I’ve been lucky. My privilege as a white person has protected me from the blatant bias that nearly every single person of color I’ve ever met has experienced. But twice in one week now, I’ve been reminded that the choice of being publicly out as a lesbian opens me up to experiencing bias firsthand. It’s been pretty mild and I’m not comparing myself to anyone else’s experience. But it’s happened, and I feel compelled to examine it through this post. If that’s not your thing, you’re welcome to skip this one. But if you struggle to read about other people’s experience, this is a formal invitation for you to check your bias.
I made a post on National Coming Out Day on LinkedIn. I shared my hesitation about being out in my workplace, which consists of spaces my clients invite me into. But part of what kept me from coming out sooner than I did was the lack of visibility and perceived acceptance. So I decided to post.
A man I do not know and am not connected to in any way chose to comment negatively. We had an exchange of comments which you can all still see if you visit that post. However, this man is a coward and blocked me on the platform, which means I can no longer see his comments. He did this immediately after posting his final comment.
I facilitated a workshop with a team I’ve worked with before. There were a few new members of the team participating. As happens pretty much every time I work with a group, we all shared some details of our private lives. There was talk of kids and spouses, animals and gardens. One person shared several times about the way addiction had impacted his life. A few pictures were shared. I mentioned my wife several times, in the context of professional situations relevant to the topics being discussed.
At the end of the two days, they filled out feedback forms. One of them suggested I should share less of my personal life and stick to the business concepts. This person chose not to add their name to the form.
I’m not a snowflake.
These experiences have not been my first, nor will they be my last. I’m not curled up in a corner immobilized. I’m irritated.
More and more, people are discussing the topics which affect them as whole humans. There is a deep longing for more meaningful connection in the professional world. The social and political events of the past few years have caused a shift. More people are sharing their experiences of treatment in the workplace. A lot of it has not been pretty.
My experiences in the past seven days have been quite mild by comparison. But they reveal a deep discomfort we have with openly discussing (and dare I say celebrating) who we are. And that’s what troubles me.
Why can’t we have respectful discussion?
Why do we resort to (passive) aggressive comments?
Why are we so afraid of and threatened by one another?
I don’t have good answers to these questions. If there’s discussion to be had, let’s have it. The only thing required is a willingness to engage and to listen. Let’s do better, friends.