Coming Out At Work?

I got a start date for my job at [well-known UK bank.] July 17th. In just three weeks, I will be an Actual Real Person with a Real Proper Job. Woohoo, go me, boo no more uni, etc. etc.

Anyway. You know the big question that’s bothering me? It’s not ‘will I like my colleagues?’ or ‘can I actually live on £13750 a year?’ or ‘have I lost my knack in the three years since I last worked in a bank?’ Nope, nope and nope. It’s ‘should I let on at work that I’m a huge weirdo?’

I’ve been deeply closeted at my part-time job over the last couple years, because I was working with children and for a very religious family. That was easy enough… it was only a few hours a week, and I always knew it was an extremely temporary situation. I just never mentioned it. If the subject of ‘my boyfriend’ ever came up in conversation, I’d talk about A., and then after we split up I’d talk about Nomad. Simple. But this is different – it’s a full-time job, not permanent but certainly for the foreseeable future.

In principal, I want to be out at work. I want to be out everywhere. I believe in this both philosophically (the more out we are, the more visible we are, and that’s awesome) and practically (the more out I am, the less I have to hide, and that’s a huge weight off my shoulders.) In practice, though… it isn’t quite so simple.

I want to be able to talk about my family. My partner, my metamour. Other partners, as and when I have them. I mean, everyone else talks about their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, why should I not do the same?

Because there’s a very real danger that an innocent mention of ‘my boyfriend’s other girlfriend’ or something would cause everyone to think I was forcing my deviance onto them.

Polyamory is not a legally protected status. On the other hand, no-one – to the best of my knowledge – has ever been fired in this country for being openly poly. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – I would be very intruiged to see the resulting lawsuit from someone getting fired for their relationship practices, and I think it would be exceptionally telling as to how far we’ve come as a movement and how progressive this country actually is, and I do NOT want to be the poster child for this. On the other other hand, if someone disapproves enough, they can find a reason to get rid of you.

Hiding it feels safer. Except when it doesn’t. When I wasn’t out, and even now in the rare situations where I can’t be, I’m terrified of slipping up and giving something away, of not covering my tracks effectively enough. What if they find out? At worst, they’ll think I’m an evil sinful slut… at best, they’ll think I’m just a liar. Better to be honest upfront…. no? Or maybe better to NOT be honest, and just hide it really, really well?

Gahhh, I have no idea! This job isn’t exactly my dream career, but it’s going to keep a roof over my head and help me pay my way through graduate school.

Where do you stand on this, my dear readers? Are you ‘out’ at work? Why or why not? If yes, how did you approach the topic? If no, how stressful is it to hide?

Thoughts, please!

46 thoughts on “Coming Out At Work?

  1. Anja says:

    First, congrats on the job:)
    Coming out at work is delicate topic I’d say. Of course they can’t fire you for being poly but you should definitely consider that there are a thousand ways they can make your life at work a living hell (especially considering that working environments in a bank is still considered as pretty conservative).
    As for myself I was not exactly hiding it but then again I’m not the person that goes around and talks about a lot of private stuff at work. A few selected people know what’s happening in my life but then they’re not just colleagues they also became close friends over time. My advice is to wait hat it’s like at your new job. I think you’ll figure out pretty quickly how everyone is and if they can deal with it. You’re already the newbie there so don’t make it harder for you than it is already. Just wait and see and decide then what’s the best way to go!

  2. D says:

    I had a similar dilemma a few months ago. I figured new town, new job, the perfect time to start coming out as the person I am to people who don’t know me. Therefore I’m completely open about being bi and poly, but I tend to wait until its relevant to a topic rather than feeling that I’m trying to shoehorn it into a conversation. This does mean that those I see in the day to day all know everything about me, while those (mostly superior to me) probably just assume I have the one partner as he tends to be the one I mention most often.

  3. It’s interesting. It would definitely ok for me to be out at my current job. I’m out to one of my bosses anyway, since I met him through the goth scene years ago! He was a friend before I worked for him. But I still don’t tell people about my life. I still don’t talk about being bi etc with work colleagues. I don’t mention going to bicon for instance. Not sure why. I think I’m too embarrassed:/.

