Relationships

On Coming Out at Work

Coming out at work

After moving to New York City and starting a new job, my Google search history included ‘cheapest happy hours,’ ‘dress codes at publishing houses’ and one other burning question I dared to ask the internet…

‘How do I come out at work?’

According to WikiHow and a slew of online forums, inquiring LGBTQ readers need not worry. “Be strong!” they encouraged with generic stock pictures. “Have a script!” they suggested, along with well-meaning but vague ideas for opening lines and back-pocket monologues. “Find your allies!” But HOW? These articles boiled coming out down to a task akin to tying my shoes, but it still loomed daunting to do so at my new corporate job.

My only experience being out was from going to college in Northampton, Massachusetts, also known as “Lesbianville,” according to The National Enquirer. (Seriously, though, this is the crosswalk.) There, my girlfriend Kerry and I could walk through town and run into couples just like us. I worked at a preschool where half of the children in my class had same-sex parents. Life as a lesbian didn’t just feel normal there — it felt celebrated.

In my new office, with windowless cubes and fluorescent overhead lights, I found it harder to open up to my new colleagues. Small talk consisted almost exclusively of book talk and weekend plans, and to my fresh-out-of-school, 22-year-old self, the fine line between sharing and oversharing proved murky at best. So, when my new coworkers happily asked basic get-to-know-you questions during team lunches, I panicked. Our icebreaker chats went something like this:

Friendly coworker #1: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: No. (Not technically lying here.)

Friendly coworker #2: Are you dating anyone?
Me: No. (Kerry and I were way past dating! We were solidly TOGETHER. Right?)

Most people take one look at my long hair and floral dresses and assume I’m straight. On one hand, that’s a privilege; I get to choose when and how I come out. If Kerry and I travel to a new place, be it a different country or neighborhood restaurant, we can first walk around as “friends,” read the environment and then decide if it’s safe to hold hands. At the same time, though, I can fall prey to people’s assumptions, which can lead to some awkward and hurtful comments.

Really? You don’t look gay,” someone once said.

“Who’s the ‘man’ in the relationship?”

“Is your girlfriend pretty? Or is she butch?”

“Are you sure it’s not just a phase?”

The dread of having to potentially validate my identity to people rendered me silent for the first five months of my job. Even though no one gave me a specific reason to feel unsafe or judged — I was working in a progressive industry in New York City, after all – I couldn’t be sure that things would stay the same once I came out. Would women think I was flirting with them if I gave them compliments? What if I were suddenly the only person not being asked to grab coffee? I didn’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. I really just wanted to be liked.

Still, I yearned to tell someone about Kerry; how we met at a workshop and I told her I liked her pen (don’t ask me for flirting advice), her fierce devotion to teaching first grade, her spot-on Cookie Monster impression and how much I missed her in these new stages of our long-distance relationship. I was, and still am, so proud to be her partner, and every failed opportunity to mention her filled me with guilt. Withholding Kerry from my coworkers made our relationship seem shameful. When I’m with Kerry, I feel like my best self; my whole self. I wanted everyone to see that version of me, too.

So, I followed the one piece of advice that resonated from my initial internet research: “Take a breath.” There was no need to send a department-wide email or gather everyone around for a suspenseful moment of truth. I could start small and take my time. It’s easy to forget that everyone has parts of themselves that are harder to share than others. If I listened to other people and let them into my world, people would do the same for me.

I wish I could say that my coming out moment was a raucous, monumental event, but really, it was on a crowded, swelteringly hot subway with one coworker. I didn’t feel strong or have a script. She asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I replied, “I have a girlfriend.”

That was it. Four words. Two seconds. I could breathe again.

Have you ever struggled with sharing more vulnerable parts of yourself at work? If so, how did you? Sending love and courage to those who may need it.

P.S. 15 career tips from smart women.

(Illustration by Kristen Solecki for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Eleonora says...

    I asked my new colleague “do you have a partner?” and he answered “my boyfriend left me a few days ago” so in the end it was still a difficult conversation! But he later told me he appreciated it. I also made lots of efforts in choosing neutral wording with an intern because I was not sure he was a young woman or a young man: the name was the only feminine thing about him and I wanted to respect the person and the choice by behaving accordingly. We saw him a few months later and understood he had been transitioning. But the biggest challenge was after only a few weeks since I started into the job: I remember telling a young co-worker that I didn’t want to join a work reception because my mom was in town and she replied “you are right, be with her, I have lost both my parents and you want to spend time with them”. She later explained her father died of cancer when she was only 10, and the mother when she was twenty-something, also to cancer. I was shocked she shared something so big and so simply, she tried to make it easy for both of us. I had used the same approach when talking about my parents’ divorce, or my father’s motorbike accident (he lost an arm), but her loss was on an entirely different level. So, I tried my best to be supportive without pity, I don’t know if I managed. This blog taught me to be considerate, everybody has baggage or difficulty in sharing something and I try every day to improve. Thanks for this Franny.

  2. Amy B says...

    Nice piece, Franny. I’m also a Smithie, class of ‘93. Was a student there way back when Noho was dubbed Lesbianville.
    Met my wife at Smith and have been with her since 1991 and have had various experiences coming out at work.
    In 1993, I was out to my same-age coworkers, but not the higher ups, at my first job in NYC with no problem. Then, moved to metro Boston and was completely out at my second job. It helped that the office manager and one of my coworkers were out gay men.
    Then, I went to law school and was out at both a big law firm and a small law firm in Boston in the late ‘90s. Again, no issues.
    Left law for middle school teaching. Was not out at my first school which felt horrible and I had to overhear a couple of really homophobic comments from other teachers. At my most recent school, I have been out to all colleagues. I also come out to students if they ask and I keep a photo of my wife and me on my desk. I absolutely refuse to lie or deflect when asked about my family. When a student asked my first year at the school (15 years ago), it was a very gossipy but not aweful experience. The last five years or so, when students hear, the response is that it is totally normal and no big deal. Love Massachusetts that way!
    I’m starting at a new district in the fall so will need to go through coming out again. Just met with the HR director and she came out to me by mentioning her wife when we were chatting. That makes me feel better about the prospect of coming out to a whole new group of people. It’s forever a process and this well written piece accurately describes it.

  3. The article titled as “On Coming Out at Work” is written well. When you go to work, there are many things that you should look at including dress code. People have different expectations when they go for a job but most of them will go in vain since the reality is completely different from the expectations. It is always better to understand the things that you should keep up when you go for a job.

  4. Margaret says...

    I laughed at the NoHo stuff, but I feel you on this whole article. I am also a femme Smithie, and I frankly have pretty much always been in the closet at work until I started dating my current girlfriend. For me I live in a more conservative part of the country and I am a prosecutor. Frankly my sexual identity is no one’s business, and its hard enough being a woman working with police officers and the criminal law system. Anyway, my girlfriend is a public defender who I met in court when we appeared against each other (yeah, I’ve seen that movie too). Anyway due to ethical stuff against opposing parties, I had to tell my office about the relationship at the same time I had to tell them I was queer. Its largely has not been a big deal; most of my coworkers have a harder time with me dating a public defender than with me dating a woman. But, I wish I hadn’t been put in a situation where I had to out myself and could have let it just be a natural thing.

    • I am ready for the movie/book about your life.

  5. Sylvia says...

    Everytime I read some post about coming out on insta (now here) or have talked with friends about how their coming out felt to them I always find it so frustrating. Like, why is there even the need for the concept of coming out? Obviously I am cisgender, hetero, privileged and very naiv, but I so wish that just nobody would care for the gender of your loved one.

  6. Ro says...

    OMG YES FRANNY RIGHT?!

    I always dread those conversations even though I’ve never had a capital-B Bad one (though I’ve had some seriously awkward ones). My wife and I are both femme, which I loved when I was younger because it was easy to pass, even though I hated myself when I did it.

    It got a lot easier for me after I had kids – it sort of gave me this push to not take the easy-outs. I felt like I was letting them down if I let someone assume I had a husband instead of a wife. They shouldn’t be embarrassed, so I had to learn not to be, too.

  7. Wynn says...

    tbh I don’t understand why everyone feels compelled to share so much personal info in the workplace. I don’t know much about the vast majority of my coworker’s personal lives….and I like that because it keeps things professional. it’s one thing if it’s off-the-clock, but I don’t see a big reason to get into personal stuff at the office….LGBT or not.

    and it sort of feels like that since we’re living in a post-Obergefell world, we should maybe be putting highlighting our sexual identity less….we’re all on common ground now, so it should be less of a big deal….if that makes sense?…..thanks for sharing, franny!

    • Sara says...

