An idiot’s guide to treating your LGBTQ co-worker as a human being (part 1?)

To celebrate LGBT Pride Month and the Philippines’ 117th Independence Day (from Spain, at least), BuzzFeed Philippines asked around 20 LGBT Filipinos an interesting question: “As part of the LGBT community, what does freedom mean to you?

Now, I’m usually very thankful that I live in a country where it’s illegal and deplorable to execute someone for the silliest things (you know, like sexual orientation–hello, Iran), but every now and then, I find myself sickened, angry even, that I can’t enjoy the fullness of my liberties because I’m surrounded by idiots.

The ratio of people who would care to lift a finger for the freedoms mentioned above against those who would only feel 10 seconds of empathy is alarming. 3:10? 2:10? 1:10 even? I don’t have the exact numbers, but based on experience, very few people would give a fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad living here. Big cities have LGBT discrimination laws, food is cheap, Internet isn’t the best but isn’t the worst either (or is it?), and I can write this entry without fear of being flogged for it.

But, can we not have more? Can we not have the rest of the package?

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An LGBTQ-aware archipelago? You wish.

This post could be the first of many–as we do have loads to consider–so, I’ll start with being a mostly-gay, mostly-cisgender man (click if unfamiliar with terms) in a corporate setting.

Now, this may not be a matter as “great” as marriage equality or the legalisation of homosexuality (hello to you, too, Saudi Arabia), but it’s still an important thing to consider. Like I said, we deserve the full package, and that includes being respected for who we are.

Thus, below is an idiot’s guide (quite literally) in treating your gay co-worker as a human being:

Introduce them as your colleagues, not your “gay” colleagues. You don’t do that for your straight colleagues; why should you do it for the gay ones?

Don’t assume that your gay colleagues want to be excluded from other men (yes, it is a thing to confuse gay with transgender here, even within gay circles).

In other words: don’t introduce them as women. If they’re transgender or gender-fluid, they’ll let you know (or if they don’t, leave it). A gay man does not lose his right to “manliness” by being gay, and a straight guy doesn’t need to be all masculine, either. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing. Learn the difference.

Obviously, don’t refer to them using feminine language (unless they ask you to). Don’t assume that your gay colleague is your gurl, sister, auntie, or amiga, or that you can refer to them as “she”. And even if the ones you know are clearly “flamboyant”, that doesn’t necessarily mean they identify as female.

Don’t introduce them as “third sex”. Heaven knows how outdated and offensive that term is. Your gay colleagues probably do not have different genitalia than your straight ones, so they’re not a separate sex.

Don’t be a nosy prick: you don’t need to know if your new colleague is “gay” or whatever. Unless, you want to date them, does it really matter? And if it doesn’t matter, why do you even need to know?

If your gay colleague is partnered, don’t ask who the “woman” is in the relationship. It’s misogynistic and heteronormative. A hundred percent of the time, because they’re gay men, neither is a woman; they’re both dudes.

If you’re one of those straight guys who think every gay guy is dying to get into your pants, don’t flatter yourself. Chances are, your gay colleague may not even like you in that way.

Say your gay colleague does have a crush on you, that doesn’t mean he wants to get you into bed right away. If you’re getting signals, ask, don’t assume.

Feel free to crack LGBTQ jokes if and only if you understand the context: nobody likes an ignorant twat trying to be funny.

I’m sure there’s more, but, of course, I speak only for myself. Cha Roque did so as a lesbian mother, and you should, too, in your own way.

Point is, we all need to know better and we should never be silent about these things. Being non-straight in the office doesn’t have to be so hard (especially in 21st century urban Manila, Jesus H. Christ). And whilst I understand that this may be new for many Filipinos, if you’re going to throw around words like gay and lesbian every now and then, you better know how to use them and why. And, hopefully, you do want to be thoughtful and sensitive and educated. Right?

PS: If you’re lesbian, trans, bi, queer, or whatever, hit me up with your list.