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Q: She Keeps Outing Me
So I have this friend from my undergrad who has always been really supportive of my sexuality. She was great when I recently came out, went with me to pride, goes to gay bars with me, etc. Which is why her current behaviour is so frustrating.
We recently started a professional college and she is having troubles adjusting and making friends. In what I think is her attempt to get attention, she keeps outing me in front of our peers, often in really weird, inappropriate ways. I think she’s going for the shock factor and is trying to come across as cool and queer-friendly but instead she’s a total asshole. Example: at the bar, she turned to a new classmate who we barely know and said, “did you know she’s a lesbian?”. Everyone was kind of shocked at how ridiculous and unacceptable her comment was. How do you even respond to something like that! Thankfully, everyone she has outed me to so far has been amazing and they often have called her out on how horrible she is being. I’ve told her multiple times that she needs to stop and she always apologize when she realizes what she’s done, however she still continues to “accidentally” out me in professional settings.
I’m so pissed off and at a loss as to what to do. I can’t avoid her completely since I’m stuck with her for the next 4 years. Some people have suggested going to administration but I kind of want to avoid that since I’m entering a paternalistic profession in a fairly conservative city with an even more conservative admin. Discrimination against females and homophobia are an unfortunate reality and I don’t want my sexuality to limit future opportunities. Thoughts? Advice? Anything???
Wow, reader, that must be a terrible situation for you! It’s difficult when our friends trivialize things that are very important to us – in this case, your desire to not be “out” in a professional setting. I definitely understand the implications that come along with being a lesbian and trying to be taken seriously. Often, we must rely on the same invisibility that sometimes contributes to us being trivialized.
Personally, until I began working as a writer, I was almost never “out” at my job, except for maybe one or two people. It frustrated my partner to no end – she wanted no more to be able to kiss me when she dropped me off at work, but I wouldn’t allow it. Luckily, my career path has led to somewhere much more accepting, for the most part (although even working from my home, I do occasionally face discrimination in regards to my sexual preferences – always veiled, of course).
It can be especially difficult if you feel “stuck” in the situation. You mentioned that you can’t avoid her completely, but can you limit your social interactions with her? It may seem a bit harsh to “unfriend” her for these actions, but as you stated in your letter – she’s being an asshole. You deserve better friends than that, and it’s obvious that she’s not even trying to consider your needs.
This actually brings to mind a story from my childhood, which may pertain to your case as well. When I was 14, I was with a guy who I knew to be gay, and he was one of few people at the time who knew I was gay as well. Things worked out fine, until the day when I accidentally let it slip to our friends that he was gay. Of course, I left out the part that I was gay, too – I was more used to hiding that.
In a way, I was seeking validation from them. Their responses to my confession would help me determine whether I could safely come out to them myself. I’m not saying it was right, and in fact it was downright horrible. Many of our friends stopped talking to him, and although they applauded me for “exposing” him, I felt emptier and lonelier than ever – because I knew they wouldn’t accept me, either.
(Thankfully, once he was ready to come out on his own terms, he forgave my indiscretion and we actually hung out at Pride events a few times. But for some time after I outed him, he understandably hated me and refused to be around me.)
There are a few differences between my story and yours, though. First, I was a teenager, and I was lying to myself. While it is possible that your friend is also a lesbian and trying to “test the waters” before she comes out on her own, she is an adult and she should know better than to drag you under the bus. Of course, the same is true if she is seeking popularity. She should know better.
But you may be partially to blame for her not knowing better. Before I lose you, let me explain: By taking no actions aside from commenting on the inappropriateness of her remarks, you are basically telling her, “This makes me mad, but I’m willing to keep dealing with it.” Subliminally, you are telling her that you value your friendship with her more than you value your own right to privacy. I’m sure this isn’t your intention, but we teach people how to treat us.
The second difference between my story and yours is that the people who she has told have been accepting. You may be concerned with her confessions putting a damper on your future work prospects, but at the same time, it can be incredibly freeing to know that you’re working for someone who would not discriminate against you. (In the example I gave above about my partner dropping me off at work – I learned later that my employer actually had a gay son, and I was keeping a secret for 3 ½ years for no real reason.) True, if you are out, you face the chance that employers may not want you due to your sexuality – but do you really want to work for a company that doesn’t accept you?
Of course, your answer may very well be that you prioritize choices over quality. Even in my writing career, as I mentioned, I have faced some discrimination, and I have debated whether to remove the information in my portfolio that tells that I am a lesbian. But some of my favorite jobs have been built around my sexuality, so why would I want to push them to a dark corner in order to “maybe” win over someone who doesn’t approve?
In the end, it’s really no one’s business but your own. If your friend refuses to leave your business as your business, she’s not a very good friend. If your potential employers see you being a lesbian as a “liability” in any way, they’re not a good employer. You are of course free to make your own decisions – but the easiest way to take away the power is to be out and proud, and focus only on the opportunities which don’t punish you for that.
Take care, reader, and I hope you will make the right choices for your life!