Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coming Out at the Work Place

This post is meant to be read as a piece of fiction. Honestly, I have to confess that I really can’t afford to step on anyone’s toes, knowing that matters such as these are of a highly volatile nature. Any resemblance to a real incident might have only worked its way into this text at my subconscious level. After all, I’m sure you’d agree that it’s impossible to write bereft of any experience.
Those of you who work in a corporate set up would have definitely been subjected to experiences when your managers brag about their wives and children. You can’t fail to notice that twinkle in their eyes, the swell in their chests and the raised chins. Not forgetting the zillion times they make the ‘wives at home’ vis-a-vis the ‘manager in the office’ comparison during meetings and their pep talks! But if you’re a guy and you dare mention your boyfriend, immediately their faces contort into grotesque sneers. Often, over training sessions new entrants at my work place inevitably inquire whether I'm married and I reveal that I'm not, but would definitely like to get married to my boyfriend sooner or later (though, I must admit, I still haven't broached this topic with my boyfriend yet nor do I know how he'd react.)

On a lighter note, going out with some chums for a sutta break or chai can be a lot of fun! There are those guys who can’t resist telling you how ‘ripe’ and breathtakingly ravishing a particular woman in the office is. Apparently, the woman’s scent or her gait almost makes them wet, sorry, melt in their pants. I often wondered how they could possibly feel that way, until I happened to point out to them a guy who had sturdy thighs and a delicious chest chair! 
Knowing my temperament, I usually like to have a book beside me at all times. There are times when I have to wait for ten long minutes or more for my computer to reboot and I have a paroxysm of guilt that I’m wasting time, doing nothing. These guilt trips concerning time wastage only heightened after watching Andrew Niccol’s In Time, where the protagonist’s mother died only because she fell short by a few seconds of time, which meant life in her case. One day, it so happened that the book on my desk caught somebody’s attention. Little did I realize that a title such as Undoing Gender would ruffle anyone’s feathers. So I was discreetly advised not to get a book which had a title (like the word “gender”) that makes a political statement. I was somehow given to understand that if I sported the book with a contentious title, I was advocating gender ambiguity. And ironically, it seemed perfectly alright when the same person had a gender related discussion with someone of the other gender. So much for undoing gender! These little exchanges might seem rather trivial and mundane. But they also reflect how constricting our language and interactions are on a daily basis. Anything that upsets this forced internalized normalcy is often met with violence or is subtly ostracized if not penalized.

Image taken: Times of India
At least at the workplace, after being out to my colleagues, I assumed that things would be rather smooth! Yet, I was sadly mistaken. Of late, I’ve had to share my cab with a particular homophobe. {Perhaps he isn’t a homophobe, but he merely dislikes my straight hair.} And to make things worse, he’s got a certain designation which has not only put me on the not so sunny side of things but has also earned me a cab full of others who share the same feeling as the Daddy Bully Homophobe. {I hope I’m not pushing it too far in painting myself as a victim of sexual discrimination.} Initially I took it in my stride that I cannot expect everyone to like me. I tried to overlook their not wanting me to sit beside them and their smirks. However, now I’m honestly beginning to feel scared. I am uncomfortable that they know the place where I live. Their cumulative acts of arrogance and bravado behind a facade of normality unsettle me. This has upset me so much that at present I have five ulcers in my mouth, something that happens only when I’m agitated (and I have never had more than two). Perhaps, I’m worrying too much and compounding my own fears. I know at this point in time, I have to put an end to this. And I will have to stand up for myself. My first step is to admit that it’s happened to me and it’s real. That’s why I have written this post as well. And I know what I have to do next. Speak out to them (and as simple as it might sound, I pray that when the moment arrives I would be able to.)

I have to make sense of this; I know this is certainly not right. That these acts of intolerance might only increase in frequency, if I don’t find a healthy way to survive this ordeal. Yet, I’m also sure I would get passed this. Perhaps I have to find newer ways of relating to these people. I refuse to admit defeat in this little battle of misunderstanding and ignorance. I believe that under the veneer of toughness, there’s also kindness that we all share. And that’s one thing which gives me a lot of hope. 

