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Gay Teacher’s Dilemma Over Coming Out at Work Sets Internet Alight

A lesbian teacher’s dilemma on Reddit has prompted thousands of replies. She posted in the popular “AmITheAsshole” subreddit. She wanted to know if she was the a**hole for not telling her work colleagues about her wife and kids. Her colleagues appear to have presumed she is straight, volunteering to introduce her to men.

“I have taught kindergarten at a private school for the last eight years,” she said. “My wife (38F) and I married four years ago and have 18-month-old twin girls. I have always been nervous about people perceiving me differently if they know I am a lesbian so I have never ‘come out’ at work.”

But the plot thickens.

“I thought about doing it when we married and again when we found out we were expecting our daughters but I didn’t want the added stress. It took a difficult IVF process to conceive our daughters and I didn’t want my co-workers’ potentially negative reactions to take the joy out of the moment.”

But wait, there’s more.

“My wife carried our daughters and I took two weeks off after they were born but it was labeled as ‘personal leave’ and I just told my coworkers I was dealing with a family matter. My coworkers and I will socialize somewhat regularly during lunch and school events but I will never mention my personal life.”

And then there’s this.

“Recently my wife and I were talking about how she wants to enroll our daughters in the school I teach at when they are old enough. I then explained how that would create an awkward situation because my coworkers don’t know about our family.”

So what did her wife think?

“This made my wife extremely angry because she was under the impression that I was out to everyone. She believes that me trying to live this sort of ‘double life’ is a sign I am ashamed of our family and is embarrassing to her. She also said she believes it is setting a bad example for our daughters who will one day resent that I kept them a secret.”

The woman says she can understand her wife’s point of view, but also values her right to privacy.

“The anti-LGBT rhetoric has only gotten worse in the past year and I think it is possible I will be ostracized by my coworker and the parents of my students. There are currently no openly gay teachers at my school so I’m not sure how it will play out.”

She asked the internet if she was wrong to keep her family a secret to avoid additional stress of if it was a reasonable thing to do?

Being out at work

The woman’s concerns are not uncommon. A recent Pride Month poll conducted by Glassdoor found that 45% of LGBTQ+ employees in the U.S. believe being “out” at work would hurt their careers.

Furthermore, over half (55%) of LGBTQ+ employees report experiencing or witnessing anti-LGBTQ+ comments by co-workers.

There have also been numerous reports of queer teachers being fired from schools — usually private schools with religious affiliations.

With this in mind, many had sympathy for the educator’s plight.

“You have good reason to fear for your job. I don’t know what the employment opportunities are in your area. I know where I am, good teachers are hard to find. If you don’t think you can stand up and be proud of your family at your current school, I think you need to find a job at a school where you can do that,” was one well-liked comment.

Another added, “DONT OUT YOURSELF AT YOUR JOB! You’re a teacher who is LGBT+. In today’s political climate, why put yourself at risk? I’m LGBT+ too and am a teacher. I would never come out where I work because it’s just too dangerous. You don’t owe LGBT support to the families that you work with and you can support an LGBT+ kid without putting yourself at risk. Anyone who says otherwise is just daft.”

One woman now married to a man sympathized with her dilemma.

“As someone who used to teach, I wouldn’t tell either. I worked in a conservative area and let it slip that I lived with my husband a few months before marriage. Attitudes absolutely shifted around me, and one lady actually told me that everyone was shocked by my actions. I wished I’d never said a thing.”

Keeping a secret from her wife prompts criticism

However, although the dilemma earned sympathy, others did think the original poster was an a**hole. Why? For keeping her wife in the dark about the situation at work.

“Your wife just finding out about this now makes YTA [You The A**hole]. You should’ve been open with her about your decision and concerns from the beginning,” was a comment that prompted over 3,000 likes.

Another said the writer was in the wrong, “Not because you’re not [sic] to your colleagues, but because you didn’t let your wife know that you’re keeping her and your children a secret. It’s horrible that you feel like you need to, and that’s really hard to deal with. But your wife 1) has just found out that you have studiously avoided letting anyone know about her existence and 2) has just found out that you’ve gone through this difficult thing without telling her.

“It’s a reasonable expectation that when you’re married, you know what’s going on in your spouse’s life. She must be feeling pretty alarmed by this compartmentalization.”

The original poster went on to offer an explanation for not telling her spouse.

“The reason I didn’t tell my wife that my coworkers didn’t know is because I knew it would just frustrate her. My wife came out to her family at 16 years old and I didn’t come out to my family until I was 28 years old and had been dating her for 2 years. It was upsetting to her that I wasn’t out when we were first dating and I didn’t want to rehash an old argument when wedding planning or when she was pregnant.”

It’s sad and maddening that anyone feels unable to come out at work in 2023. The post is a reminder of the challenges queer people face in life, and how those challenges impact their families.

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