I’ve been a periodic reader of your site since the Discreet City days. I don’t engage in the ‘scene’ and your site has been my way of feeling comfortably connected. I am writing to you for your opinion and advice. I do ask that you forgive me, for this will be a long read.
I recently started a new job and I am trying to pay my way through grad-school. Things were going okay, until my 3rd day. I began to be ‘stalked’ by a fellow worker. Word got back to me that an individual (we’ll refer to as Gary) began to tell everyone that he was going to ‘get him’, referring to myself. Shortly after, he got brave and asked some fellow co-workers to pass me his phone number. Each time I would tear it up, throw it away and make it clear I’m not interested. He attempted this on 4 different occasions.
Apparently lacking the ability of to take rejection, he then began to spread rumors about me. This really did not bother me at first; however, Gary began to ‘expose’ closeted males he claims to have slept with. He has told his whole department (comprised mostly of women) and several other members who these individuals are and even showed personal pictures of these individuals. One of these individuals has a girlfriend and a child. Now, I have never had any communication with Gary and only see him in passing (which is rare, fortunately). The information about his exposing closeted men comes via water cooler talk.
The reason this bothered me so much is manifold. The biggest reason is that I, like many, have had several closeted friends who have struggled with this. I have even had a close friend attempt suicide several times and nearly succeeded due to his sexuality. So, the ‘exposing’ and the hypocrisy of the audience Gary seeks (an audience that condemns him behind his back) I find a bit disgusting. This honestly is just as bad as a guy sleeping with a woman and sharing intimate photos of her.
A little background information; I am not out. I’m a very private person to the point that I don’t share my political/religious views or even my middle name. I work for a locally owned company that’s large for its size. The department Gary works in is female dominated. What makes the situation difficult for me to find a professional way to handle it is that he is one of the ‘vicious’ fem-types. We are both African American males (as is Gary’s victims) located in the ever-so-progressive southern state (sarcasm) that is first in almost every negative title. I also work in a city that is ‘messy’ because the average person seriously has nothing to do nor strive for. I’ve come pretty close to wanting to punch Gary in the face, but that would end one of two ways for me: jobless, arrested for a hate crime; or forced out of the closet, arrested, and jobless still. The HR department is not worth its weight in bovine fecal matter. I’m not sure I can ignore the situation.
How would you handle such a situation? I honestly have enough on my plate and I just want to survive grad-school. The situation has gotten a bit crazy. Seriously, several guys have given him threats and he keeps going.
Save me from this Vicious Fem
Blunt and to the point, you have to ignore it. You state “I’m not sure I can ignore the situation.” Why not? Sometimes we as men feel the need to defend our honor or masculinity when no defense is needed. You don’t owe anyone on your job site anything. At this point you have no other options. Do not spend any real time or energy feeding this beast. From your hints I can assume you are located in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia or South Carolina but if I had to guess I would say Mississippi. You are in grad school and working towards something better for yourself. Allow that to be the focus and ignore this distraction. You can’t punch dude in the face and you can’t go to your HR department because they are worthless. You have to ignore it.
Believe it or not, this situation is providing much needed experience on how to navigate office politics. The wonderful practice of ignoring fuckeries and making sure you stay above the gossip and rumor circles is that it will help build patience, determination and allows focus in more important areas. You say you barely have any contact with the dude so stop the negativity at the door and prevent it from entering. One thing you have to do is tell people to stop bringing or feeding you information. That conversation needs to start off or go a little something like this, “Hey work friend/associate, I don’t mind talking with you but I don’t want to hear anything else concerning Gary (the-vicious-office-queen) or any other gossip.” This may ruffle feathers but you don’t care because this job is only a stepping stone. This will also help set the tone that you will no longer deal with messy foolishness while at work. Be an example of how everyone else should be conducting themselves.
Speaking from first-hand experience, gay messiness comes in all forms; regardless of feminine or masculine. Also from experience (I grew up and still leave in the southern US) when you work in larger corporations or publically traded companies, you do have more leverage within HR departments versus smaller mom and pop operations. Nonetheless, where you live or work, you may come across vicious miserable gays who seem to take pleasure in gossip and outing men they may have had encounters with or have seen in the club. You can’t control gossip or rumor but you can control how it affects you, if it has already gotten past your defenses.
I know being what is considered “OUT” may come with a lot of baggage but at the same time we have to have a sense of self and self-confidence to where what others think as it pertains to our sexuality is somewhat meaningless or has little power in our lives. I hope this helps.
Have you had a similar experience; if so how did you deal with it? As always, feel free to give your own bit of advice to help out this young man and others who may be having comparable problems in the work place.