Opening up to colleagues

Psychologist's comment. LGBT personal experience
Maria Naymushina
a psychologist of LGBT-group "Raduzhny mir"
Whether to open up to colleagues, depends on what are these colleagues. The reaction may be different. Imagine a conversation between the women at work. One: "I went there with my man...". Another: "And mine invited me to the theater ..." Then a third one enters the conversation: "And I am with my girl..." What then? Sometimes the conversation closes down. And sometimes it goes on if there is someone who is willing to support: "Oh, how did you meet? Do you live together?" It's easier when the team has just been formed and the rules are still established in this team. It is significantly more difficult when all norms and rules are defined long time ago, and the team is practically not updated.

If you are already working with these people, you probably have some idea of their attitude to the LGBT agenda. Try to remember how they reacted, for example, to Conchita Wurst's victory at Eurovision or to other news related to LGBT subject. These reactions are very indicative, and the observation is absolutely safe.

If the interest is strong and you feel that fear is retreating, try to develop some of the subjects emerged at work or initiate the subject yourself. The year 2018, for example, is rich in films that are screened and relate to homosexuality: "Colette", "The Favorite", "Bohemian Rhapsody". In 2019 such films will be no less.

Also listen to how your colleagues say, react and respond in conversations about their disobedient children who do not want to be "like everyone else" or even deny "traditional family and marriage." This can also be very informative.

If it turns out that the reaction is distinctly negative, it is worth weighing: are you ready to hide your orientation and worry that everyone will know sooner or later? If not, are you ready to work in an environment that does not accept a significant part of your life, and perhaps regularly listen to sexist and homophobic jokes from your colleagues? I think this is not the best place for finding inner harmony and accepting yourself. Of course, there are risks and advantages in any decision. Try listing and matching them all. Follow what will be more weighty, arm with possible external support and bear in mind the importance of self-support.

In Russia there are definitely teams in which the attitude to the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation is absolutely normal. There are employers whose internal ethical codes include a clause about mutual respect of sexual orientation and the right to privacy, whatever it may be. There are businesses established by LGBT people where the atmosphere is friendly, where sexual orientation and gender identity are of no importance. But it is important to understand that there are few such organizations. For example, if you work in civil service or with children this cuts off any possibility of openness.

In the context of this subject I would like to pay a special attention to transgender people. If sexuality is a part of life that is somehow hidden, then gender identity is who you are. Hiding it from yourself and from others is much more difficult. At the same time any manifestation of gender identity is not at all the same as sexuality. For example, I am an engineer in a big design bureau. I am a man per my passport, but I feel like I am a woman. And then one day I come to work with makeup, in a dress and heels. The acuteness of the problem will be felt immediately! In the best case they will not recognize me and will not let me through the checkpoint, in the worst case - it will be difficult to return at all to this work.

In case of transgenderness the question of whether or not to talk about yourself is often not put. If a person changes documents, brings a new passport to the HR Department, you can only imagine the range of reactions from employees. Or, for example, I have documents for Maria, and I come to obtain employment and look like a man. I am refused immediately. In the labor sphere, the level of discrimination against transgender people is incredibly high.

At the same time it is important to say that there are cases of passing a commission establishing "sexual reorientation" when the transperson does not loose his work. Of course, these are more exceptions, but still there are the people who have overcome the system.
Of course, I did not find a job. In the hardware store I was told from the doorway that they had no vacancies, although an announcement about seller positions was hanging on the door. I was after all given an applicant questionnaire, but before I could leave I heard a whisper behind my back: "He looks like a fag".

At the grocery store the directress asked why I did not serve in the army, why I was not married, why I did not even have a civil marriage with a woman: "So, the problems with orientation?". I replied that this was not her business. Of course, I was not called back.
Dima, Russia, North Caucasus
At some places of work I had no idea what to tell about this to my colleagues, in other places to the question "Are you a gay?" I simply answered "Yes". The situation relates to the cities of my residence. The first case was in my hometown, the second one was suitable only for Moscow.
Alexander, Russia - Latvia
After accepting myself I never concealed my orientation. This was known wherever I worked and I was treated okay. At one job I was once asked: "You speak so much about LGBT, are you a lesbian?". I answered: "Yes." This caused a slight shock, but I did not feel any homophobia; all employees accepted the information adequately.

At another job the colleagues once directly introduced me to a new employee: "And this is Lena, she is a lesbian." The girl said that this was "cool", she did not make an emphasis on this.

Recently I came out at a new job. There are nine people in my department, and only one girl was very surprised, scared and asked: "Are you going to pester me?" I said: "No, I am not interested in you", and she asked a question: "And why?".
Helena, Kazakhstan
At my current place of work I didn't have to come out. It so happened that they already knew about me. This is normal here, I feel no awkwardness neither in myself, nor in colleagues. We joke about different sexualities, sometimes rudely, but we also joke about a million of other subjects. My boyfriend works there too. So, there is an ideal picture like in American serials: an expanded norm, we are all different, but we are doing one thing. However, our team is a small with informal relationships. I have an exceptional situation, and it is difficult to me to give an advise. If you have a work where your colleagues are like-minded people, then most probably you will have no problems. They will get to know about you in anyway, but they will react to this normally.
Mikhail, Russia
Text: Vladimir Sokolov, Mikhail Danilovich, Anastasia Sechina. Translation into English: Irina Galina.