      I don’t know about you, but I am at work at least 9 hours a day. That’s way more waking hours than I spend anywhere else! I have a lot that I keep private (such as, my recent miscarriage and my brother’s heroin overdose – he is ok, thank goodness) but there is a lot of personal stuff that my coworkers do know (like that my husband and I are looking to maybe buy a house and that my mom is getting married this summer). I spend a. lot. of time with these people and I think of them as my work family. We share stories of our weekends and days outside of the office during breaks in the workday and it makes work a lot more enjoyable. Frankly, the people I work with are one of the best parts of my job and I can’t imagine not telling them the funny story about what my husband said last night. I feel like I know their partners through these stories, even though I haven’t met them! So it makes sense to me that the author would want to reveal this part of her identity to her coworkers, and doesn’t feel like a super private thing to discuss. I think it’s pretty common to ask how partners/kids/etc. are doing among your coworkers?

    • Nina says...

      Hmm…1. I don’t think we need to share everything but as Sara said we spend almost all our time at work. And frankly, I had a friend who was gay and he couldn’t even have pictures of his spouse or talk about him when he worked in a very conservative workplace. Imagine that – you, in passing, can’t say “oh I went out to dinner there with my partner.” That any thought of talking about it might get your fired and/or blackballed. I had another friend (who is lesbian) who had allegations of sexual abuse that were totally false and found to be made up as retaliation and forever that is in her employee file despite the finding there was no foundation because she had befriended some women and they were jealous of her advancing above them. It’s always a concern. And even if you are not at work, I’ve run into co-workers…for both of the above, they would have to hide their partner if they met people so no one would know. (Sara I’m sorry about your miscarriage and brother – glad he’s ok). I think it’s really important to recognize the impact it can have.

    • Wynn, I appreciate your comment and the time you took to write it. I also feel like people get really personal real quick. I have pretty high boundaries when it comes to what I’ll disclose in the workplace.
      Also, I have a very straight-passing relationship and when people just make assumptions about who I am based on who I’m partnered with, it feels like I’m lying when I don’t correct them. At first it’s no big deal but if I’m going to be spending 40 hours a week with these people for an indefinite amount of time, I don’t like feeling like I’m lying as time goes on. I want to live as authentically as I possibly can within the boundaries that I set for myself. And that means coming out when it comes up.

      “We’re all on common ground now, so it should be less of a big deal.” That’s simply not a true statement.

    • Kate says...

      I can’t go anywhere with my wife and feel completely comfortable, we’re judged regularly, and I often fear for my family’s safety, especially my wife’s, who was born and identifies as female but is often mistaken for being trans.

      That’s not being on common ground.

      Before I came out, I dated and was married to a man.

      I have lived life as a “straight” person, and I now live my truth as a gay person.

      The difference is night and day.

      When you don’t have to think about it, you get to hold to the belief that we’re on common ground.

      Those of us that live it know different.

      We share and live our truth so we can hopefully one day get to that common ground.

    • Aine says...

      You don’t understand why people “share so much personal info” but I bet you know which of your coworkers are married or not. It’s really not that personal! We’re just used to things being a particular way that it’s jarring to be reminded our assumptions are often wrong.

  8. t says...

    The first thing I do when I start a new job is put a framed photo on my desk of me and my wife and another one of the two of us with our two kids.

    Coming out without coming out.

  9. M says...

    Great to see this article here! Some thoughts on being queer in NYC:

    1. I mention my wife as soon as it fits into the conversation so that missteps don’t happen. I think of it as a courtesy! Especially now that we have a child, and are around other families often, assumptions happen easily, and by the most open-minded of people, so I like to make sure we’re on the same page right away.

    2. As much as I have felt awkward including my gay-ness into the conversation, I try to avoid assuming that straight people would be prejudiced against me. I tell myself that by being honest, I am being open-minded and not making assumptions that “they will reject me,” (in quotes because it’s fear’s voice) which is unfair and actually untrue of all the straight people I’m already friends with. Besides… I’m just meeting them, so how do I know they’re straight?! ;)

    3. On that note, straight people often do know queer people–straight children have gay parents, straight people have gay brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and best friends–and if they don’t know any queer people, no time like the present to let them know that we actually have quite a bit in common!

    4. This was definitely not always easy, it’s a journey, but in my experience, one best taken by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (as long as your safety is not at risk) and noticing that everything is usually still ok. Also, having a child has reminded me that I don’t want him to ever feel like he has to be ashamed or apologetic of who his family is. So, onward with the pride!

    • t says...

      yes to all of this. i usually feel love, support and acceptance after coming out in professional and social situations (i do not mean coming out to parents/families) or at the minimum just ambivalence. It has never resulted in backlash.

      I have received dumb questions like who is the man in the relationship but I never feel the need to validate anything. To that question I usually laugh and say “really? that’s a pretty archaic question.” Or if it’s my grandmother’s friend in the nursing home I just gently say “neither of us fall into the standard male/female roles; we are just us.”

      The author was clearly hurt by those types of questions but for me I think of the person as naive and curious rather than intentionally hurtful.

      And I do the same thing working my wife into the conversation early to avoid the other person making an incorrect assumption and then feeling bad.

  10. Emily says...

    Franny,
    I think our world is slowly getting there. I hope for a world where everyone can feel comfortable simply talking about how their weekend or life in general is, with their significant other, regardless of their sex. Don’t we all deserve to small talk with our coworkers, discuss our families etc. without being cryptic or hesitant? Great article and great discussion!

  11. Taking a breath is the right answer in so many circumstances, but especially if you are someone who likes to share, as I do. I’d love it if more people about to ask intrusive or insensitive questions would do the same. A mantra is born! :)

  12. Rashmik says...

    The world would be a much better and kinder place if everyone followed that piece of advice, Laura.

  13. Lynn says...

    What a great essay! … and a lovely series of reader comments. I’m thinking a lot about coming out on behalf of another person. When your child is LGBT or otherwise Q, it’s so multi-layered. Their truth is not mine to share, but my experience as their mom *is* mine.

    What to share? How to share w/o compromising their autonomy? How to honor and offer the respect that both parent and child should have? More grist for the “Parenting is Complicated!” mill.

  14. Kathy Murphy says...

    So as a heterosexual my question is this, what can we say or do at work or in a social environment to make this easier? For example, obviously questions like “are you dating anyone?” rather than assuming gender, but what else can indicate that we’re a safe person to come out to?

    • Jess says...

      Speaking just for myself, I find it refreshing when people make an effort to say partner instead of boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife etc. It may be a low bar, but when someone uses neutral language, I’m always relieved and feel like I have the space to refer to my wife in a way that feels like a natural part of the conversation and not a correction of someone’s assumption.

    • Mom of Boys says...

      I’m comfortable asking, “is there someone special in your life?” This brings no weight to the conversation. And the person can answer however they want. And the question is always a good conversation starter.

    • t says...

      Great question. I think asking gender neutral questions is the key but if you really want to be an obvious ally then put a little pride flag in your pen cup or wear an ally pin or pin a rainbow sticker to your cubicle.

  15. Rachel says...

    I did my Masters at UMass Amherst. I looooved Northampton! Cheers to you, Franny! Even saying things in then tiniest whisper is a sign of strength.

  16. RT says...

    I am also a fairly straight-looking lesbian, and I have done this a few times (in different countries in Europe). I always wait a bit (for a few weeks or months) until I come out at work so that others can form an opinion of me before I come out. Then I generally tend to tell a few People one by one (unless someone asks me a direct question, like “are you seeing anyone” and I’m going out with someone), usually by mentioning my Partner in casual conversation. It is scary the first time. At one Office I worked at, I told a few Office friends and thought word would get round (I gave them permission to tell others) but they didn’t and I ended up telling all my colleagues one by one at the next big work gathering we had. So far, I haven’t had any adverse reactions, and I think my Initial “get to know me” without coming out period really confirmed this. I should add a caveat that I work in Translation, where People are generally fairly laid back and task-oriented.

  17. Liza says...

    I loved seeing this on here and I can totally relate. I had a very similar experience. I worked in PR for a long time and felt incredibly cautious coming out in an industry that heavily caters to the heteronormative mainstream press. I started letting it slip with a few lower level people in the office and then slowly built it up until one day I was at a company outing and one of the VPs was commenting on how hot all of the guys in the bar were and how she might be married, but she should be setting us up and she looked at me and said, what kind of guys do you like and I looked her straight in the eye and said, Women. She blinked and said oh, and turned away, but it was like BOOM I said it. Someone who matters knows. Then she looked back at me and said, see anything you like? She never treated me differently and it was an enormous relief. The super hetero atmosphere ended up being a big part of why I left, but I didn’t leave because I felt like I couldn’t be out. I left because I disliked serving a population that I didn’t relate to and hated that pitching condom brands was 90% of my job. My only real regret is not reaching out to an executive that I know is gay and asking her to mentor me. It would have been really nice to have a queer mentor in my industry. Thanks for sharing your story, Franny!