    • missamaranth says:

      I know what you mean. Even though I am relatively Out And Loud And Proud, even in circumstances where I can reasonably assume it’d be safe to come out I am still sometimes embarrassed…. =/

  4. B.Minstrel says:

    As much as the activist in me says “Be Out, Be Proud!” I’d say the thing to do would be to at least get a feel for the place, the people and their prejudices first.
    I was semi-out (I tried to be out but people often assumed I was winding them up) at a bank I worked for, but they were very laid back. I am currently very pleased not to have been fully out at my last place where I was about to tell people and then an unrelated incident made me reconsider.

    Be prepared to be out by all means, but there’s no immediate hurry.

    • missamaranth says:

      Exactly – my inner activist is also telling me I must be Out And Proud or I’ll be hurting my own cause….. but sadly when it comes to the job I need to support myself, I can’t afford to put activist politics first.

      Yeah, I think I’ll get a feel of the place and the people, give myself time to make an informed decision. It’s not like I have to announce “hey I’m a queer bisexual kinky polyamorist!” on my first day….

  5. Kerran says:

    Congratulations on the job.:-)

    On the being out at work thing I think my opinions probably a tad invalid since I’m not poly, but in any new job you’re on best behaviour for a while, then you let the people you get on with get to know you a little better. After a while you know which one’s to avoid and which you can freely discuss what you got up to at the weekend with.

    At the end of the day you just need to get a feel for how much of your inner weirdo you can safely let out at work, there are still some of my co-workers who don’t know that I do Larp. (at least people can easily understand why you would want multiple partners, try explaining that you spend the weekend dressed up in a field hitting people with toys swords and talking in silly accents…. )

    • missamaranth says:

      Thank you!

      Yeah, I’m gonna see how it goes…. let them get to know Jess the Person before they get to know Jess the Freak! Then, hopefully, I will be able to come out and they won’t see me as a totally alien weirdo. At least I’ll be able to make an informed decision!

      Heh – I wouldn’t have thought Larp would be a difficult thing to talk about, but I guess people have strange prejudices against all kinds of things, not just people who have weird sex and/or relationships!

      • Anja says:

        Just wondering, is there a difference between Jess the Person and Jess the Freak?:)

      • missamaranth says:

        When I’m being my Real True Self, no…. the uncensored version of me is freaky through and through! Sadly, there’s Work Jess and Real Jess, and never the two shall meet…. (maybe.):)

      • Kerran says:

        To be fair most co-workers have accepted my weird personality traits and hobbies, but in any workplace there are a few fundamentalists. Not necessarily religious ones, but just people who see anything outside their “correct world view” as deeply offensive and/or suspicious. Those are the ones you have to watch out for. I can still remember the time I got a severe talking to from a deputy head for using *sarcasm* in front of the pupils. /headdesk.

  6. Sophia Gubb says:

    Being a very radical person, and very impatient with “human” stuff like having an issue with innocent things like polyamory, I have a happy policy of being out pretty much all the time with everything in my life. This means that I can’t usually have a normal job, but I’d decided beforehand I didn’t want to. That I couldn’t stand any job where I’d be required to censor myself. So I work for myself and always will. In fact I’ve been so public with my quirks on the internet that I probably couldn’t have a normal job if I tried. Eventually it’d get out. And I want it that way. Screw normal jobs, seriously.

    I understand this is a radical viewpoint and a radical way of life, but that’s what feels right to me. I don’t see why I should compromise on my dignity or freedom or desire to live life as I see fit one iota. Maybe if I had to give up say, sex because of a disease, then I would. But giving up talking about my life because people in my organisation are immature? Screw that, I’ll make my own organisation. No self-censorship. Ever.


    • missamaranth says:

      I really wish I could do things that way! Sadly, I just can’t afford to be radical at the moment… I need a Normal Job to keep a roof over my head.

      One day, I plan to work for myself or at least in an environment where my weirdness is embraced(/respected.) Until then, though, I need to be really careful.

    • Nomad says:

      It’s great that you are able to avoid dealing with humans, and are still able to make a living being self-employed. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same luxury. As a new graduate in a seriously depressed economy, I don’t see that Miss Amaranth has the same option… at least for the moment. When she’s a famous published author, certainly! But not right now.

