How I Dealt With Workplace Homophobia – Coming Out Series

Workplace homophobia. Yes, I have experienced
it. It was awful. How did I deal with it? Let me give you some background. It was back
in 2006 in my third job where I experienced a pretty intense period of bullying from my
line manager. Imagine this. She was in her late 50s. Heavy smoker. Liked a drink on an
evening. She had coffee on tap. Hoarse, deep voice. A petite woman. Wore power suits. She
was the kind of woman that thrives on controlling every single thing around her. You know the
type? I think we all do. On my birthday my mum came in to the office
and she brought in a cake for me. She gave me a kiss in front of everyone and said she
would see me and my girlfriend later on for a meal. Super sweet and in that moment I was
so happy. And then, later on as I sat back in my office out the back, I started to go
over what she said to me. My girlfriend. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t disclosed
my sexuality to anyone. It is safe to say I kept my private life VERY private at work.
Instantly I was worried. Had everyone heard? Trust the office to be full of people that
day. It is safe to say, everyone heard. That is when the bullying started. Daily harassment,
intimidation, online abuse and teasing. Threats of outing me to my colleagues. All from my
manager. Sometimes subtle, sometimes implied but mostly direct comments about my appearance,
the lifestyle that I ‘chose’ and derogatory references about having a girlfriend. The
bullying was so significant it impacted on my physical health, not to mention my mental
health. The stress I felt from it on a daily basis resulted in me having IBS – irritable
bowel syndrome. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll have heard me talk
about this before. I became unable to teach classes in the mornings. I could only teach
afternoon and evening classes because my IBS symptoms were so severe in the mornings, which
was the time where my manager was in ‘full swing’. It’s kind of crazy right? Whoever
heard of a teacher that can’t teach in the morning? Did I report it? Well. Initially, no I didn’t.
I was too afraid to ‘out’ myself to the leadership team. You see, I would’ve had
to explain the context of the bullying and show them the emails. As soon as I did that
– they would know I was gay. And I didn’t want anyone else at work to know that about
me. It didn’t feel safe to bring ALL of who I am to work. Eventually it reached a
point where I couldn’t take it any longer. I felt I had to report it and her behaviour. What happened? The woman involved was promoted. HR told me not to progress the case any further
because it would highlight my sexuality to my colleagues and peers. I couldn’t believe
it. Even though I had documented a year of incidents, emails, communications and had
witnesses. I was devastated. After all that time and effort of logging every single incident
and interaction with her, I can honestly say I felt let down by the college and the people
that claim they look after their people. You’d think that is where the story would
end. You experience homophobia in the workplace, you report it, it didn’t go as well as you
expected it would. And yes, for most people, the story would end there. But for me, it
didn’t. I realised I needed to process it. It was eating me up inside. So this is what
I did to deal with it. 3 things. 1. I journalled about it. I wrote down what I experienced.
I wrote about how it made me feel, how I responded – both in the moment and afterwards (I’m
talking physically, mentally and emotionally). I got it all out on paper. By doing this I
was able to process the experience and most importantly, strip away the emotion and story
I had attached to it. The 2nd thing I did. Once I could no longer feel the emotional
charge when I thought about it, I looked at it from another perspective. I started asking
myself different questions such as: what could have been going on for her? What might be
happening in her life to make her do what she did? I get it, I will never know if this
is true or real, any of those scenarios I was playing out in my head – but it got
me thinking about it – and it took ME out of the equation. I realised this experience
wasn’t about me. It was about what was going on inside her at that moment in time. I know,
profound! The 3rd thing I did. I knew I had to release
the emotion and story I had attached to it. I started by writing a letter to her saying
everything I wanted to say to her. Then I burned it. That worked. It got the energy
moving inside me. After that I found someone to talk to about it. Someone objective. I
spoke with my mentor but you can speak to a coach, counsellor, colleague or an LGBT+
professional that specialises in LGBT issues. They helped me to raise my awareness on what
happened, release ALL the emotion I had subconsciously attached to it and explored how I could regain
my confidence, self-esteem and mojo! It’s funny, I didn’t realise back then that only
a few years later, I would be that LGBT professional that people wanted to speak to about their
LGBT related issues and challenges. Who’d have known it? Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. It is more common than you might think. Have you
ever experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia? I’d love to hear from you. Tell me, what
were your experiences and what steps you took as a result of it. Don’t forget, if you’ve
got any questions about coming out or living your life as a lesbian or LGBT person, please
send them in to me. I am continuing this Coming Out Series as part of the My Queer Life journey,
for the next few months. I’d love to answer any questions you have. Please, send them
in to me. And lastly, if you want to keep up to date with my latest videos, make sure
you subscribe to my channel, please share this with your family and friends and don’t
forget to leave me a message below. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.