  18. Sam says...

    “and then decide if it’s safe to hold hands”… Is this what it is like to be an American?
    – Canada

    • L K says...

      Probably some parts, but I think mostly when they’re traveling in other countries where it might not be safe.

    • Amy says...

      Yes, I think this sums it up. There have been many points where I felt too uncomfortable to hold a same-sex partner’s hand here in the U.S. :(

    • ee says...

      its like that in parts of canada too

  19. one of my closest friend and coworker came out to me as a bisexual. I have known her for 5 years and she has only talked about men she dated. One day she sat me down and told me she dates both men and women. I said great… I am not here to judge. As long as you are happy, I don’t really care who you date. She was so nervous and I felt angry and I wasn’t sure why.. After thinking about it some more, I was mad at the fact that she felt like her sexuality was something that needed “coming out”.. that it was an event.. I have a young son and I hope he feels that telling me he doesn’t like broccoli is on the same level as telling me his sexual preference. I hope we can be that kind of society where people’s sexual preference is just one of many things that make us human.

    • Liza says...

      . . . I don’t even know where to start with this. You were mad that she was nervous to come out? You said, I am not here to judge? How do you think that made her feel? These kinds of reactions are exactly why we are terrified to come out. Prejudices are usually buried deep within people and we can never know how someone will react. Even someone who is super liberal can change how they behave around you once you are out. There is a huge difference between not liking broccoli and being gay.

    • Saying “I adore you exactly as you are” or “I love the person you are, all of you” is more welcoming than “I’m not here to judge.”

  20. isabelle says...

    It’s disturbing to me that coworkers are even asking a twenty two year old about their romantic relationships, seemingly unprompted? I can’t imagine being that nosy and straight up asking “Do you have a boyfriend?” If you really can’t help but pry into other people’s personal lives, maybe just ask what their plans are for the weekend or for a holiday break, or what part of town they live in. I can’t imagine putting someone I just met on the spot like this where they either have to lie or give up personal information when they aren’t completely comfortable with it. What if they are in the process of a nasty divorce or breakup, or just coming to terms with their sexuality, or just found out they miscarried? If someone wants to share part of their life, they will volunteer the information when they feel comfortable.

    • Madeline says...

      I wholeheartedly agree. Well said!

  21. Alex Buckley says...

    Take a breath. Thank you, Franny, for this gorgeous post and for reminding so many of us of the giant power in this simple act.

  22. Alex Peterson says...

    Thanks for your story, Franny! (Also, three cheers for Northampton! I work one block from the rainbow crosswalk ☺️)

  23. Amy Cohen says...

    Loved this piece! And welcome, Franny! My boss came out to me at my interview for the job (she was asking about my family – after telling her I had 2 little kids she shared that she and her wife were in the process of choosing a sperm donor) and it felt so right to be joining a company that accepts others for who they are and created such a respectful atmosphere. I initially thought it was a lot of information to share with someone she had just met but then I thought that I had just shared with her I also was married and had children so how was this that much different? I hope that my children will come of age in a world where it’s not such a “big deal” to talk about your same-sex partner the way people talk about opposite-sex partners.

  24. Lauren says...

    While I haven’t ever had to worry about coming out at work, something I’ve only dealt with fairly recently has been “coming out” at work as a person who has lost a parent. Since I’m only 28, the majority of people I meet and work with assume I have two living parents. It’s only natural. My father died by suicide when I was 20, and soon after I began dreading the day when somebody would inevitably ask something innocent like, “What do your parents do?” or, ”Where do your parents live?”

    That day finally came when I was 22, fresh out of college, and hanging out in a coworker’s apartment killing time before a work happy hour. The topic of parents came up and eventually he directly asked what my dad did for work. I couldn’t avoid it anymore, and I can’t even remember what I said, but it caused me to start sobbing while choking out something like, “He passed away, actually.” (Mind you, this was only 2 years after the worst day of my life and was the kick in the ass I needed to realize I should go to therapy to work out these feelings a bit more.)

    I can’t remember if I elaborated to my coworker about how recent my father’s death was (or the tragic, sudden nature), as a way to explain what some might consider an excessive reaction, but either way, this actually prompted him to share with me that his mother is a breast cancer survivor. He confided how hard her struggle had been for him. Something I would have never learned about him had I not been forced to share my secret.

    I often wonder if I would be as hesitant to share about my dad’s death had it not been by suicide. I consciously know that I shouldn’t conceal that part of the story, as that just feeds the idiotic stigma around suicide. Some people worry that sharing about a relative’s suicide might make people think you are mentally unstable by relation, or have a lot of baggage. And losing my dad at 20 did indeed trigger some anxiety in me I didn’t know I had, and give me some baggage I’ll never be able to shed (and makes me feel so lucky it didn’t happen during my more formative years). But I’m not ashamed of that. My main concern with telling people at work is that I just don’t want to bring people down or have them pity me. So it’s a fine line. There’s no good time to bring it up, which means it will only come up when somebody else asks (similar to coming out at work as gay), meaning it won’t be on your terms and you can’t really prepare for it.

    Honestly, the only thing that’s made it easier to share with my coworkers has been time, and changing jobs. I left my 30,000 person company for a three-person small business, and even then I didn’t tell my boss for two years (just last summer). She actually inferred it from attending my wedding and hearing our officiant mention both my father and my husband’s mother who were there in spirit. She later asked me how he died and I told her, and she confided that she grew up with a mentally ill mother who made several suicide attempts while my boss was a child, and her mother still struggles to this day. Again, something I don’t know that I would have learned had I not opened up. It really reminds you that everybody has baggage.

    Side bar: 8 years ago my friend and I were the clueless college girls who point-blank asked my then-crush-now-husband, “What’s the deal with your mom? You never talk about her.” Only to have him respond that she died of breast cancer when he was 18 and he didn’t like to talk about it. I still had two living parents at this point and couldn’t fathom what that must be like. I truly pitied him. Less than a month after that conversation, I would find out for myself what that felt like, and I was so grateful to have my now-husband-then-boyfriend at my side every step of the way. Incidentally/tragically, my own parents each lost their fathers when they were teenagers and it’s something they were able to connect over as well. Not a very romantic family tradition, but it’s the truth.

    TLDR: Share your truth, and people may surprise you.

    • Rebecca says...

      Lauren, have you heard of thedinnerparty.org ?
      It is a great organisation for people who have lost a parent (although not exclusive to), whether it was a day a year or a decade ago.
      There are potlucks all over the country, and the group I belong to in NYC has been great.

    • Abbey says...

      This! My dad died suddenly of a rare cancer when I was 27 (3 years ago), and I feel the same way about talking about it. The hardest thing for me is the times when I want to tell random anecdotes about my dad that have nothing to do with his death, especially to people who don’t know that he died. It feels dishonest to talk about my dad and know that they’re assuming he’s still alive, but not every random funny story needs to end with this big dramatic “…and then he died.”

      Also sometimes I want people to know, but I don’t want it to be a whole THING, so I talk about it very matter of factly, in passing, and sometimes I think they get the impression that this is ancient history for me, or that I’m not very upset still. That’s what I would have thought back before he died.

      One of very few upsides is that it has made me more compassionate, because I understand so much better how complicated grief is.

      P.S. The bonding is real. I think of it as the Dead Dads Club, and have been shocked by how often I meet fellow members.

    • Cora says...

      I agree. My dad died when I was an infant and my sister died when I was 12. My whole life I’ve struggled with when/how to disclose this information. Past 40 now, I find it much easier to answer the question, “do you have siblings?” with a simple statement about my sister’s death. This makes a lot of people uncomfortable and I’ve learned to diffuse awkward situations on others’ behalf (not that it should fall to me). I can learn a lot about a person by how they respond.

      One issue I am having a hard time disclosing at work is my mother’s current health concerns. Her physical health has rapidly declined in the last two years and she is in the early stages of dementia. I started a new job this year while dealing with her condition and it would have been nice if my co-workers knew what I was dealing with, but it’s a tricky conversation to start. I did learn that another co-worker has a similar situation with her mother so we have been able to speak more openly about it.

    • Ellen says...

      Hi Lauren – as I was reading your comment, I had to double check that I hadn’t written it in my sleep. Having also lost my dad to suicide as a teen, I resonate with this so, so much. Thanks <3

      And Rebecca, thanks for the link to thedinnerparty! Excited to check it out.

