Being Yourself as LGBT <2> Twarting Institutional Prejudice
For LGBT people, what kinds of workplaces are desirable and easy to work at? How do they feel about coming out in their workplaces? We asked some LGBT people their thoughts on the matter.
“This guy’s gay.”
Shinya (37), a worker at an IT company in Fukuoka City, was told this when introduced to Kenji (34) by their boss. Kenji’s name and position were mentioned only afterwards.
The fact of the matter is that Shinya is also gay. After experiencing that introduction, he decided that he didn’t want to come out while working at that company. As he continued to observe his surroundings, the feelings that he felt after his poor first impression have only become stronger.
In his company, Kenji is referred to as “her” rather than “him”. On one occasion, when he happened to be carrying a pink shopping bag, his coworkers mistook the it for being from a women’s clothing store and remarked “He’s finally going to wear those kinds of clothes, huh?”
One coworker went as far to say “You really ought to refine your feminine taste!” This was despite the fact that Kenji is a gay man, not a trans woman.
“The common misconception is that all gay men enjoy wearing women’s clothing and speak in a feminine manner. I don’t know how to deal with it.” Kenji says. “I learned that it’s much easier if I have even one person whom I can be myself around.”
Hiro (39), who works at a construction company in Fukuoka City, sometimes can’t bear the difficulty of lying to those around her.
She must refer to her same-sex partner as her “boyfriend”. Every time she is asked “Aren’t you getting married soon,” she has to keep up the act. She’s afraid to let people know that she’s a lesbian, so she has to draw a line when it comes to getting close to her coworkers.
In this age, the desire of many companies for their female workers to be stereotypically feminine causes a lot of difficulty. Feminine clothes, hairstyles, phone etiquette, roles at drinking parties and so on…If one allows this without ever voicing a complaint, it only allows the problem to continue.
Many feel envious of America, where workers can come out at work. There, the legality of same-sex marriage is decided by the states, and LGBT workers are largely seen as ordinary by colleagues and superiors. Companies often work on LGBT measures for image strategy and human resources.
“I feel like I want to speak my mind. However, I’m afraid of it getting around to customers and having an effect on my job.”
Yuji (43), who lives in Fukuoka City, has two faces. During the day, he works as a calm mannered manager at a finance company. At night, he dresses in female clothing and becomes the sharp-tongued “Yuko”, who is popular in the bar scene. He considers both to be his true selves.
Yuji likes drinking, but barely ever goes with his coworkers. When faced with questions about marriage, he answers “I don’t have any desire to get married.”
He looks forward to spending time away from his coworkers at a shop where he can relax and drink with his good friends and they can talk openly and passionately about men they like.
If one were to come out as gay, perhaps some of their coworkers would be accepting of it. It might make them feel more at ease. However, those with a biased perspective and who expect LGBT people to act according to stereotypes create a great hurdle. Many LGBT people come to think “I’ve gotten used to this life, and I don’t have any serious difficulties. It’s better not to rock the boat.”
However, we believe that the more Japanese companies come to acknowledge LGBT people, the more people’s feeling will change and make it normal.
All persons names contained in this article are psydonyms