we pay for it.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      If you’re a manager, and therefore holding other people’s livelihoods and their comfort at work in your hands – I don’t think you get to look the other way and ignore it.

  11. Aggretsuko*

    I was in a poly relationship in college and man, did it ever confuse and upset most people. It breaks people’s brains to not do monogamy (or monogamy + cheating). Seriously would not come out as having two relationships unless I lived in SF/somewhere SUPER hippie. No judging there!

    1. Nina*

      I suspect I’ve been relatively lucky with the circles I move in – about half of all my friends are some flavor of queer, and in my workplace (STEM, prestigious, cutting-edge, skews very young) there are two people I can think of who are openly poly and it’s just… not an issue. ‘Xavier has a girlfriend and a husband’ oh well okay good for them, is Xavier bringing both of their partners to the Christmas party?

    2. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Or in Albuquerque; I know a few poly people there, ‘jack’ Mormons, who somehow fail to mention just how closely that nice cousin is actually related. The Census is full of such casual households.

  12. Dana*

    I’m sorry that LW #1 has experienced discrimination. I think it is worth noting that because of its extremely large and inexpensive online program, many individuals choose Liberty without a full acceptance of the political stances that Jerry Jr holds. So, assuming that all Liberty graduates are bigoted and would be discriminatory and is a bit of a leap. I deeply respect the author’s decision not to take the risk, but I believe it is worth acknowledging that they are painting tens of thousands of graduates with a very broad brush.

    1. Roland*

      What assumptions has LW made? Who have they painted with any brushes? Feels like you’re reacting to something that isn’t there.

      1. Dana*

        I was speaking of the assumption that they needed to presume they would be viewed negatively by a Liberty graduate because they are a Liberty graduate. Many Liberty graduates may view them negatively – but many may not. Many people choose Liberty because they were a trailblazer in the arena of online education and don’t realize the connotations of their political reputation.

        1. Roland*

          OP explicitly said they didn’t know the manager’s opinions, only that it was a risk they are not interested in taking.

        2. Flames*

          Maybe, but I would be very hesitant to reveal that I’m gay to someone who attends Liberty. I don’t know if that person is attending for the “trailblazing online education” or if they happen to agree with the schools philosophy. Once you share something like that, you can’t take it back. Caution is warranted. So you take a calculated risk. Queer people, trans people, poly people have to make these decisions about coming out or not all the time. We are scared because of the world we live in, because of anti gay and anti queer violence at the hands of white Christian supremacy. So until I have more info to go on, I will indeed assume someone associated with Liberty is not a safe person.

        3. Observer*

          I have to say that they are not THAT much of a trail blazer. You want a real trailblazer? Empire State College, which is part of the SUNY system. I’m talking over 20 years ago. They started on-line learning before it was a “thing” and before the web was easily available to most people. In fact, when I started with them, a lot of their on-line classes were on line on their proprietary system because the software to handle classes on the web (even on their own hosted servers) was relatively new.

          If I recall correctly Thomas Edison State was also on-line by then.

          (Bot colleges are accredited. I wasn’t touching something that wasn’t.)

        4. Emmy Noether*

          The unfortunate reality is that coming out to anybody is a gamble, so any information about the person can push the odds in one direction or the other. Are the odds 100% that someone attending a bigoted university will react negatively? No. But even if the odds were, say, 60%, and this person can majorly screw up one’s life, that makes it a very risky idea to come out (and really, it’s a fair personal decision to consider any odds over 0% too much risk, and it’s never 0).

        5. Unimpressed*

          That lack of awareness is problematic in its own right. I’d be very concerned about anyone who chose a school without at least checking out their reputation, and anyone who researches even the bare minimum about Liberty is going to realise how bigoted and awful they are.

        6. Well...*

          Being a trailblazer in online education isn’t necessarily a great thing. I get that online colleges speak to the dream of increasing accessibility, but the reality is often closer to offering more people a very subpar product for an unfair price.

          1. Observer*

            Not true. Yes, there are some shady places, but plenty of them are not on line.

            On the other hand, the fact that Empire State was on-line is what made it possible for me to get my degree. As I said, it is part of the SUNY system, and has all the same accreditations as all of the other schools in the system.

    2. Dinwar*

      They may have been hiding their views for fear of reprisal. I’m reasonably certain we can find other examples of such behavior….

