The rainbow flag fluttered proudly in the breeze as I approached the office. I entered the building. Someone had been busy overnight. The lobby was festooned with rainbow flags and balloons. Gay Pride had reached the Wastelands and my office was celebrating.
After inhaling my first cup of coffee I made my way to the canteen for breakfast. Rainbows, glitter, streamers everywhere. It resembled a dystopian nightmare. Sitting at the till in her usual position sat the sullen, Polish check out lady. She was sporting as rainbow bedecked t-shirt. She is grumpy at the best of times. Today she looked like she was chewing a wasp.
‘I have nothing against them’, she said to the man at the till. ‘But is there any need for all of this?’
I cleared my throat and spoke. ‘As a representative of my noble community, I can assure you, my good woman, that my people have nothing to do with this. The instruction to celebrate diversity of the corporate variety, comes from headquarters. There is a brochure that needs to be updated.’
Naturally I said nothing of the sort. This was all too intimidating.
This blatantly wasn’t a day for the LGBT community at my workplace. This was a day for my company to congratulate itself on how diverse it is and how welcoming it is to my kind. The Gays.
There was a gaggle of heterosexual managers decorated with rainbow garlands and hairbands, with rainbow flags protruding from them. They acted like they’d taken a bump of speed.
I noticed a male manager with his rainbow ribbon, give the glad-eye to his female colleague. I suspect his wife doesn’t know about the torrid affair they are allegedly having. Never mind. He is celebrating the diversity with which he shares his heterosexual affection. I sidled into my usual table, cringing a little as ‘I will survive’ piped through the intercom. What fresh hell was this?
My colleagues were living for the occasion. They all looked so happy. I glanced across to the other side of the room and spotted one of my kind. He nodded at me and grimaced. I scowled back. In solidarity. We really couldn’t say anything. Everyone else was having fun. There was clearly no ill will meant by any of this lunacy.
This was an occasion I should not be so cynical about. It was a cause for celebration that my straight colleagues are celebrating the sanitised PG version of gay life. This is actually progress, compared to when I came out at work in the 1990s, before anti-discrimination employment legislation was enacted.
Of course there was none of the more adult themed elements of LGBT life on display. This was a family friendly event. No protest permitted. No acknowledgement of the actual struggle to get to a place where we are accepted . We are welcome – so long as we don’t frighten the horses. No assless chaps for me – not that I own a pair, but I suddenly wished that I did and that I’d worn them to work.
I grinned inanely. Don’t rock the boat Murphy. Don’t complain. You’ll brand yourself as an uppity queer. Nobody likes a malcontent. I have to work with these people. Let them have their moment. And from then on we can all pretend it never happened.
‘What a crock of shit.’
I glanced to my left. A female colleague was chewing a slice of toast beside me. Bitterly.
‘This is so offensive’.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘Have they no consideration for the gay people actually working in here? Talk about condescending. This is no degrading.’
I burst out laughing.
‘I disagree. This sends a great message to people who are afraid’ replied another colleague.
‘I don’t think it’s Pride day in the Russian office today’ I commented.
‘But they will be inspired by this event.’
‘Mmmmm’. Like they will ever hear about it, I thought to myself.
Later back at my desk she approached me .
‘I hope that nothing I said at breakfast offended you.’
‘Of course not’. I don’t get offended very easily. I have a hide like a rhinoceros. Although I was slightly offended that she thought I would take offence so easily.
At lunchtime, the managers had broken out the cheap, plastic rainbow wigs. LGBT people are people of grace, style and elegance. Had they missed the memo?
As I entered they spotted me, and descended on my desk like a pack of rabid, ravenous hyenas. I am an ACTUAL gay. I am DIVERSE. I clearly needed to be INCLUDED.
‘Have some Skittles. Celebrate the rainbow’ one them eagerly offered me a bag of sweets.
I made a sad, brave face.
‘Oh I am so sorry. I am a diabetic. I can’t eat sweets.’ She looked crestfallen.
Not so diverse after all.
I bravely made my way back to my desk. I hope I haven’t spoiled her fun.