*UPDATE* June 1st 2022 – the following post is from 2018. Last year for Pride, some male managers dressed up in drag – remotely. I shudder to think what this year will bring.
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 was 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.
This 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 allegedly is to my kind.
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 is meant as a cause for celebration – that my straight colleagues are celebrating a 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 dissent permitted. No acknowledgement of any actual challenges that a gay person may face in the world or workplace . 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 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 so 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 Saudi office today’ I commented.
‘But they will be inspired by this event.’
‘Mmmmm’. Like they will ever hear about it.
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. I was slightly offended however that she thought I would take offence so easily.
At lunchtime, the managers had broken out the plastic rainbow wigs.
As I entered they spotted me, and descended on my table like a pack of rabid 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, and gave a feeble smile.
‘Oh I am so sorry. I am a diabetic. I can’t eat sweets.’ She looked crestfallen.
Not so diverse after all.
I courageously made my way back to my desk. I hope I haven’t spoiled her fun.
Happy Wastelands Pride.