      Liberty University has roughly 50,000 people in their graduating class this year. OF COURSE this will include a large number of people who aren’t bigots and almost certainly includes homosexuals, poly individuals, bisexuals, asexuals, and a host of other groups; the Law of Large Numbers more or less demands this be the case. And the LW’s only line of evidence for the manager being problematic (including in the original letter) is that they went to this online university when they had, in the LW’s estimation, other options. This line of reasoning is fallacious.

      Obviously this doesn’t oblige the LW to say anything they aren’t comfortable saying. Quite obviously they are under no obligation to reveal anything about their personal lives that doesn’t directly impact the job, and who you are in a romantic relationship with doesn’t rise to that level. Equally obviously the manager has no right to that information, outside of what’s necessary to fill out any insurance paperwork (one of the many ways poly relationships are criminalized, but it’s not the manager’s fault).

      1. brosephina*

        It’s…really not fallacious. OP didn’t say with any certainty that their manager is a bigot, only that her enrollment at Liberty raises the risks beyond what OP finds acceptable–and that’s true. There is a higher concetration of LGBT-phobic students at Liberty than at, say, Cal State Pomona. There are of course almost certainly queer students among Liberty’s enrollment, but that doesn’t mean that the university itself isn’t a sign of risk for homophobia.

        1. Not at Liberty to Say*

          I don’t take issue with OP’s distrust or discomfort. Those are logical and reasonable self preservation tactics. What I take issue with is OP’s suggestion that their manager owed the entire staff a proactive explanation/disclaimer about her choice to get a graduate degree from Liberty.

          I’m the parent of a queer teenager, and I was *super* concerned when I learned that their new (at the time) therapist had an undergrad degree from Liberty. But I trusted the practice and their management, having worked with them before, and as it turns out, this therapist has been an absolute dream. I still have questions (mostly out of curiosity), but I also understand I have no right to expect or demand answers to them, and that raising them might have a negative impact on my kid’s therapy, so I keep them to myself.

          I did debate whether to tell my kiddo about it, but decided to wait and see. If it seemed like things were dicey in terms of the therapist’s approach to her treatment, I might have brought it up. But given how great she’s been, I don’t see the need.

        2. Dinwar*

          “OP didn’t say with any certainty that their manager is a bigot, only that her enrollment at Liberty raises the risks beyond what OP finds acceptable–and that’s true.”

          The risks are based on nothing but “Manager attended a university that holds X views and I think they have better options.” They have no other data, are ignoring the huge number of people that go there (and the necessary implications of that with regard to the views of the students), and are ignoring the evidence presented by the manager’s actions. They are literally accusing the manager of bigotry based on the actions of other people.

          It certainly is a fallacy–overgeneralization. It’s also incredibly sloppy thinking, and the sort of divisive all-or-nothing prioritization of ideological purity that’s ripping our country apart.

          “There is a higher concetration of LGBT-phobic students at Liberty than at, say, Cal State Pomona.”

          And therefore we are allowed to treat all Liberty students–without corroborating evidence–as LGBT-phobic. Do you see how that’s problematic?

          For my part I’m an individualist. I base my assessments of a person on their actions. Until someone acts like a bigot–and to be clear, attending a popular online university with some problematic views DOES NOT qualify, there are ample reasons in this thread to demonstrate why someone would attend even if they disagreed with it–I don’t accuse them of bigotry. If you’re willing to assign collective guilt based on an absolute minimum of data…..well, I don’t see you as a whole lot different from the worst aspects of Liberty University.

          1. Appletini*

            I don’t see you as a whole lot different from the worst aspects of Liberty University.

            Get back to us with that false equivalence when queer people start going around shooting people. Protecting oneself as a queer person can quite literally be a matter of life and death.

          2. squid*

            Okay but… being queer is constantly having to calculate the risks of who you tell and when, because you can get fired (or worse) for sharing. It’s only ever truly safe to tell people who you are 100% sure are allies and being an ally isn’t something that you get passively just by “not being a bigot”. Being an ally is not the default state. It’s an action you have to take. Staying silent on something like this is its own form of violence and is one of oppression’s many tools.