  25. Gill F. says...

    Thank you so much for including LGBTQA+ content in here! What people don’t tell you when you first come out is that coming out isn’t a one step deal. You need to keep doing it over and over and over. Every new friend, landlord, job, pet adoption agency, on and on and on. And that’s scary! Because you don’t know how the world will accept you. I loved this piece because it resonated so much with me! I’ve found it works best to just be as causal as possible, so when I go into my new job and my boss asks if I’ll be at the company picnic I say nonchalantly (as I panic inside) ‘yea I’m bringing my gf and we’re really excited!’ When that new friend asks if she can come over for spaghetti and scrabble I say (while breathing deeply) ‘of course! I can’t wait to introduce you to my gf!’ I’ve learned that the world is scary and daunting and it might not go as you plan but I have too much love for myself and my girlfriend and the life we’re building together to let fear win.

    • Han says...

      I’d never thought of the element of having to do it over and over again! That must be annoying but I love your approach.

      Where I work, most people mention their SO as a ‘partner’ if you don’t know them well. This keeps it neutral and you can spend forever guessing if the partner is same sex or not. But I think that’s nice because it allows people to share as much or as little as they want. For instance the other week I was in a meeting with some colleagues I didn’t really know and one of them said ‘oh yeah my partner’s worked for company X’. In that context it didn’t matter who their partner was, rather we were discussing the company.

    • Jo says...

      Yes, this! No one appreciates that only celebrities get to come out once and it’s done :-) A friend who has adopted a kid came back to me recently and said, ‘now I totally understand’ as they are now having to decide every time they meet someone whether they need the details of the kid’s background or not, and when to disclose it.

      I tend to come out early to new people by mentioning my partner by her pronouns ‘she’s a project manager’ or some such (we both have gender neutral names or I’d just use her name!) It’s always awkward correcting assumptions so I appreciate it when people ask about a ‘partner’ so you can enthuse positively rather than a ‘BF/husband’ so that you have to correct them awkwardly.

  26. Laura says...

    I was recently instrumental in getting a friend from a previous job hired at my current job. She is married to a woman and is very open about this fact, but I didn’t feel that I should or should have to mention this to anyone. It was amazing how many people (including our boss) approached me later on saying that I should have “warned” them so they didn’t say something stupid or insulting to/in front of her. As if it is my right or responsibility to out my friend at her new job!
    My response to all of them was that perhaps they should refrain from saying presumptuous or insulting things to anybody :-/

    • Emily says...

      Yes! Exactly. Great response

    • Tara says...

      Laura. You rightly gave your friend the privacy she deserved. Being gay/divorced/single has absolutely nothing to do with her ability to do a job well.
      I am the mother of a gay woman. Do I owe it to every new person I talk to about her that I must mention the personal aspects of her life? If it happens organically through the conversation, so be it. But I do not feel that I need to explain her life to anyone. I do not “forewarn” anyone. She is happy and that’s that. Same thing for you here. You did not evade any questions when asked directly (it certainly doesn’t sound like anyone asked about her personal life). You just allowed your friend the ability to stretch her own wings when she came in, to tell her own life story. And correctly, everyone should be on their best behavior no matter who they may meet. They are adults after all!

  27. Gen says...

    Well done, Franny! Excellent story. You rocked it. Thank you for sharing what you discovered in the process.

  28. Kelsey says...

    Loved reading this, Franny! Did your research turn up The ‘Nancy’ podcast? They did a whole ‘Out At Work’ series that was pretty interesting (and I love that podcast in general).

    • Franny Eremin says...

      No, I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for sharing! xx

  29. Alexan says...

    This is everything I have been experiencing. I am in college serving in a governmental internship currently so while I know I’m under “equal employment regardless of x, y, and z”, it’s been tough as a lesbian. My girlfriend and I are very long-term, very much “together” as you quoted, but it’s still difficult to have the courage to come out to all of my older colleagues who are all very religious. For me, it is the fear of not knowing how they will react. They may all be 100% cool with my sexual orientation but I don’t love the risk, and who is to say they deserve to judge without knowing my full story. Thank you for putting all of my thoughts and feelings into words.

    Excited to see more of your voice, Franny, on CoJ! Way to go Joanna on bringing such a fresh voice to the team!

  30. Taryn says...

    Take a breath is perfect advice for so many things, just like my Dad claims the ocean’s salt water is the cure for all that ails us. I’ve recently been struggling with coming out about my anxiety disorder and a deep breath has made the difference more than once. On the one hand, I’m a great employee and I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. On the other, I am part of a protected class and if I require an accommodation, like working from home when my anxiety is particularly acute, I need to be open about that. I also can sometimes speak with a harsher tone than I intend, or might get really flushed and look angry when I’m not at all (probably just feeling overwhelmed), and being open about those realities helps my colleagues know it’s not them if I seem off one day. But I also worry it will make me seem like someone who can’t be asked to manage a lot of responsibility (Not true! The weight of my anxiety and my fight to get it under control has made me tough as nails and determined as hell. Not to mention organized to a T).

  31. Lauren says...

    I had to call my boss from the doctor’s office when I found out I was having a miscarriage because it was in the middle of the work day and I was not going to make it back for a meeting. She was extremely supportive and I ended up telling my teammates and a handful of other coworkers because I did not feel like myself for a good 6 weeks and wanted them to know the reason I was so off instead of making one up on their own. I didn’t want a pity party or extra sympathy from them, but rather a baseline of understanding so they would give me some space and time as needed in the weeks following my d&e. I am blessed to work with some very compassionate people who supported me through the toughest situation I have experienced while working full time and trying not to drop every ball at the office. I learned through my miscarriage that almost everyone has either had one of their own or has a close friend or family member who has lost a pregnancy. I wish it wasn’t still a somewhat taboo topic because it is so common and being open about my experience really helped with my healing process.

    • Isabella says...

      Hi Lauren — I’m so sorry about your loss, and glad that you had supportive people around you in the workplace. It’s true, once women get talking you realize that we’ve almost all experienced a miscarriage! I lost my first pregnancy, and carried my second to term. During the second pregnancy, I adhered to the common rule of thumb to not share the news of my pregnancy widely until the start of my second trimester — so I spent three months hiding 24-hour-a-day morning sickness and stupifying fatigue and crazy emotional wobbles from everyone. In hindsight, I wish I’d just told everyone I was pregnant right off the bat, so that *they* had a baseline of understanding for why I was in such bad condition. If I’d lost that pregnancy as well, then I could have simply told everyone so, and then again been able to benefit from compassionate understanding around me. It makes me sad that we wall ourselves off during these very vulnerable periods of our lives, as if our pain was something shameful that we need to hide. Sending you hugs and hoping that your healing process has carried you all the way through sorrow and into peace.

  32. Amy Feltman says...

    Thank you for this article, Franny! I really related to it (and loved seeing queer content on Cup of Jo today.) I was always nervous to come out at work. Despite living and working in NYC, which I know is a great deal more liberal than many other cities in the U.S., I’ve had coworkers tell me to “keep it to myself” when I mentioned my girlfriend, “since the others won’t like it.” A few other coworkers have told me they thought it was a sin to be gay and treated me with some combination of fascination/suspicion. It really spooked me. I feel really lucky to have found an accepting workplace for the past four years, but I will always remember how uncomfortable and nerve-wracking those past experiences were.

  33. Kiana says...

    I’m an atheist and I’ve never revealed that fact out loud to a coworker. I’m from a big city where no one ever asks or brings up religion at work except in benign ways (my daughter’s communion is this week, we’re fasting for Ramadan, etc). But then I moved to a small city where people would ask about my religion and invite me to their churches and even try to convert me (grimace). I totally realize that for most people in small towns, asking someone over to your church is their way of being hospitable and welcoming. But they don’t realize that it’s incredibly awkward for the other person. I still don’t know how I would have brought it up… It was hard enough explaining why I’m a vegetarian.

    • Emily R says...

      Lived in Virginia for a summer and some of the coworkers who were older or I didn’t know as well would ask me to their church. I would just smile and brush them off. I’m fairly certain they asked EVERYONE to church, so no one’s feelings were hurt. It’s just something they talked about similar to the weather.

    • K says...

      this is something I also encounter a LOT in the midwest. Everyone is religious, and the few times it’s come up, people act offended when I say I am an atheist. I realize that it puts my views in opposition to theirs, but it’s not like I’m offended that they’re religious. I stopped saying anything at all, but I now feel like I’m being disingenuous. In some religious areas, I also felt judged for saying I wasn’t religious – like I was some heathen!