      Of course, some of us do want what you call “normal jobs”, because we want to do things that we couldn’t do otherwise. I work on some of the most advanced scientific experiments in the world. I’ve built a solar powered laser calibration facility in the Argentine pampas; I’ve gone scuba diving in what may be the world’s purest water… underneath a mountain in Japan; I’ve produced temperatures 1000 times colder than outer space and used the cold equipment to hunt for the missing mass of the Universe. Not something I could easily do without what you call a “normal job”. I want to have it all… and I find that it maximizes my options to minimize how much I discuss my personal life at work.

      So, regardless of how “radical” one is, there are still good reasons to consider thoroughly when deciding whether to be out or not. Kudos to Miss Amaranth for bringing up this interesting topic!

      • missamaranth says:

        Well said, Beloved!


        “When she’s a famous published author, certainly!…” <— Aww! I love you! (And I am working on the "famous published author" thing… slowly!)

  7. Tom says:

    My work is split between office and ‘on-site’ work with two separate teams of people, each containing colleagues I spend varying amounts of time and conversation with. Everyone at work thinks I’m “weird” anyway, so that helps a little, but what certainly surprised me was the mixed reaction I received.
    I only ever lightly mentioned my personal arrangements when it was fitting to conversation, no one was completely shocked by it, but I could see the few who silently disapproved (namely the religious). The office staff – both men and women – were very curious and some piled me with questions in a laughing, mock-scandalised way, where as the more ‘blokey’, on-site team merely took the piss at great length (without intending any real harm). From what I have experienced, nobody really minds your own personal relationship ideals, as its your ‘private’ life, and your own choice after all; I wouldn’t however expect people to understand it, as jealousy, mistrust and ‘traditional’ family values are still very present in most ‘ordinary’* people’s lives. *(me being deemed ‘out of the ordinary’ by monogamous couples)

  8. Dragonmamma says:

    I agre wit hmost of the other comments here. Dont go round blabbing all your personal stuff to everyone as soon as you start work because a) you’re the Newbie and that’s hard enough. b) not everyone wants to know abou your personal life anyway and c) you dont know who the awkward/mouthy/catty/restrictive ones are.
    Feel them out gradually and see who you can trust. It isnt mandatory to talk about your home life when at work, whatever your situation. I’ve worked with people who had problems with the fact I was divorced (duh!), didnt like me going out with a work coplleague (duh!) as well as objecting to the fact that I am a Pagan. These days I dont hide it, I just dont necessarily mention it. And there’s no reason why you cant refer to your metamour as your friend since this is also true.
    Apart from that Good Luck!!!!

    • missamaranth says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I’m hoping I’ll get a feel for the environment and who can be trusted in the first few weeks, and take it from there. It’s got to be better than my last full-time job, (which was actually with the same company but in a completely different place 3/4 years ago.) where the 2 guys I worked with would bombard me with questions about my sex life in a bordering-on-sexual-harrassment kind of way. At least now I’m older and confident enough to call people out on it if they start overstepping boundaries when it comes to my personal life!:)

  9. I’m about to be made redundant at my current work. I’ve decided that I want to be ‘out’ at my next workplace and that’s influencing the places I’m applying to.

    It’s hardly something I’m going to bring up on day one but fairly soon after starting someone is going to ask what I’m doing for the weekend and when I say “I’m spending it with my girlfriend” they’re going to say “Er, aren’t you married…?”

  10. tixarah says:

    I dealt with this last year when I started my then, new job. Then when I started getting serious with the guy Im currently dating I decided I couldnt lie anymore. it took me 8 months or so but I told them and it feels amazing to not lie or hide things anymore! Id get to know the people and get a feel for them before coming out, but it definitely feels good.

  11. Serina says:

    This is highly appropriate a topic for me, as I’ve just started a new job too! I’ve been here about a month, and I’m just starting to feel out the situation. Turns out most people don’t mention current relationships very much anyway, so I can be out or not, as I choose.

    That being said, I am not going to stay hidden at work, I’m just not going to force a conversation. If someone asks, then I’ll be honest.

    It’s difficult to remind myself that I’m taking it slow though, because in my last job I was as out as I could be without having all four of my partners as my legal next of kin.:) I desperately want to discover that my current place of work will be just as open minded, chilled out and accepting as my last one (especially for an education-based organisation!) Time will tell, I guess.

