This I Believe

Colleen - Centreville, Virginia
Entered on October 18, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe…I believe that gay people should be more than just tolerated, they should be able to talk openly about their spouses, as everyone else does, however, my boss, thinks otherwise.

At my first interview at Rockwell Collins (RC), I felt that Rich was easy to talk to, but there was an uneasiness I couldn’t put my finger on. Intuitively, I think Rich was desperate to get someone in the position quickly and soon I was to learn a new definition of ‘toleration’.

Because Rich has seen my web site, he knows I’m gay and I didn’t have to hide it – at least not with him, my boss. One day soon after I was hired, Rich approached me, standing at my cubical, and said, “Can I talk to you for a minute, Colleen?”

“Sure,” I said trying to muster some enthusiasm.

Rich pulled me into an empty office and shut the door. I had not had my first cup of coffee and I was ill prepared.

“Well, I just wanted to let you know who you should look out for in this place,” he said as he fumbled with his pen.

“Oh, OK,” I said, confused.

“You need to know that Don is very religious and a church-goer. He would not be very accepting of you. Dan, on the other hand, is okay about ‘it’ and Matt, I think, would be fine with it if you decided to tell him. As far as the engineers you will work with, I don’t know what to tell you. Just keep in mind that they are all ex-military and Republican.”

He continued, “You can do what you want but I thought I would tell you this because you will be working with so many types of people – most of them very conservative. In fact, I would not tell anyone unless I really had to, even if you are asked.”

The meeting ended abruptly, and I was not sure what to say. I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. Although Rich was trying to protect me, the entire scene was oppressive, and, while he was being ‘tolerant’ towards me, a gay woman, I was basically being told I had to repress ‘who I was’ in every sense of the word.

I worked at my cube and made an attempt to focus on work. After several hours of getting lost in my tasks, the thought of my identity was easily forgotten. My co-workers, who I now ‘had’ to tiptoe around, were still the same people; the same office background noises and chatter were still there. Ironically, though, since my discussion with Rich about my orientation, nothing would ever be the same again. Even more so, what I do and say behind closed doors about those that are marginalized or oppressed now takes on new meaning. Now, the word, ‘tolerant’ to me has new meaning because of Rich’s ‘talk’. Something I try to avoid. I call it ‘prideful tolerance’.