queer at workPosted: August 30, 2011
I have a job working with members of the public, and so I have trouble when people ask me if I’m married, seeing someone, etc. I work with populations where homophobia is very common, so I don’t feel that I can give a real answer to this question and therefore I just say no, or give vague answers.
My straight coworkers are all married and have children, and can speak freely. They wear wedding rings and the women wear engagement rings too. No one ever accuses them of flaunting it or being inappropriate.
I’m the one who’s keeping it professional by not talking about my personal life, but if I said half as much as they ever do there could be serious consequences. So I leave people in the dark.
Neutrality is not the pretense of heterosexuality. It is making no mention at all, in any direction. It is not even a denial, but a dodge into what little null space is available. People don’t take it well. They want to talk to you about what they perceive to be normal life things and I’m caught between various lies and risking losing their business and seeming too distant.
I say nothing.
If I am in a situation where I could not talk about a girlfriend, I will also not talk about a boyfriend, because I do not talk about a boyfriend if it’s going to leave people with the impression that I’m straight. There’s a world of space between leaving people’s heterosexist assumptions alone and saying something you know will confirm them. The false opportunity to be open about yourself as long as you’re in an opposite-sex relationship reinforces a monosexual heterosexist construction of same-sex vs opposite sex relationships rather than a queer construction of queer relationships that includes bisexuality and other stripes of queerness as valid rather than judging based on a partner’s gender. It reinforces silencing about same-sex partners and openness about opposite-sex partners and the only way I can see to break that is to be silent as I would have to about a same-sex partner, to treat all my relationships equally even and especially when others do not.
There is not a “queer half” of my life. My life is wholly queer.