    Basically: take it slow, don’t be too stressed for now, you aren’t required to tell your coworkers everything, and most of all…sometimes people will surprise you with how lovely and open minded they are!:)

    • missamaranth says:

      Yeah, my general policy (with a couple of extreme-circumstances exceptions) has always been “anyone who asks, gets the truth.”

      I hope things go well for you in your new workplace!:)

  12. Byghan says:

    This is a tricky one for me. I am partially out at work – I work in a pub, a reasonably open-minded one, and everyone (except really casual customers) knows I am in a civil partnership. Most of my colleagues and quite a lot of the regulars know I am in a relationship with B as well but I don’t advertise it. I tell the truth if people ask because I am concerned that people don’t think I am cheating on my wife and also that they have a fair chance to hear her side of the story including her struggles with it. In fact I don’t want to talk about it all the time because I don’t like people judging my partners without getting the full story – think what you like about me but dont you dare make assumptions about the people I sleep with!
    I don’t know if I would/will take the same stance when I have a ‘real’ job…
    B on the other hand is pretty openly out at work and will happily talk about spending the weekend with his partner and her wife; or take my wife’s cake in to share. He works in a tightly-knit team and knew them quite well before we started our relationship. He made the decision fairly early on in our relationship after a pretty serious bout of depression that he was not prepared to hide himself at work any more and so far (another 2.5 years down the line) although there have been plenty of questions he has faced more discrimination for his mental health than for his relationship choices.

    • missamaranth says:

      Yeah, it’s a difficult one alright….! Sounds like you and your partners are navigating it rather well, though.

      Urghh for mental health discrimination, too. After much deliberation, I decided not to tell my new employers that I’m diagnosed with depression…. even though it’s definitely a legitimate medical condition if not actually a disability (which is arguable,) I’m genuinely worried about the discrimination I’d face.

  13. Ludi says:

    Once again, I started writing a comment and ended up with an article. Here it is😀

    In addition to what I say there (tl;dr – make life easy for yourself, don’t come out, also being poly is the least of your worries when it comes to alienation) – I’d say that it’s probably kinda TMI to talk in detail about your poly family. I’d just call them friends, and talk in general terms, cause that’s what everyone else does, regardless of whether the friends they are talking about are lifelong friends, casual coffee mates, occasional shag-buddies, their dominants sometimes, or whatever else. They don’t need to know, y’know? And there’s something to be said for insulating your rich, full and exciting life from people who won’t get it, however much you explain: I like the idea of only telling the truth to people who deserve it.

    Very best of luck – I hope you can make it as good as it can be. x

    • Jules says:

      I’ve read Ludi’s article response, and I agree with it. As you know, I’m a bleeding heart liberal, a feminist, bisexual, a goth, pagan, and a giant geek. Most people at work know that I’m a liberal, feminist, a goth and a geek. Some know I’m bi (more than I thought scarily), very very few know I’m pagan, only a couple know I write fan fic, only 3 have read it.

      When I first started in my job, I was sent the HR form, I did not tick the sexuality or religion boxes. And I have never regretted that. Our HR woman was not known as ‘Loose Lips’ for nothing.

      There are certain things that always make me ‘apart’ from my colleagues, even without all my little boxes. Then add in the fact that I work in a male dominated, heterosexual industry (to give you an idea, there are no welfare facilities trackside, so if you want the loo, you have to go in public. No one has ever thought that women might have a problem with this. Also getting women’s personal protective clothing is nigh on impossible). I look to tackle the sexism, both the jokey, and the systemic. Plus there are only 2 ‘out’ people in the company that I know of, and one of them is me!

      Basically, I think you have to pick your ‘battles’, also you won’t necessarily want your workmates knowing everything, in the same way that they don’t want to tell you everything. Plus you’ll have workplace politics to swim your way round, and they are a great unifier! *grin*

      Sorry for the ramble!

  14. […] [in response to Love Is Infinite's musings on working in a bank] […]

  15. Mrs Red says:

    I am ‘technically’ out at work. in all the places it’s come up in conversation I have just been simple and honest, I have a boyfriend who is married to another woman and another boyfriend (Primary) who has two other girlfriends.

