Stranger in a Strange Land
By Adrienne Moscinski
Every one of us has a story. A bit of truth that we tuck away from new eyes. A gaze that we aren’t quite sure of yet. We swim around the unknown looking for the light, where we can finally share who we are – our truth.
Interviewing at a new company can be daunting. Poised with a crisp resume in hand, you present your best face. In a tailored suit, you search for the right words to let your personality shine through, while assuring the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job. But your truth is still locked away. You nervously wait for word of another interview and it comes and goes with the same safe responses and the same hidden truth. Finally, you hear the good word; you’ve got the job! You are elated, yet riddled with nervousness and doubt as you anxiously look forward to day one.
Day one comes with many gazing eyes from new faces. All of them wondering ‘who are you?’ They don’t know that you are still determining who you will be at this new job; they don’t know that you use every second of every interaction to determine if it’s okay to take off the mask. Unlocking your truth in a new environment can be a difficult task to undertake. First, you need to determine if you can reveal your truth. Is this new company, with many new and different faces, safe to share your truth? Is this a warm and caring environment in which you can let your truth shine through? These are just the first two of many questions that springboard you into a sea doubt—a doubt that you will never be sure of until you reveal your truth.
But, time is on your side. You’re a master at hiding your truth within an impenetrable fortress with sky high walls, encircled by a moat made of fire and enclosed in a magical force field. And, in those first few days, you learn from and about your nearest coworkers. You observe faces and mentally log every word and reaction. At night, you become a masterful ninja working on a dissertation in mental gymnastics to determine all the possible outcomes if you share your truth. Soon, the new faces become familiar, the conversations flow and laughter fills the air. Maybe, it’s time? And, during a particularly innocuous conversation, you slip in “my girlfriend,” nonchalantly. Nothing happens. And, in that moment, you know you picked the right company.
Unfortunately, not everyone can share their truths so easily. Around the world, coming out at work can be a major risk to someone’s personal and professional life. Personally, staying closeted and keeping up appearances can bring about high levels of stress that can affect mental and emotional health and job performance. While, in professional life, coming out can affect job security and jeopardize career advancement. Therefore, being part of the LGBTQ community and sharing our truths can come at a price and the following should be considered:
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Are fellow coworkers open to sharing their personal lives during casual conversation? Is the work atmosphere warm and friendly or cold and hostile?
- Is your new workplace inclusive or exclusive to LGBTQ employees and what is the work environment on families like? Are there LGBTQ coworkers who are openly out?
- Are there any identifiers or talk of support for the LGBTQ community or other minority organizations at work?
- Does your employer have a written non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Does your employer’s health insurance cover domestic partner benefits?
- Does your state have a non-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity?
Why Being Out at Work is Important:
- Reduces stress
- Builds trust
- Fosters acceptance, tolerance and understanding
- Cultivates genuine work relationships
- Eliminates any perceived deception or misinterpretations
- Increases productivity
- Creates another avenue of support
As I wrote this article, I reflected on all the jobs I maintained from youth through today. At the first two, I did not know my truth. During that time, there was no anxiety beyond job performance. I was young and carefree with no definitive burden of identity to bind my spirit. As I began to understand myself during college, I was bound by a new identifier—one that I was afraid could negatively shape how I was perceived in this world. Those years were tough; but with time, experience and maturity, the coming out process becomes easier. But, it never comes easily, and my past experiences never negate or assuage my general fear and anxiety towards coming out to new faces in a new environment. In particular, this article represents my journey at my current job in a time and place where I am okay with who I am – my real truth.
Through all of the struggle and inner turmoil of coming out over and over again in my personal life, school environment, and now, the workplace, Liverpool Football Club’s anthem sums up the resilience needed for me to live my truth:
“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your hearts
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone”
– Gerry and the Pacemakers
Adrienne Moscinski is a Data Entry Analyst at Wiss & Company. If you are in a similar situation and would like to speak with Adrienne, you may reach her at 973.994.9400 or at email@example.com.