Wednesday 25 November 2020

Come as you are leaving nothing out

Dealing with difference

Whilst I might have been a bit reticent elsewhere, I have been more open at work about who I am, what I am about, what interests me and who is in my life. When it was not even fashionable and the workplace was still trying to implement equal opportunity legislation, my colleagues and bosses found themselves in close proximity to what might be unfamiliar to them.

From the 1990s, they first had a liking for me and then began a process of discovery. I was interested in them beyond the workplace and they reciprocated with a sense of humanity. In those times, I was in relationships and when one broke down, my boss read me like a book, he opined, the only reason I could look and feel the way I did was because of a relationship that had fallen through. So, I confided in him.

Enforcing harmonious environments

In another role, it was my colleagues in a whispering campaign about it, my boss was having none of it. He ordered them to come to my desk to apologise. Much as I tried not to let it affect me, I was grateful for the support I had. Many simply said, they had no issues with who I was, they were happy to have that diversity in their teams and worked to ensure I did not feel uncomfortable or threatened.

With time, I decided there was no point prevaricating, to a direct question I gave a truthful answer. I corrected assumptions before they took root. The subtlety of pronouns and ensuring the right one was used and known to be so. Never she, it is he, it is him, his company and companionship define my life outside work.

Living my own truth

I note that I have thrived in whatever I do when I have been open about these matters. In planning for my holiday this year after almost 11 months apart. I first proposed a holiday from the middle of December to include the whole of January. A negotiation began, stripped down and bargained about until we agreed on 5 weeks including the Christmas break.

I wanted to be with my partner, he and I are planning to get married and that is our normal, we are looking forward to it and planning for it, though the details will be sorted out when we meet in Cape Town. Everyone in my team and my bosses are aware, they know him by name and ask after him by name. To have a very productive Akin includes recognising Brian is his better half. I am grateful for the understanding, the acceptance, and the goodwill I have had through my work life with regards to my relationships.

One boss even told me to take as much time as I wanted off to deal with a breakup in 1999 after a 7-year relationship. I guess we appreciate that beneath it all we are all human, with hearts, souls, and minds. Our partners being integral to our sense of purpose and wellbeing. It matters a lot more than we deign to recognise and make all the allowances for.

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