Straight, as in truthful, not as in hetero. For the record I’m gay. Gay as in rainbow flag, not as in happy-go-lucky.
I don’t fly the flag at work, but I do have a photo of Cristy and me holding hands on my cork-board. A handful of colleagues, including my boss, have met Cristy and a fair number of other colleagues know that I am gay and that she and I are involved in a loving, committed relationship.
Last week, as I was having a casual conversation with a co-worker in our office-kitchenette, it occurred to me that he thought that I was straight (as in hetero). In my mind, I had at least a few options: (a) immediately set the record straight (as in truthful), (b) ignore it – his assumptions are his business or (c) worry about it later. My preference would have been option (a), however a variety of work-related scheduling considerations prevented me from entering into what undoubtedly would have become a somewhat lengthy and personal conversation. I defaulted to option (c).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in option (b) as well – allowing everyone the opportunity to form their own opinions. But there comes a time in the formation of human relationships when trust and honesty trumps the “don’t ask-don’t tell” approach. My relationship with this coworker, while not personally close, is genuinely respectful and affectionate. I like to talk with him and enjoy hearing stories about his family. I appreciate him as an individual and as a professional. He is one of the many, many reasons that I love my job. So in my mind, not setting the record straight with him about being gay is lying. I cannot envision myself lying to this individual under any other set of circumstances, so why would I lie about this?
The truth is, I won’t. I will find an appropriate opportunity to fill him in on the missing information that will assemble a complete representation of my reality. I respect his ability as a mature human to adjust to the new information and reshape his opinions about me, if that is what he might choose to do. But I don’t think he will. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt about managing gay-out news. I think of it as little more than a slice of information that doesn’t affect anyone else personally. Oh, she has 5 dogs. Oh, she’s moving to a new house. Oh, she sent out that report with all those cool graphs last week. Oh, she’s involved in a committed relationship with another female.
Am I oversimplifying this perhaps just a tad? OK, possibly, but only to the extent that I'm not accounting for the element of surprise. Other than that, I don’t think so. I’m being straight here.