Coming out to co-workers

  1. I'm a grad nurse starting work later this week. I chose to work in the area where I did my final clinical placement, which was 3 months long and preceptored. At this time, I made the decision to not disclose my sexual orientation because 1) I wasn't sure if I would continue to work there after I graduated and 2) my preceptor made a few homophobic comments in the first few weeks that I was there and, as I would be working with her every shift, I did not want to cause any awkwardness between us. However, as I will now be there as a permanent employee I would feel uneasy completely hiding my personal life from my co-workers. Ideally, I would like to mention it "in passing" a few times in a few weeks/months- I don't want to have to wait until I am friends with them and come out in a more formal way. However, this is the issue: I'm currently single, so I would not be able to mention anything about a partner. I do not 'look like' a lesbian, and I don't think that anyone would suspect. So, my questions are: how have you come out to co-workers? How have co-workers come out to you? Any advice?
    Last edit by twotoo on Jun 9, '09
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    About twotoo

    Joined: Sep '07; Posts: 4

    15 Comments

  3. by   Cherybaby
    I think you are putting a lot of undue pressure on yourself. You don't have to come out to your co-workers at all. At least, not in a big grandiose way. I worked with an (obviously) gay nurse for a time. When I asked how his weekend was one time...he told me he had gone out on a great date with someone. I said "terrific, where'd ya go?" He said they went (wherever) and had a really great time...with HIM. There ya go. Out he came. For months prior to that, he had never officially announced he was gay to the masses. Why? I don't introduce myself as a heterosexual nurse...it just comes up casually in the course of conversation.

    You do whatever is most comfortable for you...and remember that no matter where you go, you are going to meet some really judgmental people along the way. Sadly, despite what we are taught in nursing school...nurses are still people and people manage to allow their personal prejudices to get in the way.

    Lord, you should hear the gossip I got about me when someone discovered I was married THREE times...harlot that I am...

    You'll know in your heart if and when the time is right.

    If all else fails...show up in rainbow scrubs.
  4. by   Pixie.RN
    Quote from Cherybaby
    I don't introduce myself as a heterosexual nurse...it just comes up casually in the course of conversation.
    Exactly my thought, too. I don't think a formal announcement is required.

    (I've also been married three times. Yay for harlots! LOL )
  5. by   BonnieSc
    I don't think the two nurses above really understand the stress that being in the closet often holds. You don't know that your gay co-worker wasn't feeling the same stress before coming out to you--he probably was.

    You see, you don't HAVE to introduce yourself as heterosexual. Everyone assumes you are. Most people don't feel comfortable when others assume they are something they aren't.

    It's a continual source of stress while in the closet: how will people react? You want to know and have it out in the open, and yet there's a reasonable fear associated with it. You think, "after people get to know me they won't care as much, even if they don't approve". But how well can people get to know you when you're in the closet? Many straight people think of our gayness as being a small aspect of our lives. That isn't true. It affects almost EVERY part of our lives. It is difficult feeling like we have to watch our small talk--we may not be ready to come out to co-workers, but we also don't want to say things that will contribute to that heterosexual assumption.

    Twotoo, I'm in a similar situation. I haven't had this problem in years because I was one of a couple (and as you mention, that gives you an easy context for coming out). Now I've moved to a much more conservative area and I'm newly divorced. I haven't joined in the talk about boyfriends and family life with my new co-workers because I haven't known what to say. I keep expecting someone to ask if I have a boyfriend or anything, but they must assume I don't because they know I moved here by myself. If asked something like that, I would probably say that I'm divorced... and then be really nervous about the questions that might come after that. But it will be worse if the questions don't come, because anyone would logically assume that I got divorced from a man.

    Twotoo, I don't have any great advice, but one thing I used to do in the past: once I got to know one person well, I would say while we were talking, "Would it bother you if I said I was a lesbian?" It's an awkwrd thing to bring up generally, and that just rips the bandaid off.

    I love eternally all people who make small talk and ask "So, do you have a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or anything?" You make it SO much easier.
  6. by   Pixie.RN
    Quote from Wendy79
    I don't think the two nurses above really understand the stress that being in the closet often holds.
    Oh, I do understand, after a fashion ... true, I am heterosexual, but I'm also the member of a rather minority religion, and have been for a couple of decades now. I chose to out myself at work when someone made a disparaging remark about my religion, and I just cocked an eyebrow and said, "You know, you can't tell just by looking ... you might even work with one." *crickets ... crickets* Yeah, it was great. LOL. So I get it, in a way. My spirituality and faith is a big part of who I am. I was just in a different closet -- we sometimes refer to it as the broom closet. LOL
  7. by   TheNewCuteNurse
    I say if you're comforable with who you are, then you dont have to prove it! People will talk and disapprove. I know you dont care what people say or think. If a convo comes up, then come out. I knew a nurse who come out with it and the whole building had something to say about it and it was added stress for her. Good luck with whatever way you decide to approach this, your happiness is all that matters.
  8. by   theatredork
    Like someone said above, I don't think there needs to be an announcement in the department newsletter, lol!

