Having hard time with gay co-workers

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This topic contains 29 replies, has 28 voices, and was last updated by  Bob23115 5 years ago.

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  • #2869

    Ian21354
    Participant

    Two co-workers of mine are openly gay, and I just can’t relate to them. I feel uneasy around them. For example, they stare at me in a way that I might stare at a woman. I don’t care that they’re gay, but it causes me repulsion and hatred when all I hear is sex in their conversation. Also, one day I was talking and described a group I was in by saying that ‘all of us were normal, and (one was) a gay guy…’ All of a sudden a gay man who heard me screamed, ‘I’m tired of people thinking I’m a freak!’ What should I do?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Ian21354, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 24, City : Orlando, State : FL Country : United States, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #20273

    Tom24112
    Participant

    You’re smart to recognize that you have to do something, because you’re the one with the problem. You’re not going to change them, nor apparently do you expect to get them fired for being openly gay. So, what’s left? Your note suggests that you are very uncomfortable around gay people. You need to decrease your discomfort level. Here are some ideas: 1) they’re going to continue looking at you. (If it helps, remember that women may feel just as uncomfortable about your looking at them as you feel being looked at.) So, get used to it. Just because they look at you doesn’t mean you or they will ever do anything about it. 2) their conversations distress you. Listen carefully to what they say. Maybe you’re hearing selectively and tuning out the non-sexual things they say. Or maybe they are obnoxiously sex-crazed. If so, you can explain to them that at work you like to focus on work topics and that sexual chat of any sort is inappropriate. (And it is; you don’t make sexual comments to or about women at work, either.) 3) watch out for dangerous words like ‘normal.’ Being gay is normal for lots of people (just as being left-handed is normal for lots of people). If I were you, I’d apologize for calling people names. (Yes, just like sticks and stones, names hurt.) And I’d start examining other comments and behavior in which you may communicate your negative reactions to gay people. It’s possible that one of the reasons these fellows act up is as a response to the hostility you telegraph to them. Since you can’t control them, your best course of action is to change yourself. Try to look past what is disturbing you to see the common humanity that you all share. You don’t need to like them – they may in fact be offensive, uncouth people. But you do have to work together. Why not give them a chance to work with you as a colleague? Everybody is worth at least that much.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Tom24112, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Age : 56, City : Washington, State : DC Country : United States, 
    #26576

    Mark B.
    Member

    First off, understand that I’m not excusing bad behavior by your gay co-workers; discussing sexual topics where co-workers can hear is inappropriate for gays or straights. Having said that, I would correct your first sentence to ‘… and I just WON’T relate to them.’ I would also suggest that if you are uneasy because they stare at you like you would stare at a woman, then you have the perfect opportunity to learn a little propriety. Why is it OK for you to stare at a woman? Do you assume that she’s happy to have you do that? What if she was feeling creepy about having you stare at her? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander apparently doesn’t apply in your world. Your statement about ‘…all of us were normal, and (one was) a gay guy…’ is blatantly bigoted. Substitute any ethnic term for gay, and you would find yourself in some deep trouble. My advice to you is to understand that people that aren’t just like you aren’t abnormal, they are just another part of the human spectrum. You have chosen to act and speak in a way that marginalizes gay men as being other than normal. Either live with the consequences or learn to modify your behavior. My best straight friends joke about gay sexuality with me, but they come from a level of comfort about who they are, who I am and they appreciate our differences.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Mark B., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Cathedral of Hope - UFMCC, Age : 39, City : Dallas, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Financial analyst, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #28196

