Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Display of hatred.

 Yesterday I was shaken up a little by something that happened at work. It was a conversation between myself and someone that I have worked with for years. Doug is generally a nice guy, he can be a little old fashioned or conservative in his thinking but not to extreme or so I thought. For instance, he doesn't support a politician just because they are right wing, they have to do a good job.

 Doug came into the room where I was working and started to talk about the transgender person, apparently he was upset with the way she was dressed. I started to point out that it's not about "him" it's about what that person needs and it's not our business, when all of a sudden Doug starts ranting and raving about her. He starts fuming over washrooms, the change rooms, the men's showers, has she seen him changing, that he feels violated by her etc etc. Then he starts saying things like, there are probably more people like that around and probably gay people as well at work... and that you never know who is checking you out, it's disgusting! He was absolutely livid, I could feel the seething hate he had for the trans woman.

 I was completely caught off guard, I have never felt so uncomfortable in the presence of a "friend" before... a little afraid to be honest, he is much larger than I am and very athletic. I really felt in that moment if I had said that I am gay (and I was angry enough that I was tempted) he would have hit me out of a sense in his mind of betrayal. A woman I work with came in to get me and so he ended the conversation.

 Today I can't even look at him, I did not know he held those views. I even see him differently today than I did yesterday, like he has been replaced by a totally different person, one that just happens to look like him. It's unsettling to discover that someone you once thought of as a friend, is actually an enemy.


Jimmy said...

Time to come OUT at work Steven.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Your coworker is a vile person. He is projecting on the other coworker what HE does: he treats women as things and thinks a gay man or the trans woman will treat him the same.
My advice? Give him the courtesy of strangers. A nod, a greeting. And nothing more. He’s bigoted and has a terrible idea of what women are.
Because you’re not out, they’re friends with somebody who does not exist. You may have to follow Jimmy’s advice. Or be prepared to many more of those surprises.


Bob said...

I might have said, "I'm a big old queer and I've never once looked at you."

He needs to be shut down.

Jennifer said...

Do you have an HR department you can report him to? That kind of language at work is definitely a form of harassment whether or not you were the target of it. You felt intimidated as any reasonable person would and you don't have to work in a hostile environment like that.

Old Lurker said...

I agree with Jimmy, but you knew that already.

Doug does not have to be your enemy. He is upset over something. But he is ignorant the same way the rest of us were ignorant when we first came to terms with our sexualities, or when we encountered trans people for the first time, or when we first learned that straight people sometimes have sex (with each other!). None of that ignorance makes him your enemy, and you already knew that he had conservative leanings before.

Homophobic people often lose their homophobia when they work with somebody they like and trust who is also gay. If you are too chicken to come out to him directly, here's one approach: you could just let him know that you understand his discomfort but that you found some of his statements hurtful, because your sister is gay and she is not like that. Tell him that you are a little afraid of him now, and you don't want to be, because you are good coworkers and would like to remain good coworkers.

Alternatively, you could just seethe until things blow up. That is another strategy, I guess.

I find it interesting that you see Doug as being completely different now. That is very similar to the way many parents/friends feel when they learn a loved one is gay. Doug is still the same person he was before the outburst, and he still has good qualities in addition to less admirable ones.

Mistress Maddie said...

That's just the type to come unhinged. And maybe not a bad idea to have a confidential talk with HR. While nothing my come of it....your uncomfortable and should not have to hear that. Do they have an open door there, where you can talk? If so, I'd say something. I'm sure they would not want that happening, otherwise they would not employee that trans woman. They oblivious dont mind her. I'd alert them. Talk like that can not be tolerated.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

It's truly a vile and distressing experience when a hateful friend, acquaintance or family member shows you their true self because they think you're "one of us" and it's "safe" to do so. I've been there too. We probably all have. I know in my own case that something similar was such a horrible event that it precipitated my own decision to come out to my family right away.

However, I don't think this must necessarily force you out of the closet if you're truly not ready for that and would not feel safe. Only you can assess how much you can stand.

Old Lurker's idea about telling your coworker that his remarks are distressing because your sister is gay and you know she's a good person, etc. is a good way to approach the topic with him but ONLY if your sister is fully and openly out because she can be identified via you.

Old Lurker said...

You should do what you have to do, but this HR talk makes me feel uncomfortable. (Maybe that is why I am unemployable.)

For one thing, it was not so long ago that WE could lose our jobs after being reported to HR for being gay.

For another, I do not see how getting reprimanded by HR (or worse, getting fired) for having a conversation with you will reduce Doug's transphobia or homophobia. Maybe he will hit bottom and see the light? Or maybe he will just get more bitter.

That is not to say that the HR advice is wrong. If Doug was saying intimidating things to another coworker, or making threats against the trans employee, that would be one thing. But venting to someone he thought was disconnected in a 1-1 conversation? Oy.

(Yes, I will shut up now. Sorry for being a loudmouth.)

Christina said...

Being subjected to this has been a terrible shock for you.
If he ever starts this up again you need to verbally close him down and let him know you don't engage in such gossip.

Unfortunately some people cannot or will not accept things and that's their right but you also have a right to be able to go to work without being bombarded with such hatred.

Maybe HR can help?

JP said...

If you feel able to do so, tell him how you felt about his rant. It doesn’t have to involve your sexuality per se but tell him it made you feel very uncomfortable and that your silence wasn’t a signal that you agreed with him. It will take courage opening that up, but don’t let it fester.

anne marie in philly said...

if I ran your company, doug would be fired immediately!
as of this moment, doug is dead to you.
if he approaches you, you don't see him.
if he speaks to you, you don't hear him.
don't waste your time trying to convince the deplorable otherwise.

I had to do this to a former co-worker 30 years ago. said co-worker asked a friend "why doesn't anne marie see/speak to me any more?" friend said "you insulted her, you are dead to her, she wants nothing to do with you, leave her alone."

hope co-worker died a miserable death. I hope doug does too.

Deedles said...

I can't give you any advice really. I'd say find a spot between Lurkster and Anne Marie (and duck!). My situation was a little different in the workplace (eons ago). I'm a very, very shy person, but I would not allow anyone to make racist jokes in my presence. Sure, I'm Black, but that doesn't mean I want to hear snarky jokes about my culture or any other from bigots. Friends were okay :) You can defend a person as a person if nothing else. Hugs, sunshine.

Richard said...

This is a very difficult situation. If you go to HR and they take action, he will know you reported him. I'm not sure what you should do.

Jennifer said...

I realize that the idea of going to HR can feel fraught with peril; however, I firmly believe that the kind of outburst you were subjected to (and the things he said about another coworker!) should not be tolerated. Making everyone feel safe and respected at work is what a good HR department is all about! But then again, I've had jobs before where going to HR would have backfired on me so I can understand if, in your specific case, you don't feel safe enough to do so.

I've never had to navigate the world as a gay person, and maybe my privilege is showing when I feel so strongly about reporting. I will say this: that I will take advantage of that privilege and if I ever hear the kind of talk you described about LGBTQ folks at work, I will not only report it but I will raise some hell until the issue is addressed.

In any event, I'm so sorry you had to endure that kind of hateful talk.