Dear G Philly: Answering Reader Questions
One of my co-workers regularly makes comments that I think are anti-gay. He regularly uses “gay” as a derogatory term, like “that’s gay” and “you’re gay” to other, mostly male co-workers, always in the guise of a joke. But it’s mean-spirited. I’m certain there are at least two people in the office who are gay – and may be as offended by this as I am. But because he’s upper management, it’s not easy to confront him. In light of all the gay bullying, I’m wondering if there’s something I can do as a straight, married woman to help eliminate this kind of talk from the office. It creates an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone. He’s not exactly appropriate around women either. I, for one, have had enough.
Straight allies are some of the best friends gay and lesbian folks can have. And you’re proof. It’s courageous of you to want to put an end to anti-gay rhetoric in the workplace and to bolster a more respectful, fair environment for all co-workers. Obviously bullying and misplaced verbage of this nature can be offensive to more than just gay people. It creates a hostile environment where anyone could fear becoming the next target of this blowhard’s rant.
For starters, look into whether your company has any policies that protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Many companies nowadays have policies that prohibit harassment based on sexual orientation. If your company is one of the lucky ones – here’s hoping – then perhaps the next step would be to speak with someone in human resources.
Even though one’s instinct may be to confront the bully face-to-face, it’s usually better to present the situation to someone in HR who may be better able to explain the workplace policy in detail. It also lessens the chance for there to be an angry exchange (especially if he is your supervisor or in upper management).
Assuming your HR rep honors your anonymity, he will likely be asked to change his tone without any further confrontations. If the problem persists, then another visit to HR may be needed – and another complaint will likely end up on his file where it belongs. Logging the behavior according to company protocol is usually the best way to education people about appropriate commentary in the workplace. Most people – even homophobic and misogynistic blowhards – won’t likely risk their job to have the last word.
My best friend and her girlfriend broke up last year after a horrible relationship. It was full of mind games and cheating (my friend was the one cheated on before eventually being dumped and forced to move out of the house they shared). Now, she’s thinking about getting back with her. Just when I thought she had moved on (and into her own place), I found out they have been seeing each other again. I want my friend to be happy – I really do – but I can’t possibly support this toxic relationship. How can I convince her that this is a bad idea for everyone without seeming like a jerk?
You probably can’t. When it comes to affairs of the heart, people don’t always think clearly. It also sounds like your friend – despite what you may have wanted to believe (and a change in her address) – never really got over the breakup.
On the bright side, maybe they both learned from their mistakes and intend to be more honest with each other?
If you get involved in this, however much you disapprove of the pairing, you risk losing your friend for good. It might be better to reevaluate why you are so adamant about this being a “toxic” relationship. Are they truly bad for each other? Or do you resent something about their relationship? Do you simply not like the ex-girlfriend?
Instead of trying desperately to convince her not to go back with her girlfriend (she won’t listen anyway), try offering your honest opinion, letting her know that you worry for her happiness and fear that she may face heartbreak again. Also let her know that no matter what she decides, that you’re there for her. Hopefully she will value your honesty and support as a friend and not think you’re a “jerk” at all.
What she does – or doesn’t do – is really up to her. It’s hopeful that she comes to the best, healthiest conclusion, of course, but she needs to do so on her terms, no matter what you or anyone says.
If you fear that the relationship is physically or emotionally abusive, well, that’s another story. In that case, try referring her to counseling. There are several agencies in Philadelphia that offer support specifically for the LGBT community, including the Mazzoni Center.
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