I never go out with work colleagues. Yes, it’s because of privacy issues related to gayness. I especially avoided it when in African cities. I realised quickly that the religious and conservative environment meant that often people could be singled out by their supervisors for things they did on the work night out or just in public and were seen. One of my colleagues ended up losing his job for something that was not even related to the company, something in his personal life that leaked.
However in the UK, it’s far easier. There is a certain feeling that everyone has been there and done that and people don’t really care who you shag or if you shag at all. And there’s a certain camaraderie that’s built up by those after work drinks.
I work in a female-dominated environment and they have all been very nice and easy to work with. We’ve had a few big nights. One of them in particular was so bad I had to be helped home. I had thoroughly underestimated their bar prowess and paid dearly for it the next day.
So on another night out, I was chatting with one of my colleagues when she started to get a bit flirty. At that point, I took a few minutes to gather up courage and then told her “Listen yeah, I’m gay.” She laughed and said “we all know!” I was stunned. I couldn’t believe my ears. I asked how she knew and she responded: do you not remember??
On the big night that I’d gotten so drunk, I’d told many of the coworkers that I was gay. I don’t even remember any of it. And so it had been passed on as part of the usual office gossip and was old news. I was the only one who didn’t know I’d been out at work for weeks. A few things suddenly began to make sense. I’d detected a softening towards me from many formerly frosty members of staff that hadn’t been there before and now I knew why. For some reason I felt weird at work. It wasn’t that I was upset that I was careless with my private life – it’s legal to be gay in the UK and I knew my job wasn’t in jeopardy – this was all uncharted territory for me and I had never even considered telling work colleagues. All my energy so far had been expended in figuring out how to tell family with the plan that I’d work on work folk later should it be deemed necessary yet the reverse had happened. Eventually I decided to let things flow and not overthink it. So far things have been good, no one has made anti-gay statements, made me feel uncomfortable or tried to set me up yet (thankfully!).
And the love and respect I have for my coworkers continues to grow in leaps and bounds.