My transition from downtown Chicago journalist to suburban Chicago consultant has been relatively smooth so far, but there are things I’ll always miss about working in a newsroom and being in the Loop, so to speak.
One of those things? Gays. Visible, out-and-proud, urban-dwelling homos. Men in freshly pressed Ben Sherman shirts and women in, well, freshly pressed Ben Sherman shirts. I miss trendy briefcases, funky glasses and fashionably comfortable shoes. I feel a little like a queen without a country, or more accurately, a country with no queens.
I’m sure there are LGBT people in my office and living/working in Northbrook, but three months in, I’ve seen exactly one recognizable lesbian (yes, I’m totally sexual orientation profiling here, but how many straight women on the North Shore wear cargo shorts and sport a fauxhawk, tattoos and piercings? I mean, really.) There’s one car in the office parking lot with a Human Rights Campaign sticker, and I’ve been tempted to sit on the hood until the owner leaves for the day so I can introduce myself. I’m not quite sure how that conversation would go, though, and it’s mental images of having to run from the security guy’s golf cart that have kept me from acting.
People don’t really talk about their personal lives much here in Cubeland, and when we do, it’s generally the blandest of details. (Yes, of course I’d love to see another picture of your puppy, how did you know?) I consider myself pretty “out,” and even I find myself undersharing. It’s sobering to have that part of who I am rendered invisible. I’m getting a much-needed reality check about what life looks like for too many LGBT folks who don’t have the luxury of living in big cities or working for progressive employers.
While marriage equality seems to have become the media’s Gay Issue of the Day, what does that equality truly mean if we still have workplaces where people can’t show off their (gay) wedding photos? Where people are still careful about pronouns in conversations about their weekends and talk about vacationing with their longtime “roommates”?
For those of you who take your office/downtown gays for granted the way I used to, take a moment to be grateful for where you are. Appreciate that you’re in a place where people can be themselves, freshly pressed shirts and all. Gays and lesbians can still be legally fired for being gay in nearly 30 states, and trans folks can be fired in 34. I look forward to the day when those numbers drop to zero.
I also look forward to working up the courage to sit on that HRC supporter’s car…