    For the people who know and have asked questions, it’s been something I’m happy to talk about, I don’t see an issue, any more than I would about telling people I’m Pagan, it’s a place where I spend an awful lot of my time and I would hate to feel like I’m keeping a massive secret, making it feel like something I should be ashamed of, when I’m really hectically busy and incapable of any rational thought anyway.

    The people who know are cool about it, I don’t open a conversation with a new colleague about it, but if they ask, then I tell them.

    I guess wait and see how the land lies, what your colleagues are like and get some sort of rapport going, when you’re in a position to talk about relationships then it’ll probably come up quite naturally.

    Good Luck with the new job in any case.

  16. Richard says:

    I’m out at work, but it’s easy for me. I’m indispensible, and have code to prove it.

    What I’d do is first get the feel of the place for a few days, and then if it doesn’t seem unreasonable, ask a proxy question: how about saucy jokes?

    Just ask your boss what the official policy is (a bank might actually have one), and what the unofficial policy is, if you’re willing to take the risk?

    Obviously, you don’t intend to be the tiniest bit unkind to anyone, but what are the risks you’re running trying to be friendly?

    What you’re really figuring out is if the appropriate authority figures are reasonably open-minded and will give you a quiet word rather than Official Disciplinary Action if you share TMI.

    If you’re told that co-workers Nigel Neverhard and Alice Aridfanny get upset about unbowlderized vocabulary, staying quiet at work is probably best. If you’re told that the powers that be understand that taking the piss out of each other isn’t hostility, then go ahead and put your family’s picture on your desk and wait for questions.

  17. londoninbloom says:

    I myself, am deeply closeted in professional circumstances. unlike most open minded people there are still a select few who take issue with me being a trekkie and so I keep my fetish a secret despite wanting to yell SPOCK PRIDE from the rooftops of london… sorry couldn’t resist. Well, as our blogger knows, I’ve never seen the point of ‘coming out’ in the ‘ta-da!’ sense because if I don’t have to as a straight ‘vanilla’ person then why should anyone else have to? but i get why. Should relationship topics pop up at work , which they always do, you wouldn’t want to lie and shouldn’t have to. It is a tricky one, I would lie. and Lie again. a lot of people would be ‘stay true to yourself’ and what not and thats great for some situations but when you need to get paid; be whom your boss wants you to be – long and short of it, you can be open and honest with the people you actually care about not some randoms in an office your forced to converse with. You wouldn’t suddenly speak up at the water cooler about the time you lost your virginity/ got an abortion/ joined a cult/ donated blood a gazillion times – so why would you share this too? (may be a bit jumbled but I think I’ve made my point) essentially, you yourself said your not looking to be a poster child or martyr so don’t be one. OMIT, OMIT, OMIT. And see you Saturday xxxxx

  18. C. J. Czelling says:

    All purpose respone, “I’m not ready to settle down yet.”

    • missamaranth says:

      But that’s absolutely not true.

      Because I am “settling down,” in some way – okay, so I’m not going the traditional marriage-and-kids route, but I’ve found someone I really want to be with for the rest of my life. I want to build deep love and deep, long-lasting commitment with anybody I form a relationship with. Implying that I’m just playing the field and being poly until I find the right person to settle down with would, I think, completely cheapen my relationships and my experience in a way that I’m not prepared to do.

  19. sharonlangridge says:

    I’m out at work, and I was at my last job too. I’m aware that there’s no legal protection for being poly, but I also know that my colleagues (in a medium-sized third-sector organisation) are basically nice people and that they like me, and that they understand or try to understand that polyamory works for me and that both my partners are very important parts of my life.
    I know I’m lucky that I’ve found a job where there’s community spirit and where my colleagues care about each other’s lives. In that situation, I believe that being open about what and who is important in my life gives me an easier ride and more protection than trying to keep my relationships secret.

