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The Corporate Queer: The Only One Holding You Back in an Interview is Yourself

While walking through the familiar hallways of my midtown-Manhattan, skyscraper office building, I began to panic under the passing fluorescent lights. The job interview starts in nine minutes.

The balls of my feet were aching. My mind raced, “Were wedges the right choice? I should have worn men’s shoes. While these make me feel like I stand up straighter, taller, more confident, what will they think?”

I wipe away beads sweat from my forehead, forgetting that I chose to powder my brows that morning. My heart stops. “Have I just smudged all this makeup across my face?” I whip out my phone, check, dab, wipe. Nothing smudged, my mascara isn’t bleeding and my eyeshadow is even. I’m relieved.

While biting my lip I worry, “Why did I wear pink lipstick today instead of nude? Should I just wipe it off? But shouldn’t I show them I usually wear lipstick in the office?”

This was my first time interviewing with people I’ve never met my first job interview in unfamiliar territory as non-binary, male-bodied and still figuring out how to project my queerness in an office.

The minutes leading up to a job interview are excruciating for anyone. You’re self- conscious about the volume of your voice, tempo of your speech, and worried about stifling the sound of your shakes.

My prospective employers smiled and welcomed me into a room, offering a seat at the head of a long, shining table. Two-dozen cushy leather chairs stared back at me. The clock ticked loudly.

This was either the moment I could let my self-deprecating thoughts take over, or to remember the years I have worked to get to that seat. This was either the time to fold into my anxieties or the time to stand up as straight as possible and be open, honest, and frank about my aspirations.

As one asked the first question, my hands stopped sweating and the clock grew quiet. I told myself I would not allow myself to think that my queerness will be a hindrance in this interview. They’re here to get to know me, and they were certainly more interested in what I had to offer to the team than the shade of my lipstick.

This is the time to think about the late, beloved George Michael and have faith. I mention my pronouns and keep up the momentum and finish their first question. Neither blinks, the second question starts. They weren’t rooting for me to fail, so why was I worried?

There’s anxiety tied to how far queer fashion can exist in a corporate space. There are certainly limits you are pushing in a predominately cisgender, heterosexual environment by openly presenting and identifying as non-binary. What is, “too far?”

This question is important, and it may sit in the back of your mind while working or applying to jobs, but crafting an answer for that is useless just before a job interview. This is your time to rely on your passions and preparedness, not on how you think your fantastic suede wedges are holding you back.

Hell, they literally got me through the morning commute and to that very interview.

Photography: Getty Images