    Chuck A.
    Member

    You claim that your co-workers ‘stare’ at you the same way you might ‘stare’ at a woman. What makes you stare at a woman? Her beauty? Her aesthetic appeal? Perhaps people stare at you for the same reasons. You should be flattered. On the other hand, if it makes you uncomfortable to have Gay men look in your direction, what makes you think that women feel any differently when you look at them? If a woman you are staring at happens to be a Lesbian, how comfortable do you think she feels? It sounds like you have some very real insecurities you need to deal with. You also need to get over the notion that Sraight people are ‘normal,’ and Gay people are not. The best way you can do this is to make a conscious effort to include Lesbians & Gay men in your circle of friends. There is no better way to overcome your fears and insecurities by getting to know Gay people and, in the process, seeing them as valuble and respectable human beings.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Chuck A., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 41, City : Spring Hill, State : WV Country : United States, Occupation : AIDS Educator/Part-time radio announcer, 
    #37198

    Cheryl-H32318
    Participant

    Saying “all of us were normal and (one was) a gay guy” was setting the gay guy apart and labeling him “abnormal.” I can understand the screaming. What would it sound like to you if you heard one of the gay guys describe his group of friends as, “all of us were normal, and (one was) a straight guy…”? Talking about sex at work is inappropriate, whatever the speaker’s orientation. You could ask your co-workers to change the topic or take their conversation elsewhere. It would be fair to accept that they would expect the same consideration from you.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Cheryl-H32318, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Lesbian, Age : 40, City : New Haven, State : CT Country : United States, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 
    #14653

    Karen26761
    Participant

    Unfortunately these days no one is immune to harrassment, sexual or otherwise. As our society is becoming more acceptable of open displays of homosexual behavior, boundaries for what is tolerated are constantly being tested. If you feel uncomfortable at work, it is your right to complain either to those who make you uneasy or to your supervisor (it is, after all, your employer’s responsilbilty to provide a safe and harassment-free environment.) As for your unfortunate slip-of-tongue, if you want your feelings to be respected, I suggest you do the same with others, no matter how ridiculously sensitive they may seem to you.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Karen26761, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, City : Denver, State : CO Country : United States, Occupation : designer, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #26309

    Dennis25694
    Participant

    You described yourself as Catholic; what if someone said the same thing you did, except substituted Catholic or Christian for gay? You may not have been conscious of it, but your words did make anyone who was gay let them know they were outsiders, and in a derogatory way. It’s not surprising that the person reacted. I would say an apology is in order. You say it does not matter that they are gay, but that you are repulsed when they stare at you like you would stare at a woman or talk about sex. Congratulations, you have an insight as to how women feel when you stare at them. Maybe your sister, mother or girlfriend has had that experience. Not fun, is it? Maybe you should think twice about doing it next time. As far as them talking about sex: Are your conversations with your straight friends so pure? How do you think people around you feel about it? All I’m saying is that you have now experienced what the rest of the population that is not white, straight or male experiences to a greater or lesser degree at some point in their lives. Experiencing those feelings could help you reflect on what you can do differently the next time you do those same things. If the talk, is explicit you should complain to your supervisor or tell your co-workers that you find such language offensive in the workplace. But ask yourself: Do you or others engage in the same activities in the workplace? If you are feeling hatred and repulsion, they are strong emotions, and you need to deal with them.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Dennis25694, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, City : Boston, State : MA Country : United States, Occupation : Teacher, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #27173

    Lucy-H22657
    Participant

    First, I think your comment about all of you being normal except for the gay guy was terrible. That guy had every right to be offended. You should apologize to him. You might also explain to him that you have not had much experience with homosexuals and sometimes you are not sure what to say. A little honesty and open communication can go a long way. And since you all work in the same office, these issues need to be resolved. Otherwise they will stay just beneath the surface and get worse. As for the guys talking about sex all the time, I think it’s annoying and tacky when anyone talks about sex all the time – gay or straight – especially at work. Sex is supposed to be a special private activity between people, not something to be discussed in the lunch room.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Lucy-H22657, Gender : F, Race : Hispanic/Latino (may be any race), Age : 25, City : San Jose, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Engineer, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #28312