  34. Last year we had not one, but two women come out at work with their baby showers! One was pregnant herself, and her partner came to the shower. The other had a shower thrown for her and her expectant wife by her coworkers. Everyone was surprised, but accepting and happy for them, which is amazing because they would not have had the same reception at my company even 5-10 years ago. I work for a VERY conservative company that has not always handled matters of gender/race/sex/religion well. It hurts my heart that the two moms didn’t feel comfortable coming out before their showers, but I’m so glad they were able to do so in such a happy, exciting way. We do have a few other openly gay employees as well, and most of them came out slowly and organically. It’s been so wonderful (but at times frustrating) to watch the culture of my company change over the past ten years. I hope that soon no one will have to worry about workplace acceptance based on who they are.

  35. HCathy says...

    Thank you for this amazing post, Franny! I have also struggled with allowing myself to be vulnerable at work. In the last two years, I’ve had three miscarriages and I’ve worked through all of them. Miscarriage can be a drawn-out process. It has been very difficult to show up to work and pretend everything is business-as-normal when I’m carrying lots of grief and (literally) a heart that is no longer beating inside me. Miscarriage is not a topic that our society has deemed acceptable to talk about publicly, especially in the workplace. Despite this, I’ve had moments where I’ve really wanted to tell some of my coworkers. My miscarriages have affected my work performance at times, they have shaped who I am today, and, to be perfectly honest, sometimes I’ve just needed a little validation. Each time, I’ve held back on saying anything due to the fact that I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable or seen as attention-grabbing. Separating our work selves from our human selves is not easy!

    • K says...

      *Internet hug*

      I’m sorry you had to go through that without anyone at work knowing. I think a big part of this conversation is that work culture in American esp. is so tough. You’re encouraged to work through most illnesses so you can prove you’re a team player and that you value your role. You’re thanked for driving in during intense snow storms and appreciated when you put the job first, even when it goes against common sense. It’s unfair, and dangerous. And women tend to pay the price more than their male counterparts. I’ve sat at my desk with a bad period waiting to either faint or throw up, come in during the middle of Influenza-A, and coughed through a week of Bronchitus. I can’t imagine the emotional and physical pain of a miscarriage at work. It hurts to think about it, and it honestly makes me angry that we live this way in 2018. I really hope things are better for you now, or as good as they can be.

    • HCathy says...

      @K – Thank you! I appreciate the internet hug! What you wrote really resonated with me. As a woman in my early 30s, I still feel the need to “prove” myself at work. This has definitely played a role in my decision to work through my miscarriages (not to mention periods, illnesses, snowstorms, etc.). The added layer of how uncomfortable society is with miscarriage has made it all the more difficult. I’ve recently made the decision that I’m not going to shy away from the topic when someone (a coworker or otherwise) asks me about my future plans for children (a subject that is always rife during coworker pregnancy announcements). More women, like me, who’ve had miscarriages need to start speaking out so we can begin to normalize this common experience and build support for each other.

  36. Helene says...

    Welcome, Franny! I love your writing and am excited to have you contribute your compelling, warm, and strong voice to Cup of Jo!
    On a slightly unrelated note, do you have any recommendations for best restaurants and bars in Northampton? I’m going for the first time this summer and would love any suggestions you have. Thanks! And welcome, again :)

    • Nykole says...

      Hey Helene, I know you’re looking for recommendations from Franny, but I thought I’d chime in since I live in downtown Northampton. So here are some suggestions:
      – Best Restaurant/bar is actually Coco & The Cellar Bar in nearby Easthampton
      If you want to stay in Noho:
      – Restaurants: There’s a newer place called Homestead, which has nice cocktails and the food is decent. La Veracruzana is a Mexican place with a fun atmosphere and good food. Paul & Elizabeth’s for tofu & somewhat-under-seasoned-but-healthy food. GoBerry for Froyo.
      – Cocktail bar: The Green Room
      – Beer bar: The Dirty Truth
      – Coffee: Northampton Coffee!
      Hope this helps!

  37. Kristina says...

    What a encouraging and thoughtful piece, not to mention brave! Franny, I love the parts where you share everything you love about Kerry and how she makes you the best version of yourself. That’s so beautiful and similar to the way I feel about my husband. Bravo for harnessing all your courage and leading by example!

  38. So proud of you, Franny (even though I don’t know you, haha). You write so clearly and with such a compelling voice. Loved this part: “It’s easy to forget that everyone has parts of themselves that are harder to share than others.” So much truth. And such a great reminder to have compassion and empathy in daily interactions.

  39. C says...

    Franny, thank you for taking the opportunity to come out at work to your readers! You are a beautiful writer, and I appreciate the personal touch and hearing your perspective. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Happy LGBTQ+ Pride month, y’all! xoxo

  40. Steph says...

    I came out to my new boss at the VA after just a month on the job. I had gotten engaged over the Christmas holiday and wasn’t going to reply to his inquiry about how my break went with a generic, “fine”, when such a momentous event had occurred. And he was great about it! But it was the most scared I’ve ever been. With people who aren’t my direct supervisor, I tend to just mention my wife in conversation as a matter of fact. I have never been a big fan of proclamations, and instead have taken the tack that if someone thinks it’s a big deal, that says more about where they’re coming from than who I am. This is much easier in my mid-thirties than it was at 22 though, for sure. Be gentle with yourself! You owe new acquaintances ZERO personal information until you feel that you’re ready and it’s relevant to disclose.

  41. lucy kalanithi says...

    LOVE love love. can’t wait to hear more from franny!! and the paragraph that talks about lovable things about kerry is so beautiful. :) thank you. xoxo

  42. C says...

    My husband and I have been together for almost two decades. We can talk about anything but just this past weekend I revealed to him a truth that I’ve come to realize in the last few years—I am bi. This in no way changes my attraction to him or our relationship but it still felt hard to say that I am equally attracted to men and women. I was blown away by how incredibly supportive he was and by how I instantly felt this weight lift from my shoulders. I didn’t think I could feel more appreciative and connected to him, but sharing this truth makes me feel even closer to him and more confident in our relationship and in myself.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Franny!

  43. Cara Mills says...

    I’m glad Cup of Jo had this article! Our company allows us to identify as Allies on our email signature and Company Profile. It may seem like a small thing, but I had a new junior member of our team mention that it made him feel comfortable bringing up his partner in our conversations. We also have a very active LGBTQ and Ally Network at work that offers online support and informative sessions. I just received an email from that group today that there will be a virtual Parenting Learning Series on “Family Expansion Options: Adoption” that reviews the process, timeline, costs, and benefits available from our company to support the process. I love the fact that our company makes this a normal part of our company culture and conversation.

    • SEVDI says...

      Are you hiring? :)

    • Cara Mills says...

      Svedi, they are….www.accenture.com! We’ve also had 10 consecutive years with a perfect Human Rights Campaign score and 15 consecutive years in Working Mother’s Top 100 companies. I seriously love this company – great maternity/paternity/partner adoption benefits and a wonderfully diverse workforce.

    • SEVDI says...

      Cara, thank you for your sweet reply. Unfortunately, I live on the other side of the world, but hearing of places like your company fills my heart with joy. A closet -no matter what manner of secrets it houses- is a very dark place. Having to hide parts of ourselves robs not only us but also those around us of so much.

  44. Linsey Laidlaw says...

    I sincerely believe that sharing these stories—opening eyes and ears and hearts to a perspectives and experience others haven’t lived or considered are paramount to slowly (but I’m praying surely) making the world a kinder, safer, more inclusive place for all. Thank you so much for sharing Franny & Cup of Jo team!

  45. A current Noho dweller says...

    northampton– where the coffee is strong and so are the women!

    also thank you for this piece, franny!

  46. Dee says...

    This was a great piece to read. I do have a question tho – referring to someone as queer sounds mean to me. Is this really a term that is ok?
    “If Kerry and I travel to a new place, be it a different country or neighborhood restaurant, we can first walk around as “friends,” read the environment and then decide if it’s safe to hold hands.” This part made me want to cry, to think that they actually have to size up the environment before being comfortable with who they are. But I guess we have come a long way and we are always learning. Hopefully one day this will cease to even be a discussion. Thanks Franny!!