            It doesn’t mean necessarily that you need to always include the ‘I don’t agree with their views’ caveat, but if you have something you engage with that is associated with bigotry, you have to actively do at least something if you want to be seen as an ally. Put pronouns in your email signature, put a pride sticker somewhere, make a supportive comment about something, or otherwise flag that you are a safe person to people. If you don’t do that, you don’t get to be upset when people don’t know that you are safe, because safe is not the default.

            Trust is something people have to earn and it takes an active effort to do so. It’s not something people are entitled to.

    3. Well...*

      Some of the M&M’s in this bowl are poisonous, but assuming that ALL the M&M’s are poisonous is a big leap! You shouldn’t just not eat any M&M’s in the bowl just because you know one or two are poisonous! I respect your decision not to eat the M&M’s, but I also feel we should point out that it’s painting with a broad brush.

    4. Clisby*

      Jerry Jr. has been gone from Liberty for more than 2 years (and was gone at the time of the original letter).

    5. Giant Kitty*

      I honestly don’t give a fart in the wind if some people have a sad that CHOOSING to go to a university that is famous for its blatant LGBTQIA stance may cause them to be painted with the same bigotry brush or may cause marginalized people to be wary of them. I could not possibly care less if it hurts their poor wittle fee fees that lying down with dogs has people assuming they also have fleas. What an absolutely mindless display of their privilege it is to feel that people should simply assume the best of them.

    6. Giant Kitty*

      I’m going to assume that anyone going to Liberty is AT BEST ok with overlooking their hideously bigoted views as long as it benefits them to do so…and that’s not a person I am EVER going to trust.

  13. Jam Today*

    “learn to do everything your partner does because divisions of labor emerge subtly over the years and one day one of you will have to do it all.”

    Whoooo, that one went straight to the heart. That is profound, and real, and sad. I’m sorry for what you and your spouse are experiencing, that must be very hard. I’m glad for both of you that you are able to be there so wholly.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, I feel this one. Whenever my spouse or I are sick the other has to fill in, and it just reminds you how much the other person does. My spouse is ten years older than I am, so is most likely to go first, which is a sobering thought. Enjoy your time together, folks.

    2. Lizzo*

      Yep, as the eldest child of a (fairly newly) widowed parent, this is a hard and truthful punch to the gut. I’m thankful that my surviving parent is smart, capable and determined, and is adjusting well, but it’s still a hard transition.

    3. Tangential Tangerine*

      My father is going through this right now — Mom just passed and she handled every single bit of the the household finance and administration tasks. He’s really struggling to catch up, at the worst possible time.

      1. Lizzo*

        I am so sorry for you (and his) loss. I hope that he can get things wrangled soon, and that he’s open to accepting help if/when it’s needed. In some ways that part of it can be more challenging than the actual tasks that need doing.

    4. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Doing that one know. Though I’ve gotten really strong…good thing I used to be a nurse’s aide in college, I still know all the safe lifting techniques.

  14. unpopular opinion*

    Removed because this is off-topic. The letter-writer didn’t say that being poly is or isn’t queer-adjacent. They said that poly people deal with discrimination and coming out is fraught. There’s no reason to debate the former here. – Alison

  15. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*


    You are not a coward. I have the good fortune to be able/safe to be out as both bi and poly, and I’m still not sure whether it cost me the chance of turning a temp assignment into a permanent job.

    We shouldn’t have to make those calculations of safety (physical, social, and/or financial) when deciding whether to tell people about being LGBTQ+ and/or polyamorous — but it being potentially risky isn’t your fault, it’s the fault of the people who teach bigotry and the ones who can’t handle other people doing things they can’t imagine wanting for themselves.

  16. Dr. Rebecca*

    From a fellow poly person: I’m out, but whoooo, buddy, does it take an EPIC amount of Not Caring About Opinions Or Consequences. You did what you needed to do; no judgement there.

  17. on anon for this*

    LW #1: Also poly. Also understand completely your concerns.

    I have heard more horror stories of how people are treated once their poly status comes out. It’s the sort of thing we have to think about all the time, from low-stakes things like “will Aunt Beulah wig out if I bring both my partners to Thanksgiving” to very very high-stakes things like jobs, legal situations, custody issues, etc.

    I got divorced a while back, and everyone – EVERYone – had a capital-O opinion about how “well, this is how that sort of situation always turns out, you know,” even though the divorce had nothing to do with our poly status. Believe me, I did not enjoy getting blameshifted by all my well-meaning friends. And these were the people who were on my side!

