Sometimes it can be uncomfortable venturing outside of the studio because workplaces can be unfamiliar and pressured environments. But also because I have often found myself to be an outsider in a new workplace.
Going into an office is almost like entering a vacuum.
Will being gay and working in offices be as uncomfortable as bar and shop jobs have been? As invasive or volatile or patronising? As secretive or embarrassing? I hoped not.
At Office 1 I entered a female-dominated environment. I expected to be empowered and at ease surrounded by high-achieving, hard-working women. But for the few weeks I was there –– despite having a great and educational time –– I was tense, tight-lipped, and impersonal. I nodded and smiled when colleagues talked about boyfriends, holidays, and weddings.
Everything was very straight.
It was safe yet claustrophobic to be able to ‘fit in’ while I chose to. I didn’t come out to anyone while I was there. Why would you need to? Who needs to know? Who cares? Other people don’t talk about their personal lives or sexuality. Sure. But mentally policing what I ‘let slip’ when I was on the phone to my girlfriend at lunch was surprisingly exhausting. As was the specific brand of dodging personal questions –– editing my life so it was condensed and anonymous and palatable.
Office 1 was a pleasant, productive, robotic and slightly empty experience.
At Office 2 the set up was different. It was a bigger office with different sections, different cliques. There were two female heads in the creative department I worked in, a very friendly atmosphere, and –– for whatever reason –– a less claustrophobic environment. I had beers with some other interns, the group much more diverse and open than in Office 1.
Office 2 was a much more authentic, much more open experience and without the internal tenseness I had during my residence at Office 1 I found that I wasn’t wishing it away and was much more present to do the best work that I could.
I have put energy into finding communities and movements that I can get behind and that get behind me.
Looking for collaborations, events, and companies that put an emphasis on what would other me and potentially put me at a disadvantage in certain environments has been a gratifying experience. It has been very important to transform that stifled feeling of not wanting to be out to anyone in an office into creating work and meeting other creatives specifically based on queerness, likemindedness, or the intersecting ways minorities can support each other.
It probably won’t be the last time I choose to omit the precious details of my full and loving life out of protectiveness, defensiveness or discomfort –– but hopefully as I pursue these projects and communities my support system will just get bigger and bigger and this alienation that could hinder me will become a strength and that claustrophobic feeling will get smaller in the back of my throat and slowly but surely that wariness won’t define any experiences I have.