    • Hi Dee! The term “queer” has been used as a harmful slur (and continues to have that potential). However, other people use it identify themselves and find it to be appropriate. I think the best tip, with this word and others, is to take cues from the people around you – if someone uses it to identify themselves, for instance, don’t replace it with a word you think is more polite, just use the language that folks use for themselves (but, if you do hear it being used as a slur by someone to hurt someone, then speak up if you can). Does that answer your question? Hope it was helpful <3

  47. Cynthia says...

    I had my furnace serviced and the dude doing the work asked me if his voice was too high. “Uh, no, not really, why?” Then he told me all about his process going trans and that part of the psychological work was freely talking to people about it. He hadn’t had surgeries yet but had changed his dress, name/pronoun, and was getting hormones and therapy. It was so awesome and I had so much respect for our shared humanity.

  48. Kate says...

    This blog is just getting better and better! Thank you! Feels good, don’t it?! <3 <3 <3

  49. Kathryn Clouthier-wilhelm says...

    Franny!!
    A little love from your old English teacher. This is amazing and so are you!

    • Amy says...

      OMG. This comment is amazing. Franny’s article is sweetly vulnerable and so well written. You must be so proud!

    • Carly says...

      What a crazy small world this is and an amazing community this blog is! Love moments like this.

    • C says...

      OMG this!!! I love this! Joanna, look at the community you have built.

    • Laura says...

      Why am I crying over this sweet exchange?! Love.

    • Gen says...

      This is among the best comments I’ve read here. Love it. :)

    • Kara says...

      Laura, I’m crying, too, and I’m not sure why either!!

      Some of my favorite teachers were my English teachers:)

  50. jeannie says...

    What an inspiring post – and so nicely written! This made me laugh out loud: ” I told her I liked her pen (don’t ask me for flirting advice).” Thank you for being so thoughtful and open and sharing your story with us. You are an amazing role model! I love how you took your time and struggled to find the right moment to open up and become more authentic – to be able to “breathe again.” Can’t wait for your next post!

  51. Meg says...

    Thank you for this! One way I phrase this question at work or new social situations is “do you have a significant other?”. It leaves it a bit more open for people to answer if they choose, without an assumption of any sexuality.

  52. Nina says...

    So…a different topic but my 10 year old told me the other day he thinks he likes boys and girls because he’s had a crush on both. I was like “ok I’ve always told you I love you no matter what” so it’s no big deal to me in terms of that but now I’m a little freaking out because I’m not sure how to support him in whatever he feels beyond saying “I support you.” How do I find supportive groups for him? How do I educate him and myself about the LGBT community? How do I help him negotiate this in his life? Plus, he’s asked me not to tell anyone we know so…I can’t ask anyone we know! I stressed out about being a single mom of a boy. Now…I’m feeling even less adequate. thanks for any insight anyone can offer.

    • Mary says...

      I don’t have specific pieces of advice (hopefully others will have concrete steps to take) but I do think “take a breath” works here as well. At 10, he has time to figure out who he is and what that means. Having the love and support of his mom is a huge step towards what he needs. It’s so wonderful that you’re looking for ways to support him (and yourself) and I don’t want to mitigate that, but I do think it’s also useful to let him go at his own pace a little (and just keep reminding him – as it’s clear you already do – that you love him no matter what).

    • DM says...

      If you are asking yourself these questions, you are doing a GREAT job already.

    • Bobby says...

      You might want to contact the Trevor Project — support/advice etc for teens LGBTQIA teens/tweens

    • Becky says...

      Hi Nina, I’m not a parent yet, I’ve been a full time nanny for several years. Prior to that a counselor for almost a decade. Listening and being available is the best support, in my opinion. Sometimes kids, and adults too, just need to verbally spill their thoughts to sort out their feelings. You don’t always need to have an answer ready. Even just saying we’ll figure it out together ( locating a support group, learning to make friends etc) and following through on that offer is more valuable than you realize. You sound like a fabulous parent 🙂

    • Meg says...

      Hi Nina- Its totally understandable to worry about how to handle a coming out! It can be really difficult to navigate both your own feelings and your reaction (which are often different). As someone who has come out as queer, and who works with LGBTQ teens, I think you’ve done the right thing so far. Let him come to you as he processes in his own time and continue to be open. He trusted you and thats a wonderful first step. Most folks tend to explore their sexuality in their teens and into their 20s, so his identity can change in so many ways- as long as he can talk to you and you keep an open mind and heart, you are doing it right.

      If you are looking for guidance- there are P Flag chapters in most major cities, which is a great way to connect with other parents of LGBTQ folks. Look for your local chapter on their website:
      https://www.pflag.org/

      There’s also a great book called “This is a book for Parents of Gay Kids” filled with great tips on dealing with the coming out process and answering lots of questions. (Available on Amazon)

      My mom was supportive when I came out, but I think she had a lot of questions. Some of those have sparked conversations between us, or between her and my partner, and some have been things that are better asked of strangers. Its okay to ask questions and its okay not to know.

      Hope everything goes well for you and your young person!

    • Nina says...

      Thank you all. I will definitely check out the trevor project, that website (hoping there are groups as we’re outside Atlanta ), and book. He hasn’t mentioned it again. I’ve always been very open about life, him coming to me about anything, etc and I’m so grateful he felt like he could trust me. And I’ve told him he doesn’t have to make any absolute decisions or tell anyone. While I feel like 10 IS young I also know that most people are aware of what their sexual orientation is from an even younger age so I don’t want him to think “you don’t know” just because he’s young. Honestly, he’s had girls asking to marry him since he was in pre-school and I’ve always said “that isn’t a decision you have to make yet.” (we moved from Utah and I swear its an obsession there!

  53. Nora says...

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Franny. My beloved older sister is gay and has been out since her early teenage years, and growing up I witnessed her struggle to respond to so many thoughtless assumptions and tactless questions from strangers, coworkers, and extended family similar to the ones you’ve described. It seemed so unfair that she had to deal with that stress and discomfort on top of the normal awkwardness of small talk, while I just got to sail through those questions without being singled out.

    I don’t know if it’s made any impact, but in the spirit of solidarity when I started my first job I decided that in my professional life I would use all gender neutral terms to describe my romantic partners. I wonder if more people of all orientations used gender neutral terms in professional settings, whether we would begin to make fewer assumptions about the details of colleagues’ personal lives, particularly in the icebreaker stage before those work relationships become close enough to morph into real friendships where there’s a foundation of mutual respect and intimacy.

    I will definitely think about your “Take a breath” advice as a reminder to pause and make sure that in any friendly conversation I start, I’m being open and welcoming in a way that allows the other person to share however they feel comfortable. If anyone else has suggestions for how straight people can be better allies in creating more a inclusive workplace culture, please share!! I’d love to learn more ways to get better at this.

    • Alice says...

      I have been using gender neutral terms for years, after once making an assumption of someone’s sexual orientation, being wrong, and realizing how silly and hurtful is was for me to assume. At first, my friends and family thought it was weird that I was specificaly saying “partner” or “spouse” all the time but now people are used to it and have even started doing it themselves.

  54. Julie says...

    I love this! This is exactly how I felt at 22 entering the work force. I went YEARS without clients knowing. AND when I started dating and would mention my girlfriend, people go “oh cool your friend!” I’m 7 years into my career and it’s still a challenge. One of the reasons my girlfriend and I joke getting married will be fun is it’ll be pretty hard for people to be confused when we say “wife!”

    P.S. Looking forward to Franny being officially introduced as a member of the Cup of Jo team!!!!

  55. Mary says...

    This is so inspiring! And I love that it happened on the subway – tricky to navigate, but then you find your way. Your coworker was lucky to hear your truth. And now so are all of us! :-) <3

    • Franny Eremin says...

      Oh my gosh, Mary! Your comment made my day. Thank you so much, I feel lucky to be here. <3

  56. Annie says...

    I think the easiest thing is to respond as you would if someone said they were in hetero relationship, such as, “Oh cool, how did you meet?” Totally understand overcompensating to show alliance, but many will find the sheer act of treating the situation as you would any other as supportive.

    • Robin says...

      I agree, Annie, because things like “how did you meet” or “what does your spouse do for work” have nothing to do with sexuality, so you’re not making a big deal about a person coming out to you. You can let the other person decide if they want to talk about things in more depth.

  57. Nykole says...

    I live in – and LOVE – Northampton, so thanks for the shout-out to our little Rainbow City, Franny!

    • Franny Eremin says...

