By Tori Tucker,
The Gay Agenda
This month I started a new job in downtown Portsmouth. Over the past few years of working a variety of summer jobs I’ve come to realize that each new work place has new things to offer; new skills to learn, and new people to meet.
It can be stressful at times, trying to memorize all the rules and regulations, not to mention recipes, prices and products, but to add to this stress, people of the LGBTQ community have to worry about how they’ll be received by their employers and coworkers.
Thankfully in New Hampshire this seems to be less of a stressor.
For me I had to learn to come out over and over again in each new work place. Usually it just starts with a casual conversation with a coworker who’s interested in your personal life: “Do you have a boyfriend?” “What did you do this weekend?”
Luckily for me, I’ve never had to deal with any negative feelings, and even better, I’ve had openly queer coworkers to talk to. My friend and past-coworker, Jason Sederquist, from Popovers in Portsmouth told me that he’s never been met with a negative response to his sexuality in the workplace.
“Even while I was living up in conservative nowhere, I’ve never really faced any strong opposition. Every job, and given, maybe it’s because I’ve always worked in kitchens where you develop this strong sense of family, I’ve always had this love and support from all my coworkers.”
My friend and supervisor from the Portsmouth Public Library, Andrew Greenlaw-Houldsworth told me that he’d also had mostly positive experiences when it came to coming out at work. He stated that, if anything, female coworkers in particular were even more inclusive of him, (while some straight male coworkers were a bit standoffish, if just at first.)
Surprisingly, he also told me that at times the most unpleasant feelings come from fellow gay, male coworkers: “When I’m working with other gay men it can be a bit chilly too: at least until he realizes I’m not interested. Usually.”
In my own experience I’ve found that reactions have varied from when I was single to when I was in a relationship. The first time I came out at work I was newly out and single, and it seemed like suddenly everyone had a friend they wanted to hook me up with.
However, now that I’m in a relationship this has changed drastically. Andrew also stated that he’d had similar experiences with this: “Oh my God, you’re gay? I have a gay friend! You two should totally meet! This is totally a thing, and it almost never works! I got this regularly when I was single in my early 20s. I also got a lot more ‘gay questions’ like about sex, dating, gender-role stuff, and so on. Now I get asked marriage gender role/plans for children (specifically how we’re getting them, who will be “mom” etc.)”
He went on to say that he felt that straight people find that when he, as a gay man is in a relationship it hetero-normalizes him for them. “I find that when I specify that my partner is my husband it’s met with markedly happy responses. People like to label, and if they understand your label they’re comfortable.”
As it is with every other part of our lives as queer people, it always seems to be the case that older generations generally have a harder time being accepting of our sexualities, although some try their best to roll with it. Emma, who works at the Wentworth Home in Dover told me a funny story last year about how she had been having a casual chat with one of her favorite residents when this resident in particular asked if she had a boyfriend.
My girlfriend was surprised because she had mentioned me as being her girlfriend a couple of times before and explained to this resident that we were not exactly platonic. This caused some slight tension for the remainder of the day. However, when she came in the following day the same resident excitedly informed her that “you can still have kids, you know,” which was a strange, but sweet gesture to show that she approved.
For me, I’ll just say I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of negative responses I received after coming out at work… all three… four, of my jobs. There was a while before I had come out that I was really dreading what people would say or do, but thankfully I’ve never had to deal with any uncomfortable feeling from coworkers.
I feel very grateful to have come out both when, and where I am, and as Andrew put it, with more and more people embracing their sexualities, being gay has just become another layer of who we are as people.
Tori Tucker and Emma Simpson write the column The Gay Agenda together for InDepthNH.org
Tori Tucker was born and raised in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She graduated recently from Keene State College with a major in English-Writing, with minors in music and German.
Emma Simpson is a Women’s and Gender Studies major at Keene State College. She is the vice president of her campus a cappella group and involved with Planned Parenthood as a volunteer.
InDepthNH.org and Manchester Ink Link co-publish The Gay Agenda