    You do what you gotta do to protect yourself and your family. Sending hugs and support!

    1. SereneScientist*

      It’s silly how people jump to the non-monogamy as the primary cause of the divorce considering the divorce rate is in fact primarily driven by monogamous folks!

      1. anon for this*

        This. At first, 10-15 years ago, I couldn’t see how having multiple partners wouldn’t lend itself to a power imbalance. Then I realized that I was assuming, wrongly, that having only one partner doesn’t lend itself to a power imbalance.

  18. An academic*

    That is a great update from the retired professor. One of the professors that’s been in my department the longest is retiring. What they’re calling retirement is that he no longer has to teach or serve on committees, but he still will do research and supervise research students and postdocs. In other words, he’s not actually retiring.

  19. SereneScientist*

    Solidarity and support from a poly queer person. The comparison to queerness, I think, is less important than the acknowledgement that judgment and discrimination of non-monogamy is absolutely real. I have chosen to stay in an major metro area for my own safety and comfort–you are not a coward for prioritizing you and your people’s well-being.

  20. brosephina*

    It’s…really not fallacious. OP didn’t say with any certainty that their manager is a bigot, only that her enrollment at Liberty raises the risks beyond what OP finds acceptable–and that’s true. There is a higher concetration of LGBT-phobic students at Liberty than at, say, Cal State Pomona. There are of course almost certainly queer students among Liberty’s enrollment, but that doesn’t mean that the university itself isn’t a sign of risk for homophobia.

  21. Marlene*

    My son has a degree from Liberty, paid for by the US military. He’s not a biased person at all. He chose Liberty because its program was 100% online, which he needed as a service person. It’s not really your business where people get their degrees.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      There are many, many fully online universities. Someone’s willingness to attend Liberty U. affects my view of them. I’m certainly not alone. If a Liberty grad is unhappy with that, well, that’s the consequence for choosing to get one’s degree with them.

      1. Marlene*

        If you choose to have preconceived notions about a person, that’s on you. Again, not your business.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          It’s not Liberty U’s business who I love, but they’re sure trying to make it theirs. Someone willing to (at the very least) ignore their values and actions in this–then yeah, I’m going to regard them warily. I do not apologize for that.

          1. Marlene*

            And my son shouldn’t have to apologize for choosing the university that best fit his needs as an active service member who lived in three places in four years.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              He doesn’t have to do anything, but he chose to engage and associate with them for four years, earning a degree that he will present to others. His degree tells people things about him; he doesn’t get to choose that all of those things will be positive.

              He made his choices. I make mine.

              1. Anon for this*

                It’s really weird how many posters are taking issue with OP1 choosing to be cautious around someone who chose to attend a college whose official views are odious and dangerous. Of course we know not everyone there believes in it, but it’s certainly a data point–and one that we (queer people, poly people, trans people, etc.) take into account for our safety.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Yes to this.
                  I chose to get my online degree from UC Berkeley, knowing full well what kind of reputation Berkeley has, both in the sciences (they have a whole parking lot *just* for Nobel prize winners) and in their social and political beliefs.
                  I know that some people will judge me as a hippie lefty weirdo for having a degree from Berkeley, even if I only ever spent two weeks on campus. And I am fine with that (it’s not a completely incorrect assumption of my values and beliefs).
                  And if that is a complete deal breaker for someone because they feel unsafe around me, well, I’d be really sad because I would never want anyone to feel unsafe around me, but I also understand and respect that everyone needs to protect themselves.

            2. Green Tea*

              Tens of thousands of dollars went to Liberty as a direct result of your son’s decision. Your son may not have had bad intent; that university may have been the most convenient for him for reasons that have nothing to do with his beliefs. And you may feel defensive of your son because you love him and don’t want people to judge him – fair enough, of course that is where your loyalty is.

              But he’s not my son. And the impact of his decision was still that tens of thousands of dollars went to a radically conservative, hate-mongering university. People can and will judge your son for making that decision.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      There are a LOT of universities with fully online programs that cater to the military, and few of them openly support bigotry the way Liberty does. This doesn’t make your son a horrible person or a bigot, but it means that the bigotry of Liberty — supported by his tuition — wasn’t a dealbreaker. That’s… not great. And someone who doesn’t know him has no way of knowing if he’s fine with open bigotry, or just passively enabling it with his business. Why would they risk their livelihoods taking that chance?