    Mike20389
    Participant

    Yours is a surprising twist on a familiar situation. I’ve been in an office environment for a long time and have experienced similar behaviour and defensiveness from other workplace minority groups. Women, Asians, Blacks seem to cluster together, gossip about others and react negatively when approached. There are two perspectives to consider: For years these minorities have been woefully underrepresented in the workplace. The few that are there, follow a natural tendency to ‘hang around’ people with whom they are comfortable. However, in an open environment, this tendency can relax as the group integrates more thoroughly with the organisation. The second perspective has more to do with being gay. Many of us have chips on our shoulders from having to lie about our sexuality. When presented with the opportunity to be open, we can go a bit over the top. (I believe this is one reason for the popular right-wing complaint that we flaunt our sexuality.) If this is the case, this too can relax with time. Of course there is a third explanation: Your co-workers are jerks. (Yes, there are obnoxious people in all minority groups.) Ian, Just keep an open mind and if it is appropriate, let them know you are not interested. If their attentions go too far, just consider what a woman might do if she was being ogled by male co-workers.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Mike20389, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 37, City : London, State : NA Country : United Kingdom, Occupation : Technical Manager, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #35380

    Andrew
    Participant

    I’m sure the upset gay man realizes all too well that he’s in a minority. But that is no reason for him to quietly submit to being put down and labeled as abnormal. Should blacks and Jews stop seeking equal rights in this country simply because they’re minorities? Should women everywhere just ‘accept their position’ as second-class citizens? I don’t think so, and the same applies in this case.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Andrew, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 35, City : Huntington, State : NY Country : United States, Occupation : Reporter, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #35510

    Michael C.
    Participant

    You’ve already related that openly gay people make you uncomfortable and that you have (in the presence of someone gay) stated that gays aren’t normal. Maybe your two co-workers don’t want to ‘relate to you’ either and figured out a way to keep you away by talking about something that causes you ‘repulsion and hatred.’ Or maybe the conversation was a private one … and it’s entirely probably that the staring isn’t even staring but a glance in your direction so they can get out of the way. So, what are you to do? Let me put my manager hat on. I’m not going to lecture you on what I perceive to be your bias, but I would tell you to: 1) Think before you speak in the future. 2) Mind your own business. 3) Get back to work.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Michael C., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Methodist, Age : 38, City : Houston, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Intranet Manager, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #42073

    Cheryl32332
    Participant

    If you worked with a person in a wheelchair, would you say ‘one of us was normal, the other was crippled’? I think the gay coworker that became upset with you was within his/her rights. However, it might have done both of you some good to discuss your statement rationally. You may have discovered that you really do have a problem with your coworkers’ homosexuality. If the coworkers were straight, would you still have a repulsion and hatred for the sex talk in their conversation? I think you need to do some heavy soul searching and take the time for a little diversity education.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Cheryl32332, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Christian, Age : 52, City : Atlanta, State : GA Country : United States, Occupation : QAA, Education level : 2 Years of College, 
    #43140

    Jesse-N30792
    Participant

    If their looks or comments are problematic, this constitutes legal sexual harassment. You may not want to take legal action, but you can file a complaint with management and threaten to do so. As for the screaming, this guy has to realize that he’s a minority and has to accept his position. It is foolish and delusional for him to think that he can make the mainstream (straight, normal) society think that he’s the same as we are.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Jesse-N30792, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Age : 40, City : Herzliya, State : NA Country : Israel, 
    #16728

    Brian23007
    Participant

    I don’t even know where to start. You have all the signs of a classic homophobic male. I’m guessing that they aren’t staring at you like you might stare at a woman. More than likely you’re imagining it because you feel uncomfortable around them in the first place. Saying that gay people are not normal is just plain offensive. I don’t understand how you could not see that. I think you could learn something from this: Imagine how uncomfortable you make some women feel when YOU stare at them.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Brian23007, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 33, City : Minneapolis, State : MN Country : United States, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower class, 
    #46082

    Bob23115
    Participant

    If they are making unwanted sexual advances then you may inform your boss of being sexually harrassed. Otherwise it is best to ignore them and go about your work.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Bob23115, City : Fresno, State : CA Country : United States, 
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