Saturday, October 3, 2015

Coming out at work is difficult,

But not for the reasons that are common for others.

It's so strange, but I now understand it fully when someone once told me that coming out is a lifelong ongoing process. Although I'm openly gay to as many as 400+ of my friends, I still feel the same jittery feeling I felt a year ago when I come out to my colleagues. Initially felt even stranger that I feel more guarded with them than my grad schoolmates, when we have been told umpteen times so far at work that this is an inclusive environment where everyone needs to embrace gender, ethnic, sexual, etc. etc. diversity.

But then it made sense to me upon further rumination why I still feel wary around coworkers. And yes, please don't ask me why I use the word rumination - I just do. And the reason is race-related, for some strange reason. At grad school, even at college, I made friends who were socially and culturally roughly consistent with myself. I haven't found that at work. I've really warmed up a bit more to everyone, but I've entered a workplace that is far, far less diverse than they make themselves out to be, at least on the more 'visible' fronts. Sure, people studied a gamut of different majors, and people are from everywhere else in the UK, but still almost everyone is from middle-class UK.

Why is it so hard for me to feel comfortable around them? It's probably due to the same feeling I felt in the states too with Midwesterners. I cannot help but feel that on many levels, we cannot relate to each other. Many of my colleagues are from small towns in the UK that I have never heard of, and cannot place geographically. Many have streamed down into London, but haven't actually studied or lived here before. People here are definitely more well-informed about the world than back in the Midwest, but still I can't help but feel different because these are small town kids 2-6 years younger than me.

Yes. I realize it is once again just so goddamn shitty of myself to judge people this way. I have actually told almost all of the very few Asian people here that I'm gay, and I really do think the only reason is because I feel more comfortable around them because socioeconomically, I get them. They've travelled the world a lot more, their parents have paid a lot of money to get them here to study and hence they work pretty hard, and I just find that their lives are a lot more relatable for me. Similarly in grad school, I came out to people who I felt I could relate to, socioeconomically. This percentage was definitely higher than at work now - because my school fees were fucking expensive.

I was at a bar earlier tonight, where it was a huge event where loads of colleagues were taking full advantage of the open bar, and I felt really out of place. The speakers were horrible, the club was in a sketchy basement (albeit huge basement), and the music was just awful. I honestly felt too posh and snobbish standing there with my Burberry trench to put in effort to mingle, and then I felt guilty so I tried to speak with a few people, but ended up just speaking to people from Cambridge, who have been oddly calming for me because they tend to be overprivileged twats.

Honestly, while I'm extremely thankful that I've been so fortunate my whole life to have been born with such a golden spoon, it's also strangely self-alienating for me when my life is really different from most other people. I really have been way too overprivileged.

Which is why I just want to work, and not do anything social with colleagues. When I'm working, it's great - I feel like I'm part of a team, and that's my identity - my safety net. I'm in the zone, and nobody asks me any personal questions or tells me anything personal. I feel judged just based on my performance, and nothing else. Similarly, I judge everyone else based on the same criteria.

But when I'm not working, I start feeling awkward. I start judging people - and pretty harshly too. A colleague will lament to me that payday needs to come earlier because she only has 20£ left in her bank account. In contrast, my parents dumped 200,000£ in my bank account "for a rainy day." Another would say he really wants to get on a client project outside of the EU because he's never left, and I don't know how to reply because I'm actually sick of travelling the world. I also get a lot of comments about the way I dress - because I do love men's fashion, and I do like my brands, but it was so weird for me today when someone was telling me that his dream is to own a Burberry trench. When I do tell people about my boyfriend, they ask me if I'm paying rent when I'm living with him, and when I say no, he owns the place, people raise their eyebrows because it is pretty strange for a 23 year old to own a house in London.

Everything above is very dick-ish for sure, but the true story is:

It is actually not easy at all to get such an overprivilege in check in Europe or in America, especially when vast majorities of Westerners still hold the belief that Asian people work for restaurants, nail salons, or dry cleaners, and we come to these big cities to search "for a better life." In many ways, precisely because of this subtle but definitely still evident racism, I tend to inflate my overprivilege. Questions like "so what was your preconceived stereotype of British people when you first came to London?" - are people expecting an answer like "Oh! I thought everyone would wear bowler hats and be so much more cosmopolitan than I am!" As if I've never been to London before I moved here (I've visited London 5 times before moving here last year). Someone also actually asked me if Hong Kong is named after the Vietcong.

So yep. This is why I do not feel comfortable coming out to my peers at work. I've come out to the partners though - I know they are well-travelled, well-spoken, and definitely well-off. But for the rest of my peers, I can't help it. It's just too weird.

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