At the crux of workplace rumors

I am frustrated that I have once more been swept up into someone else’s games. I learned this evening that there is someone who has taken it up themselves to spread rumors about me in order to avoid working with me as well as to mask their own fear of queerness and difference. Now, I take it that those typically in positions of (social, institutional, cultural) authority will caution me to “calm down” and that I am probably “blowing things out proportion” assuming that I am looking for their support in viewing this form of action as discrimination and downright hate. Please, allow me to welcome you to the rumor mill.

Apparently person A—who I refuse to learn the name of because I would rather address it to the entire workforce as a problem that must be addressed in toto—told a number of my co-workers that I told “her” the following: “why would you be friends with ‘B’? ‘She’ is a God-loving heterosexual.” And that I “hate heterosexuals” and that I “fake it in front of the straight co-workers,” and that it is probably best that “she” no longer work with me because “she” is afraid that I might “actually hate her.” And now… background.

This supposed interaction is news to me. What makes this even worse is the implication of person ‘B’ into all of this, thus attempting to pin me against ‘B.’ To my knowledge, ‘B’ has not heard any of this.

More background. A few weeks ago, ‘C’—the person who will eventually approach me tonight and tell me why she asked me the following question and how it was because of this rumor—sat next to me while I was visiting the shop as a customer, off duty. She asked if she could ask me a question, and I said absolutely. She warned it might be odd and I told her no such question has come my way as of yet.

Anyhow, she paused and asked, “do you hate heterosexuals?” I paused and blinked. I smiled at her, she smiled back. I told her, “no, I think they are fascinating creatures, like any other human creature.” I went on, and this re-created of course, to the best of my ability:

Hate is a strong word and simply put, no I do not hate heterosexuals. What I am cautious of, however, is heterosexuality as an institution of authority in our society. I am weary of ways in which heterosexuality seeks to unquestionably stamp out sexual and gender differences through norms and assumed shared values. It is not heterosexuals that I am weary of or fear, it is unquestioned heterosexual privilege. It’s the assumption that I am heterosexual and the assumption that I will simply be happy for one’s engagement when, perhaps, that same person made sure to vote yes on Prop 8 claiming that it isn’t them that is homophobic, it’s their beliefs. It’s the systemic way in which queer people are silenced and made out to be freaks to be further ridiculed. So, no I do not hate heterosexuals, it is heterosexuality that worries me. And this is because it means that I am forced to be weary of my surroundings always. It means that when I work a shift hear and am subjected to customers that have 2 hour Bible studies talking about “the homosexuals” in negative ways that I am to simply smile while my heterosexual and cissexual and cisgender co-workers get to work without a worry in the world. That at any moment, as it has already occurred on a number of occasions that one of these customers have no problem approaching me to preach to me, to attempt to save me from my poor life choices with regard to my sexual and gender identities and livelihood. So, no I don’t hate heterosexuals, I fear heterosexuality and what it does to people’s assumed perspectives.

Tonight, my coworker who asked me this question tells me that the reason she asked me the aforementioned question was because of the person above and that others were beginning to worry about being around me. Funny, once I heard this, things began to make sense. For weeks now, my coworkers avoided me, or hesitantly smiled at me, and generally offered a feeling of reserve and fear toward me. I simply went about my business though unquestioning.

This now potentially makes sense, and it irks me.

It hurts me that someone would have the nerve to do something like this and to go out of their way to say something like this about me. I stand by my explanation above, and will not—in fact refuse—work to make this employee feel better about their fear of me. I will not apologize for this incident and I will not work to hug them so that they can deal with their hatred and lengths by which someone will go to distance themselves from me.

As it stands, the work environment now feels unfortunately disgusting. This has worked to place a wedge between me and coworkers who are afraid to approach me. In fact, my coworker tonight approached me because she is not afraid of me, as she put it. Allegedly, those who have been exposed to this rumor have all failed to ask me outright, thus reinforcing their own crafted fears of me and the queers. Yes, I am an outspoken queer advocate and anti-oppression worker. When I hear racism and sexism and heterosexism and oppositional sexism and other forms of oppression and hate, I call it out. Perhaps people are afraid, but it is a fear that reflects in their own unwillingness to engage in progressive social change.

There are those who then ask how I am approaching the situation, thus deflecting the attention from those coworkers and customers that spew their unattended to hatred toward marginal groups. This occurs at all work places, I know. As it stands, I am now at the fore of one of these battles, and it will end immediately. Unfortunately, it appears that most of the rumors that circle my store, persist because no one approached others when they are harmed preferring to let it “blow over” thus reinforcing the actions.

In this instance, the coworker has managed to show “her” fear of me and queerness by attempting to position me as someone who is homosexist; thus further reinforcing “her” own naivety as to my identity and positionality, as someone who does not identify as gay in the first place.

I am meeting with management tomorrow. We will approach this coworker, whoever it is, by weeks end.


About Benny

My name is Benny LeMaster. I am an academic, activist, and artist. I research questions of identity, culture, and representation. I am interested in exploring ways to relate to one another in critically affirming ways. In terms of identity, I identify as queer, trans, mixed-race Asian/white, fat, and, frankly, fabulous. Let's talk!
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