Navigating the chat in offices and other workplaces when you’re LGBT+ is the topic on Episode 5 of the ‘Fresh Tea’ podcast, with a contribution from us…
Suddenly you feel you’ve been put on the spot, and you don’t know how to react.
Those heart-in-the-mouth moments are particularly unsettling when they happen in a professional setting, and for LGBT+ people, they are often fraught with difficulty.
Our sensitivities are heightened in environments or situations where we don’t feel totally welcome, and when employment prospects and careers are in our thoughts too, it’s added pressure on our confidence and mental health.
In Episode 5 of ‘A Breath of Fresh Tea’ – the new podcast exploring gay life, love, experiences, and LGBT+ issues – the topic of coming ‘out out’ at work is discussed by episode host Leon Williams and his fellow podders Martyn Richards, Ollie Rabie, and Jay Lemonius.
The guys each reflect on their previous jobs in which they’ve felt pangs of discomfort – or worse – caused by a casual comment, a behaviour, a question or statement. What happened next? Read on below for excerpts, and listen to the podcast in full to get all the tea…
Sports Media LGBT+ also contributes to this episode, with our network lead Jon Holmes chatting to Leon (from 38:30) about his own difficult coming-out process, workplace experiences, and his thoughts on how sport and the sports media industry is shifting on inclusion.
Jon answers a few additional questions posed by the ABOFT team – the two videos below are relevant to that part of the conversation!
If you’d like to share your own coming out at work experiences, you can get in touch with Sports Media LGBT+ here, or drop a note in confidence to the ‘Breath of Fresh Tea’ boys via their CuriousCat, email, or a Twitter DM.
So what memories do Dr Ollie, Jay, Martyn and Leon have of being made to feel uncomfortable at work? Here’s a flavour of what they said…
“Initially, I wasn’t that comfortable with telling people at work that I was gay. I remember one of my first jobs, I was a junior doctor on a surgical ward. The consultant surgeon in my feedback at the end, was like ‘oh you seem very caring for the patients… are you one of those liberals who likes to sleep with whoever you want?’ I thought that was weird.
“There’s still an inherent, old-school mentality which is being weeded out in the NHS, in terms of inclusivity, and that’s for lots of things, not just sexuality. However, they are trying to improve things… I’m now much more comfortable and it’s nicer to not have to be secretive about it.”
“I’ve been quite lucky with my last three jobs. Even though I’ve been predominantly working in the sports industry, one of my jobs was working for an LGBT+ charity so you almost had to come out if you weren’t! That was a unique and incredible experience, just to be at an organisation with loads of LGBT+ people.
“One of my first jobs was as a fitness instructor, at a flagship gym. I was interacting with gay people on a regular basis, and felt a little bit empowered by that, if not scared. One of my colleagues at the time, who was a similar age to me, was very religious. I remember sitting in the office once and he actively spoke about how awkward it was to be gay. He was homophobic to a lot of gay people who attended the gym. I thought I was in a safe space but it put me two steps back. I hope that guy’s views have become more enlightened now.”
“I was an estate agent for quite a long time. One of my experiences was with my manager. We both went on an instruction for a new property. We felt good about it afterwards but she told me she thought I sounded too overfamiliar with the landlord. I said, ‘what do you mean?’ She replied, ‘maybe you being gay and being overfamiliar might have put them off’. I was like ‘OK…’ However, my mortgage advisor, who’s a lesbian, was there and said ‘what the fuck have I just heard?’ I didn’t have to say anything else. My boss and her had this head-to-head that was brutal – and fantastic to watch. She said, ‘if someone’s going to say that about one of your colleagues, we don’t need that listing, they can fuck off’. My boss said ‘it was just my thoughts really’.
“The next day, that instruction came to us and they said ‘we really like you both and can’t wait to work with you’. My boss didn’t apologise. I left the company a couple of months later. I wish I’d stood up for myself more but I was only out to a few people then.”
“While I was at uni, I was working in a bar, and loads of other people from uni worked there too. The boss found out [that I was gay]. He was already pretty homophobic with some of the things he used to say – ‘that’s gay, that’s disgusting, blah blah blah’. I was just wanting to earn some cash, I didn’t want to deal with all this on the side. When he learned I was gay, he became more vocal – not directed at me but overtones, and things he’d say out loud. I had a bit of a temper during those times – I was 21, 22 – through not knowing who I was. I got more confident and would defend myself, and I did end up quitting that job.
“After uni, I got my first proper job in the City. A couple of people knew I was gay but when this one guy found out, he said to me ‘I hear you’ve got a special friend’ – it was delivered in such a negative way. I was on a temporary contract so again, you’re fearing for your job – you just want to earn money, and I didn’t feel I was in any position of power. The next job I went to was fantastic, though. This was around 2012. I was able to challenge stereotypes just by being myself – that whole ‘you like football, how can you be gay?’ thing. My colleagues would come to me for advice, and a couple said ‘if my kid was gay, I can see now that’s not a negative thing, just by being around you’. I didn’t really understand the impact of that at the time.”
You can also email the guys at email@example.com …