    If it comes up, it comes up, otherwise it's a bit odd just to mention it randomly.
  9. by   Kymmi
    I agree...I do not see a need for you to announce it to all of your coworkers but I wouldnt hide it either. You will become closer to some coworkers then others and over time conversations will occur and that is when your sexual preference will be disclosed...in general conversation. I think to make a big statement about it will attrack more attention personally.
    I admit I am straight and so I do not know what it feels like to be in the closet so to speak with my coworkers but I do know I work with several gay/lesbian coworkers and it never really mattered to me when I first meant them in fact it never crossed my mind as to whether they were gay/straight/married/single but as time went on and we worked more together then general conversations developed and I figured things out and realized they were not hiding anything from me but they also wasnt announcing anything to me....that way they knew I knew and left it open for me to ask questions if I had any or to just accept them for the person they were and not their sexual preference and it also made it so if I was uncomfortable with their decisions I did not have to respond to the "announcement".
  10. by   CrufflerJJ
    I also don't see the need for you to "let it slip". If it comes up in conversation, so be it. People are people - some are a lot more accepting/open-minded than others in a social or professional setting. There will continue to be enough idiots to go around, whether you "come out" or not.

    We little humans will continue to find fault with each other for real or perceived differences. It doesn't matter if you're Christian, Jew, Hindu, Wiccan, Heathen (yeah heathens!), black, white, straight, gay, or whatever. There will always be folks who accept you or despise you for what you are (or, more importantly, for what they think you are).

    So what. You are you - enjoy life and enjoy helping others!
  11. by   Kymmi
    Very well said Cruffler JJ
  12. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from twotoo
    i'm a grad nurse starting work later this week. i chose to work in the area where i did my final clinical placement, which was 3 months long and preceptored. at this time, i made the decision to not disclose my sexual orientation because 1) i wasn't sure if i would continue to work there after i graduated and 2) my preceptor made a few homophobic comments in the first few weeks that i was there and, as i would be working with her every shift, i did not want to cause any awkwardness between us. however, as i will now be there as a permanent employee i would feel uneasy completely hiding my personal life from my co-workers. ideally, i would like to mention it "in passing" a few times in a few weeks/months- i don't want to have to wait until i am friends with them and come out in a more formal way. however, this is the issue: i'm currently single, so i would not be able to mention anything about a partner. i do not 'look like' a lesbian, and i don't think that anyone would suspect. so, my questions are: how have you come out to co-workers? how have co-workers come out to you? any advice?
    mention it all you like. come right out and tell me you're gay. i'm not gay, but i'm on my third marriage which is another one of those things. i don't want it to be a big fat secret, but it's really no one's business. i've mentioned it when the situation allowed/called for it, but haven't ever made a big deal of it. some folks are really shocked and a few fundamentalist christians have tried to convince me i'm going to hell for divorcing my philandering first husband and my abusive second. it's really no one's business, as is your sexual orientation.

    mention an ex-girlfriend in passing, it'll be clear enough. if your co-workers are nice people, the only thing they'll care about is that you're happy with yourself and your relationship (or lack thereof). (and if we really like your girlfriend (when you have one) we might want to be "couples friends.")
  13. by   CrufflerJJ
    Quote from ruby vee
    some folks are really shocked and a few fundamentalist christians have tried to convince me i'm going to hell for divorcing my philandering first husband and my abusive second.
    isn't is great just how "christian-like" some folks can be? believe what i do, believe in the "one true path", or you're gonna burn....burn!!!

    depending on just how "playful" (ok, twisted!) your sense of humor is, you can have fun at work by playing with peoples' minds. just start going on & on about worshiping "a far greater power", your most recent chicken sacrifice, or try to turn them on to the glories of chthulhu. no, it's not playing nice.

    a boss i had for 13 years at work during my engineering career was gay. he didn't make a big thing about it, and neither did i. i invited him and his partner to my wedding, and still stay in touch with him from time to time. i surprised him when he was laid off from work during one of the first of multiple rounds of layoffs. when he was about to leave, i gave him a hug goodbye - shaking his hand just wasn't enough. he taught me so much at work, and i always respected him for it.
  14. by   3boysmom3
    I think that one huge mistake most of us make, myself included, is worrying what other people will think of us. I used to be somewhat proud, but God had a plan to get me over that. Yes, I am a Christian, and I have learned that humility is a gift earned in a difficult way sometimes. I have two adopted sons who have been in all SORTS of trouble- legal problems, theft, probation, etc. I used to worry about what other people thought, until circumstances beyond my control took it out of my hands. I live in a fairly small city, and all of my friends and acquaintances knew about our issues. Some were supportive; some were judgmental ("well, I would have known how to parent the child...") We did our very best to parent them. We have one other son, a surprise biological son, who has never had any such problems and is a bright and successful young man. Re: the other two, I have actually had well-meaning friends say such hurtful things as "I wish I had had the chance to spend some time with him..." Oh my God, we were loving parents and did our very best- we did what parents do- give love, have boundaries and limits, the same as we do with our biological son. The things that happened just happened.

    Both boys are maturing now and settling down into fairly safe and happy lives. After years of grief, hair-pulling, tears, sorrow, suicidal thoughts...you name it... I have reached the place where I have learned to cope with the poor choices my two sons have made, AND I have learned NOT to worry about what other people will think. They will think whatever they think. They may say differently to your face, but they will think what they think and that is the truth.

    You find out who your real friends are when everything comes out. I don't believe in keeping secrets. I don't need anyone for a friend who isn't a friend for REAL. If your life is less than storybook perfect or different than expected by others, trust me, you will find out when the rubber hits the road who your real friends are- and you really don't need the fair-weather friends.

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