    3. What's My Name Again?*

      Meanwhile, I’ve never even heard of Liberty. If I was looking at online colleges and found this one was accredited and had classes in line with what I wanted to study and was in my budget, I would probably sign up as well. Sorry you are getting jumped on for not riding the bus.

      1. Appletini*

        I’m sure you’re proud of yourself for declaring that you’d go out of your way to fund a bigoted institution.

    4. Lokifan*

      Of course it is. We can’t pretend choosing a famously, foundationally bigoted university doesn’t tell us something about a person. Obviously not every student will choose Liberty BECAUSE it’s bigoted, but they (certainly as a service member, who has other fully online options) are showing they don’t care very much about bigotry.

  22. philmar*

    Aside from their general abhorrent policies and leadership, the absolute dumbest, laziest, most useless, worthless piece of s*** officer I ever served with went to Liberty. I already judged him poorly for having gone to Liberty for undergrad, and he certainly exceeded every expectation I had of someone who would have gone there.

  23. Bananaphone*

    I have a coworker who went to Liberty. After a while I just straight up asked why Liberty as she doesnt seem conservative. Apparently they have EXCELLENT financial aid and since she was remote she didnt have to deal with the conservatism crap.

  24. Out to lunch*

    LW1 just want to reiterate other commenters saying you are not a coward for protecting yourself by staying closeted. You do what you need to protect yourself and don’t apologize for it.

  25. Darkwing Duck*

    #1: While being polyamorous has never caught me any actual hell with work, I live in a place where I have to be pretty quiet about it. My kind thoughts to you and your polycule as you navigate the world where we’re still on the fringes.

  26. Calamity Janine*

    i have to say that’s not where i expected the update to #3 to end up, and i am extremely glad for it.

    it sounds like the LW was able to approach this situation with an incredible amount of grace. it may not have been the closure she wanted or felt she deserved, but it still got her to a much better place, and during that time she was able to build a genuine rapport with her new employee. even though the unexpected and sudden death is tragic, having the grace to go to the funeral and having the connection there that justifies going – those are two remarkable successes.

    bittersweet in the face of events, but still, i think that this shows a remarkable maturity and generosity of spirit. you should be sincerely proud of that, LW3! the true best revenge is a life well lived, and you are living incredibly well.

  27. Anothergloriusmorning*

    FWIW- I had no idea about Liberty University until I saw things posted about here. In fact I had never even heard of it period. Knowing what that stand for now, I would never attend there. But it’s possible she had no idea. Some people don’t research things like that.

    But I suppose it’s equally possible she did agree with their stances.

  28. LU Grad*

    OP 1-I’m glad discontinuing funding source for her education isn’t actionable. That would be a horrible overstep into someone else’s life and goals. They have the right to study wherever they like and fund it with any legal options. That being said, I’m so sorry you have to remain closeted to feel safe in your job but knowing the overall values and beliefs LU holds about being gay, it is totally understandable. I want to think your supervisor doesn’t hold bigoted views but when you don’t know, you have to do what you have to do.

    As a graduate of Liberty University (undergrad), I implore you not to blanket all those who have attended (or currently attend) as bigots and haters of LGBTQ+ community. You are not at all off base that the ultimate message students are given is that anything less than being straight is sinful, but you will also find wonderful, open-minded individuals who don’t share that view. A good portion of their student population has no choice to attend there if they want a college education due to it being the only option family will pay for (like preachers’ kids). Some are just there because they are offered sports scholarships. Others, like myself, went voluntarily for my faith. It was an overall good experience. However, I chose to go to a liberal private college after undergrad because I knew a more well-rounded perspective was needed to work effectively with everyone. It was the right decision as it allowed me to learn and grow from people of all backgrounds and life situations. I say all this in hopes you will know their are rebels within the cause who don’t follow “the Liberty Way” (our code of conduct) mindset 100%. Peace and Love to you

  29. New Jack Karyn*

    It may have been a good experience for you. How do you think it was for any queer students who, as you say, were forced/pressured into going there by family? Maybe you’re fine with saying that my rights are less important than your wallet, but at least recognize that this is what you are doing.

Comments are closed.