      I miss it every day!!! Hoping to visit this summer – first stop will be GoBerry :)

  58. Stephanie says...

    This was so interesting! And while my situation is no where near the stress someone must feel about coming out I can relate to this in that it is hard sharing something personal that is not exactly what people consider ‘conventional’. I have three children and my oldest is 22 and I’m 38. I had her when I was 16. I had her while I was in high school and went on to college and I am now a professional in an upper management position in accounting. Not exactly a lot of teen mother’s in this field. So I think it’s a shock to people. Then I get the judgmental looks and comments: “wow you don’t look old enough to have a 22 year old!” or “wow how old were you when you had her?!”. So I always feel a little uneasy when starting somewhere new and they ask the inevitable “how old are your kids” question once we start talking about our families etc. Then I feel guilty for feeling uneasy about it because I love and am so proud of my daughter. She is the main reason I even pushed myself to finish college and pushed myself harder in my career. So anyway I just usually smile and answer “yes I was too young but here I am” and move on. I just wanted to say I found this article so relatable. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound like an amazing mother, stephanie!

    • diana k says...

      That’s a good, quick one. It will make the other person feel silly for making a fuss.

    • Camille says...

      <3 this so much

    • Bridget says...

      I get this too. all. the. time. I was 20 when I had my first (I have 4) I’m 42 now and people think my oldest son is my boyfriend or my oldest daughter my girlfriend. I have had scathing remarks about being too old for my son (thinking he’s my boyfriend). Its silly. When people ask me how old I was when I had one I always say I was old enough. I am so glad I had them when I did- I was done at 27. I finished my first degree with my first and after my 4th went to law school. I will have 3 in college this year with only one at home! You are awesome!

    • Melanie says...

      Great comment, and you sound like a wonderful mother! Question for everyone, though – is it considered judgmental to tell someone they don’t look old enough to have a kid of a certain age? I always assumed it was a compliment when it was said by me or to me, but now I’m thinking I should check myself?

    • Tirzah says...

      @Melanie Yes, I think we should stop commenting on whether someone looks “too young” to have a kid a certain age. On one hand, it implies a negative judgement if the person was actually a young mother. On the other hand, it focuses uncomfortably on a person’s age if the person is actually “old” but looks younger. Overall, I think we should avoid comments focusing on age, unless it is an intimate conversation with a friend. Same thing with physical appearance.

    • Stephanie says...

      @Melanie – Thank you! I think when the comment focuses on age it can be tricky. And of course the tone and the way the comment is delivered plays a BIG part. If someone says “wow you look amazing” or “I hope I look that great when my kids are in their 20’s” I’d certainly not take it as judgmental. I’d be extremely flattered. :)

    • Akc says...

      Just today I told a patient she looked too young to have a 21 year old son…I meant it as a compliment, as in ” you look so young!”… She said ” thank you.” … But now I see how others are offended by that. I like to give people compliments- is it true I should not comment on people’s apperance? ( I like your new hairstyle, etc…)

  59. Hannah says...

    As someone that grew up in Noho and thought the rest of the world was the same, so glad to hear how much you loved it and felt at home!! It’s a place like no other.

  60. Kate says...

    Thank you so much for this! I can SO relate. I spent years in a job where I didn’t come out and endured many awkward situations, including one in which my boss asked me if her outfit made her “look like a lesbian” (and not in a positive way). I was in a high powered fashion-centered environment with a lot of gay men, but no visibly gay women, and so I found myself hiding my orientation out of fear of being judged. I know it was a lot of my own insecurities holding me back, but it can be challenging to navigate these environments. People say lots of tone deaf things without realizing who might be listening! I’m in a different work environment now and am more comfortable being myself here, but it’s still hard sometimes. I feel like I can be accepted as gay but within certain frameworks (i.e. femme, not too “gay” in my appearance, etc).

    • Liza says...

      Sameeeeee! I had a not so nice coworker who didn’t know I was gay tell me that my outfit made me look like a power lesbian and I just said “Perfect. That’s the look I was going for.” He started to say something snide and then another coworker elbowed him and stage-whispered “Bro, she is a power lesbian.” Slayyyyyy

    • Franny Eremin says...

      YES, LIZA!!!

  61. Bonnie says...

    I have a (maybe dumb) question but I’ve had a few people come out to me at work and school, and, while I absolutely consider myself an ally (and I hope this is why they have felt safe/cool coming out to me), I always feel like I bungle my response. I seem to splutter out “THAT’S GREAT COOL COOL GREAT” and then just feel like I’m awkward and have maybe embarrassed both of us? So my question is… How can I be less of an awkward knob when people come out to me? What’s a good way to respond that shows you’re supportive of them? I need a script too!

    • Starlene says...

      Maybe you could say “how did you two meet?” or “how long have you been together?”. The same things you would say to a co-worker who said they have a boyfriend!! :)

    • Diana K. says...

      I just kind of use whatever stock response I use most in my lexicon at the time. “Oh, nice” “Cool” “Oh, awesome” and move into a follow-up if it feels right, like “what’s her name” or “how long have you been together.” I try not to sound too excited or surprised even though sometimes you are a little surprised.

    • Sandhya says...

      I think “Thanks for telling me!” is always a winner!

  62. Abbey says...

    Just echoing others saying welcome!!

  63. Katherine says...

    I had to eventually be open about my depression and anxiety at work, because of the way it manifested itself in me. I became closed off and unemotional, which is not like me at all, and I needed help being present with my 4th graders. I also have dermotillomania, and it manifested itself on my face for the first time in my life (before it was on my hips and arms, which was easier to hide and cover). I felt so self-conscious about it, and thought it would be better to be honest about why my face was so f*cked up, but then that led to me also being open about my mental health, which most people at my school didn’t understand and they quickly judged me for it. It was horrible and I eventually left that job, in part because of the lack of understanding and exclusion I felt from my colleagues. I hope to one day go back to teaching again, but in an environment where my coworkers are more open minded (I taught in a very small conservative Texas town, but I live in Austin, so my chances of finding a more inclusive school are high, I hope!).

    Welcome to the team, Franny, and thanks for sharing your experience. I am thrilled that your voice is now included here.

    • Rachel says...

      Sending love, calm thoughts, and prayers for peaceful hands from one picker to another. It’s hard to deal with and really hard to talk about. I understand your hurt!

    • Katherine says...

      Thank you so much, Rachel! I’m so glad you understand but am so sorry that you do at the same time; it is not an easy thing to deal with by any means. It is very difficult to talk about, even though I carry the evidence around with me clearly on my face. I’ve found the more open I am about it, the less ashamed I become of myself, whether those I’m telling understand or accept me or not. I’m trying not to let it own me or define me; if I get to have the first word, then I belong to me, not my affliction.

  64. Paula says...

    Oh interesting! You can also come out the way one of my coworkers came out! With a bang! We work in a very progressive, liberal place where there are many openly gay people. But, with regards to trans and other LGBTQIA community, frankly, this was a lot deeper and murkier. Well, this quiet young woman started to work for us and she pretty much kept to herself, never engaging in much small talk or any personal information. We all noticed when she began to dress more androgynously (it was very extreme: from long hair and dresses, to buzz cut and blazers with slacks) and whatever, there wasn’t even any gossip it was mostly just oh, she must be transgender-she was still very shy and quiet. Lo and behold the company’s monthly newsletter comes out and the issue is about trans-workforce and she is on the cover! In it she identified as gender queer or gender non-binary and referred to herself as themselves. It was kind of a bad ass move. It did prove to be a little difficult for HR as she mentioned how she felt uneasy with some of her more higher ups and that she questioned which bathroom to use since they were still labeled “ladies” or “men” (they have since been changed). And as you can tell, I do find the pronounce use very difficult to use when it comes to writing as it simply would indicate wrong grammar! Conversationally I find it much easier. Anyways, it was actually quite eye opening to me. I must also admit that watching the show Transparent was very eye opening to me, as well as the recent Season 2 of the Queer Eye, the episode with a trans person who has undergone breast surgery. I feel that I have an open mind but I actually don’t know that much about all the avenues each individual goes through on their gender journey.

  65. Jess says...

    So how do you come out at work when you’re single?!

  66. Tess says...

    Love this! I’m bisexual,married to a man and have two children. Because of that, I don’t get asked a lot about my sexual orientation ;)

    Sometimes it feels like I’m not completely myself, because of it. I ‘ooze straightness’, I guess. And I have to refrain myself often from thinking I’m hiding. I would happily tell people, I’m certainly not ashamed. But it’s not something that comes up that much.

    When I struggle to tell, I try to remember something I read from Brene Brown. It was something along these lines: I’m willing to be open and vulnerable to people. But these people should deserve to hear my truth.

    i.a.w. : I’m am open about being bisexual, but only to people who are loving and careful with my feelings and truth. It really helped me navigate who to tell or when to be more private.

    • Franny Eremin says...

      I love that Brene Brown line, Tess. So true. Thank you for sharing xx

    • Laney says...

      I feel the same way about who, at work, I tell about my divorced status. I’m open and unashamed of my private life but it is my private life and I see nothing wrong with having appropriate boundaries about what I choose to share.

