My spouse and I have both recently obtained new employment (yay). One of these days I might write about the tumultuous year following graduate school in which I could not get a job in my field for 18 months. My spouse got a job 10 days after graduation, but if you’ve been following my blog, you know that that job offer was rescinded after xe came out as trans. Xe didn’t find another job for 5 months! We have been asking the questions: Are our employment struggles a result of the economy? A result of being queer*? Or the result of our profession (we are therapists)? I suspect the combination of all those things made for a perfect storm called “I-can’t-get-a-job-despite-being-uber-qualified-and-undeniably-awesome!”
But all that changed last month when I landed job #1 and my spouse landed job #2! We have a job each! What?! After 3 years of graduate school where neither of us worked very much and another year of scary unemployment, one job each is certainly something to celebrate!
So here we are, in our new jobs, asking the question: When and how do we come out?
I have heard people say things like, “It isn’t anyone else’s business whether or not you’re queer*, therefore you don’t have to say anything” or “It shouldn’t have to be a big reveal. Just let people know as it comes up” or “Your work shouldn’t be about your sexuality and gender identity.”
True, true. All true. Except all of those statements leave me feeling rather yucky so I’m going to address them one by one.
1. It’s not anyone else’s business whether or not I’m queer
OK. But my colleagues talk about their personal lives. They refer to husbands and wives or talk about dating woes. My queerness* may not be their business, but I would like to participate in conversation with people on occasion. I do not want to hide my sexual orientation or my spouse’s gender identity. So do I just refer to my spouse as “xe” and wait for people to ask questions? Or do I refer to my spouse as “xe” and follow it up with “just FYI- my spouse is genderqueer and uses the gender neutral pronouns, ‘xe, xyr, xem?” I know not.
2. It shouldn’t have to be a big reveal, just let people know as it comes up
Well that is easier said than done. Even if I let people know “as it comes up,” it is STILL a big reveal. There is still an awkward moment of people either looking at my buzzed head and men’s department thrift store shirt with a “yeah-we-knew-that” look or they raise their eyebrows with surprise that they quickly try to mask, making said eyebrows dance on their foreheads like confused caterpillars, or they say something charming like “you know, I don’t care what anyone is. It’s all the same. We’re all just people.” I suppose all of the above responses are better than getting fired or reported to the authorities or taken out back and stoned, so I guess I should be grateful.
3. Your work shouldn’t be about your gender and sexuality, it should be about your clients and students
Yup. I agree that my personal life should not be the focus of my work, but I also strongly feel that people need to see positive queer* role models in the world. If I do not explicitly come out, I will most likely be assumed to be straight. Or worse, I will be assumed to be queer* but hiding it. My queerness* is not something I want or need to hide. I am proud to be queer* and I feel that the people I serve and the people with whom I work need to know they are in relationship with a queer* person. Otherwise we’re not moving forward. We’re hiding behind excuses.
So this all brings me back to the sticky point of how to tell the professional world that I am queer*. I have mostly been waiting for moments when it arises in a relatively organic way. It’s still awkward, but it seems to work-ish.
Sometimes I get really upset at the inequities in the world… no, more than upset. Sometimes I cry into my Americano, sometimes I rage and yell a call for action, sometimes I refuse to back down but stand my ground in the face of hate and discrimination.
Today, I am wearing the most amazing lavender corduroy pants and I choose to laugh at the closet from which I must repeatedly come out.
Sometimes lavender pants and laughter are the best medicine.