(I hope you did not let your emotions get carried away; this is certainly not a cry for sympathy nor is it an attempt to assassinate anyone’s character, living or dead. As I said in the disclaimer, you have to read this as a piece of fiction.)


  1. Dearest Andy, Thanks for thought provoking post :-)

    Well, I am an artist and my work place is not limited to just my studio but the world outside and trust me I am tired of telling me people what inspires me. I remember when I was a closeted homophobic lad in my early 20s (yes I feel every closeted soul is homophobic) a friend's curious husband asked me 'so you have never thought of painting women nudes?' I said 'no' and I felt sorry for him. Then nearly 20 years later, 2 weeks back I went for a Jazz night in Goa, perfect social setting for an artist to hang out once in a while, who is now OUT like a bright sun without an animated smile (no i did not flaunt my 6 packs, ouch did I just disclosed my hotness?), three gorgeous women sitting in one corner invited me to join them, two of then I knew well, the third one was curious, the moment I popped my Ultra Slim and Ultra mind Cigarets, the curious screamed 'oh you smoke girly cigarets?' I rolled my eyes (though I wanted to tell her I prefer cigars but I can find any around - metaphorically speaking;-), I lit my cigaret with my pink lighter and smiled. Next curious question artists hate most 'so what inspires you?' I roll my eyes again but curiosity is dying and pukes her comment 'Women?' I said 'men'. Trust me that was not just the end of the curious conversation but I never saw that curiosity the entire evening.

    Dear readers, this comment is not fictional but an autobiography of an artist who's inspired by a good Cigar :-)

  2. Alok, thanks for sharing your experience. It was a perfect response to a not so naive question. I wouldn’t agree with you entirely that “every” closeted soul is homophobic. In some instances, (I can immediately think of a few people) there are people who are closeted, and yet they are doing such wonderful work in terms of awareness, activism and academic pursuits. And somehow they feel that things are working out pretty well for them that way. They know that given their conditions life would be a living hell if they came out. So, in their case, the closet empowers them to do things with ease, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

    1. Andy, my apologies for my ignorance, I completely agree with you on - for some its better being in the closet. I guess reflecting upon my own past and now living life out of the closet evokes strong emotions towards every single person who's trapped and some times I feel little bit of pain and misery is good to remove that thorn out of your skin and be free forever and I imagine every guy/girl to be OUT. I have not done this with any friend so far but I know one day I am going to created a situation for someone and get them out of the closet and at the same time give them all the support they need to deal with that jolt, and this I am saying out of my personal experience. I too was blackmailed by someone and I thought I had only two choices left in life, live or die and I decided to live and FCUK!!! life's never been so wonderful that I still some times thank that person who blackmailed me - you know what I mean? I don't know I strongly feel, everyone deserves to live as freely as possible.

    2. Thanks Alok for sharing your thoughts. I believe that we need to have a constant engagement with others through our lives and work. Despite how our personal experiences have shaped us, we are in a privileged position to relate with others the dis/comfort of life outside the closet and change minds. Everyone deserves to live freely as freely as possible, but it’s even beautiful when they live freely on their terms, not ours. What we could do is serve as catalysts for others who need to be out for their good. Yet, eventually, they should take the final call.

  3. Hey Andy...... this is indeed a wonderful post and very well written! I believe empathy and understanding come as we evolve as people. For now, lets just say that they perhaps exist in isolation. But, not very far from today, it will be possible for all of us to understand and accept people for the way they are and go about life. I respect your courage and ability to be able to stand up for what you are, which seems impossible for me to do.
    Thank you so much for your comments on my space. Feels very good. Lots of love. Josh

  4. Hey Josh, thanks so much for your feedback. I appreciate it. Bridging the gaps to facilitate understanding and acceptance would take time, and the onus for that is upon us. Coming to the aspect of courage, all of us are situated and function within our own trajectories of growth and awareness. Given my life’s experiences, I respond in a particular way. And you also have responded to your life’s situation in a unique way. I really admire and have already spoken about your blog to a number of my friends. This act of writing and the clarity you gain within you will only heighten the way you respond to life’s experiences. I’m already waiting for your next post! :)

    For those of you want to read Josh Kenway’s blog