  20. Hi Jess, I received an email from Forum this morning and thought I’d throw in my two cents… Coming out Poly is a topic that can be very difficult; however, the topic of “coming out” or “standing up” has striking similarities to many other historical topical discussions such as the civil rights movement, gay/lesbian movement ect… Looking at it from this perspective I will briefly discuss some of the main issues. First, what you mention to the people at your job, or anywhere for that matter is strictly a “Personal decision.” NO ONE should feel obligated, pressured or otherwise when it comes to ANY MOVEMENT or belief. That said, if you feel “LED” in your heart and your spirit to come “out” poly–now that’s a different story. If you do, YES, there could be consequences– As it has been with “movements” for thousands of years. At the end of the discussion each of us has to be true to our own heart and own beliefs. I’ll close with a couple of comments: First, there is a man named Kerr Cuhulain– Kerr is a former Air Force officer, a police officer–he is also Wiccan. He wrote about coming out Wiccan in his book “Wiccan Warrior: Walking a Spiritual Path in a Sometimes Hostile World.” If you’re not familiar with it, I think you will find it beneficial to your situation. Lastly, I am pro-poly and I am also pagan. The link here is for one of my blogs: I wrote it because I personally do not like pink elephants, but I do respect a person’s right to choose their timing on delecate and potentially life-changing situations. Love and Blessings, Thom

  21. egointhesea says:

    Hello, I have nominated you for the Lovely Blog Award. See here:

  22. Larissa Lee says:

    It’s really hard, balancing openness and privacy in the workplace. I’m a pagan, so I already had *that* closet to come out of; it took me almost a year before I gave in and mentioned that I was going to a Yule celebration instead of having Christmas.

    That said, being open about polyness is even harder. No one appears to be judgmental in my workplace, but I still step lightly. I’ve gone so far as to tell my coworkers that we “have a unique family-style dynamic, so one day the three of us (me, man 1, and man 2) want to get a house together”. It’s my first step toward openness, as eventually I’ll be explaining a name change (hyphenating both of their surnames) as well as children (why is your roommate staying home with the baby?).

    I wish you the best of luck!

  23. JaneQ says:

    I am not out at work as poly (or bi for that matter) as I would almost certainly get fired due to my profession (contract has a “conduct unbecoming a professional” clause). This has not been particularly hard for me as I tend to keep my professional life and personal life quite separate (I don’t talk about religion or politics at work either, I don’t socialize with “work friends”). I also benefit from the fact that people tend to see what they expect – I “pass” as mono and straight (married for 16 years to someone of the opposite gender) – although I feel guilty for this when I know others have a much harder time of it.

    Some people I work with everyday do know “of” my boyfriend, have even met him, know that he lives with us – but he is always referred to by name (not “boyfriend”). The “cover story” is that he is my husband’s best friend, and our permanent houseguest (these things are both also TRUE – we just leave off the part where he is my “other partner”). When speaking of one of my women friends that I see – they are just my “friends” – leaving off the “with benefits” part – it’s nobody’s business…

  24. I recently came out at work… it was a huge relief but it was super stressful. I just got tired of the weird looks when my new partner was seen out with me by co-workers, as though I were cheating since they already knew my longer-term partner from work parties and such. Luckily my boss was friendly enough, but I can definitely understand the mixed feelings. I recommend it with a lot of caution…

  25. Chesh says:

    Hi Chica. You’ve gotten a bunch of excellent advice here, and I go with the tide that says “wait and see.” I’m cautious because I know I once got fired for cheerfully and openly talking about being Pagan. (I was a temp, and within two days my job had mysteriously “finished” even though I had tons of work left to do. This was also in the finance industry, way back when I was a young, less-cautious thing.)

    This is the thing worth remembering — no manager or HR dept is ever going to say the real reason you’ve been fired. They all know how to play the game, and will come up with a host of pre-approved responses designed to cover an enormous array of ambiguous scenarios. (Remember I was also made “redundant” for union organising at work — and the union itself couldn’t do squat to stop it from happening.) So while you may KNOW it’s because you talked about spending Solstice at Stonehenge, or about organising events for Pride with your two boyfriends, you’ll have a devil of a time proving it was ever the cause.

    Pick and choose your battles — the world is too eager to wear us out with fighting for every cause, every day. Be friendly and outgoing, but be careful. You don’t want to end up the first on a re-org list, just because you shower the world with your weirdness. And your freaky attitude doesn’t get hurt by this — just save it for those who will hold it special and cherish you for all that you are. Eventually, I hope you will end up in a klatch of writers who will celebrate who Jess is, with all closets and cages wide open…

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