  67. Abbey says...

    Love this post! Love your advice And cup of jo for sharing LGBQ perspectives. Bravo!

  68. Christina says...

    Yay! So excited there’s finally an openly queer person on the Cup of Jo team! Thank you for bringing in a diversity of perspectives. :)

  69. Ashley says...

    Yes to all of this!

    For me, there’s an extra layer: I’m bisexual, but married to a man. Just like you, it’s easy to pass, but visibility is important! It’s an awkward dance, but I just recently came out to a coworker I’ve known for a year. Turns out, she’s also bisexual and soon to be married to a man! We had a great conversation about how hard it is to navigate, especially in professional settings.

    Coming out is never a one-time event. It’s a lifetime of choices!

  70. Eloise says...

    I so <3 this. THANK YOU.

  71. I adore Franny’s writing! This is a good reminder, too, that it’s much for inclusive to try a phrase like, “do you have a partner?” if you’re curious about someone’s relationship status. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! totally agree!

    • isavoyage says...

      Good point!

    • Abbey says...

      Absolutly agree!!!!

  72. Sara says...

    I completely agree with the line “it’s easy to forget that everyone has parts of themselves that are harder to share than others.” For me the hard thing to share at work was that I have kids. When I started a new job last year I wanted everyone to know how committed I am to my work and so it took months before I admitted to someone that I have two young kids at home. Obviously my kids are a huge part of my life but I knew from past experience that once people know you are a mother it becomes who you are and all of your other characteristics fade away. It’s very normal for a female my age (mid-30s) to be a mom but once I told people everyone was so surprised that I also got a few awkward comments. And unfortunately people do tend to now ask me about my kids first before anything else.

    • Gemma says...

      Ugh TOTALLY AGREE, that happens to me too. I try not to talk about my kids with anyone I work with – except *sometimes* other ambitious working women who have kids. They get it.

      It also yanks my chain I’m traveling for work and someone says ‘wait, who’s with your kids?!’ – sometimes I reply ‘OMG I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THEM’. Mostly I smile politely and say ‘you know, husband, nanny…’ I asked my husband if anyone ever asked him who was with his kids and he said, oh not even once, ever.

    • Alex says...

      Your perspective is really interesting to me. I’m also in my mid-thirties and a mom of a toddler with my second on the way. I co-own a small consulting company with a business partner and I’ve yet to feel nervous about telling any of my clients or colleagues that I’m a mom. It feels empowering to me – i feel like a bad-ass business mom. I absolutely feel like being a mom has made me better at my job. I’ve never perceived a negative or concerned reaction – some clients can be indifferent and not really care, but for the most part they have been genuinely lovely about it.

  73. Sarah says...

    Love this piece! And yay for Noho (I grew up in nearby Amherst). I appreciate that you mentioned your own privilege within this struggle. That’s something I try to acknowledge as well when I chime in on conversations about equality and social justice.

  74. Carolyn says...

    I’ve had the same experience for sure. No one expects you to be gay when you have long hair and wear dresses. It’s awkward when people assume you’re straight and ask about your boyfriend or husband. Now I try to mention my wife early on when I’m meeting someone new, before they have a chance to assume. I also try to remember that it’s not my job to make them comfortable. But sometimes I’m just not in the mood for an awkward moment with a stranger on the playground or at the grocery store. Then I notice myself avoiding chatting.

  75. Nora says...

    I never talk about my divorce at work and didn’t even in the middle of it. When I got remarried, I didn’t tell anyone at work until the week before, it just felt very private in an environment where everyone was young and getting married for the first time.

    The last time I worked in a place where no one was openly gay was a Christian gift shop when I was in high school. All my colleagues that I knew were gay have been completely matter of fact about it. “No, but I have a girlfriend.” “I don’t even remember that part of college, I was too busy coming out.” “I’m going to Provincetown with John this weekend, what are you up to?”

    I wish people wouldn’t make stupid remarks, but I suspect there’s no approach that will stop them.

  76. Sophia says...

    Such a beautiful piece! Franny, I can’t wait to hear more from you!

  77. Courtney says...

    I’m running into this a lot these days, as I just got a new job where I work with a ton of contractors so I’m meeting new people all the time. I also have been engaged the last year, and so have been using the word “fiancé” – and 99% of people here in OH say: “oh what does he do?” In the past, I was comfortable and proud to say my girlfriend this, my girlfriend that. Now, I end up in an awkward dance explaining my fiancé is a woman and then end up comforting the other person because they’re embarrassed. Language is so important! Looking forward to being able to say “wife” in a few months. Thanks so much for writing this Franny!

    • Christina says...

      Could you say, “my fiance, Jane, this, my fiance, Jane, that”? Or just “Jane this, Jane that” and then when they ask who Jane is, say “my fiance”? That’s what one of my coworkers did and I loved it! I felt so much more at ease and could ask great followup questions. I also try to always use “do you have a significant other?” and “what is their name?” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend” when getting to know someone. (But I guess it wouldn’t work if her name is Pat or Terri or Cody or something else gender-ambiguous :) Cheers to the upcoming WIFE label, that’s where it’s really at! Congrats :)

    • Emily Shea Cartusciello says...

      Courtney, isn’t fiance just such an awkward word?? I feel like it invites so many questions. When I was engaged, I cringed before I said it because people were always like “OMG WHEN IS THE WEDDING CONGRATULATIONS!”. My husband just started calling me his wife like 5 months before the wedding. I stuck to calling him my boyfriend until after the wedding (unless I felt like being fawned over for a minute).

    • Emily says...

      This happened to me ALL THE TIME. And it still does when people see my ring or I talk about my family or our daughter, I always get asked “what does your husband do?” I 100% recognize the privilege I have of presenting as straight, but I have said to people that I have gotten very good at coming out since I have to do it all the time. :) Best to you Franny- loved the essay!

  78. Gemma says...

    I LOVE this piece so much! Can we get ‘Take A Breath’ on a tshirt? It seems like resonant advice for, oh, everyone in the entire world right now…

    Especially loved the line “It’s easy to forget that everyone has parts of themselves that are harder to share than others” — so, so true.

    I’m sorry for the hurtful comments you experienced. Some people are thoughtless… and some people are just plain stupid. Pity them. And keep being awesome.

    Gem xx

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes to a T-shirt! :)

    • + 1 to the Take A Breath t-shirt!

    • Sara says...

      I second this! T-shirt please!

    • Louisa says...

      Just one word of caution from someone who grew up in a very rural, very homogenous community (example: the only Asian/Chinese restaurant within three towns was/is literally called “Oriental Restaurant” restaurant): there are many many kind-hearted people who don’t carry negative personal judgements about others, but who simply do not understand how communicate with sensitivity or politically correct language about these topics. It is obviously wonderful to gently correct and explain (articles like this sharing first hand perspectives are particularly helpful) but please be open minded about the people who might be insensitive as well, and please avoid name-slinging. Ignorance and stupidity are different things, and ignorance and cruelty are definitely different things.

      It is obviously not the job of people who feel oppressed or threatened to make an ignorant/unaware member of the majority feel better, but as someone who made a lot of inadvertent missteps after leaving my tiny town, I was so grateful for loving and gentle guidance and explanations about how important language is and how different people experience situations differently. Attacking people who are not sensitive to differences that have not been apparent in their communities as stupid or ill-intentioned contributes to a feeling among some otherwise good people that they just can’t win and so it isn’t worth trying. It feeds some of the defensive and toxic rhetoric we hear so much today. We can ALL try to be more empathetic with each other.

    • K says...

      Louisa-
      Thank you for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly. We can all be more empathetic. I always try to remember that when people are “thoughtless” they are *thought-less— without thought*. They aren’t thinking about it any particular way, they just said what came into their brain at that moment and 97% of the time aren’t trying to be rude or insensitive. We can always correct kindly, even say that it felt thoughtless, without calling someone names.

  79. THIS IS SO GOOD.

    Flashback to 2003, I had just moved to the big city from Michigan. I asked my new work friend “Is Rachel your roommate?” “No, she’s my girlfriend,” she said.

    I went to their daughter’s dance recital last week.

    Franny, you seem awesome, and I love your writing. Welcome to the Cup of Jo team.

  80. Erin says...

    This is incredible! So inspiring! As someone else who is queer in the workplace this perfectly captures how I feel all the time. I have only come out to a few people and I always feel awkward mentioning “my ex” instead of ex-girlfriend. Or saying “my partner” to remain gender neutral. I’m so glad Cup of Jo is exploring these very real experiences in the gay community that aren’t necessarily talked about. Go, Franny!