I could tolerate the gossip and isolation. But when physical violence was threatened, it was frightening.

Mocked and threatened My ordeal as a gay man in the corporate worldImage for representation
Features Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - 18:52

By Gireesh

 

Why LGBTQ+ Series? Read here.

 

I had decided to not write this, because through writing I have worn myself out trying to reduce my continual emotional pain and depression. But sometimes, writing gives me the hope to go ahead.

Even though I did my job well every month, and my company’s administration had no complaints, I had to leave my job to survive.

I know the punishment which I experience is an injustice. I know I did not do any crime to deserve this punishment. Yet I have been punished.

The company I worked for has 100 male and 10 female employees.

The atmosphere in the company was one of discrimination – females would not be given higher ranks because they couldn’t work after 5 pm. But that wasn’t all. Most male employees were always talking about females and their bodies; they had no understanding of or compassion for women.

Seeing how they treated the women and their lack of understanding, I was afraid: How would they understand me? How would they understand my sexual orientation? I didn’t share my feelings with anyone in my company.

I was not a member of their WhatsApp group and didn’t add any of my colleagues on Facebook or other social media.  

When I went to work one day, there was a tangible difference in how my colleagues looked at me. In my team there were 14 men and 2 women. None of the men would speak to me; when they did talk to me about work-related matters; their words were few and harsh. The only ones who spoke to me at all were the two women. This continued for the rest of the week – I just didn’t understand what had happened to cause this change. But I continued coming to work, enduring the harsh treatment.

The next week one of the women wanted to talk to me and we walked to the bus stop together. As we walked, she asked me if I really wanted to stay with the company. In my innocence, I just didn’t understand what had happened. So in response to my question of why, she told me that a colleague had visited my Facebook page and had seen my pictures in the Chennai Rainbow Self-Respect Rally.

Suddenly my courage left me and I understood the treatment I had been receiving. They had shared my Facebook posts and discussed that no one should speak to me.

I asked her how it was that she was talking to me. She had the courage to defy them. She told that she trusted me because I would do nothing to her.

I didn’t know what to say to her. She told me to leave the company, that all of the other workers were angry and that if they caught me at night they planned to make an excuse to attack me. Then she left. 

I understood clearly what had been happening the past week. I remembered the incidents of that week – I felt the condemnation, the smiles behind my back when I walked by, the step away from me when we talked and evading any touch, questioning me about living alone; all of these things flashed across my mind from the last week in an instant.

There was no one to report their isolating behaviour and under-the-breath threats to. If I complained to the company administrators, they wouldn’t take any action against those behaving that way. I needed money to live, so it was very hard to even consider leaving my job.

I could tolerate the gossip and isolation. But when physical violence was threatened, it was frightening. The thought of being ambushed after dark was more than I could stand. On my next payday, without prior notice, I decided that it was in my best interest to leave my job without notice.

After a couple of days, I did send an email to the company explaining my reasons for leaving. I had been instructed that if I had anything to say, I should come to the office, be direct. So, I sent another email and asked them how could I come and work at the place where the other employees are threatening me. Again, there was no reply.

When I was looking for a place to live alone, one of my colleagues helped me locate a good place. It was this same colleague who was the first to speak hateful words to me. 

As a man I am questioned about having a job and earning money. Jobs come and jobs go. Having a job or not is not my real issue. The real problem is the depression of not having a job. I used to be happy living by myself but now I hate being alone. I spend all of my time with friends.

When I do stay at my home, I can’t sleep. Fear keeps me wondering – will a stone come through my window, will the doorbell ring with hate. My mind is filled with these thoughts and fears.

I could do nothing to help myself. I was afraid the owner of the house would be told about me. I was also afraid to go to my next job interview. How would they behave towards me? Had someone told them? I am afraid that I won’t be able to take care of next month’s food, rent and household expenses. 

I want to share these things with my friends, but I don’t know what or how much to share. Sometimes I feel so empty inside and so alone.

I am threatened by violence. I am not a criminal, I have not harmed anyone – why should I have to hide myself and be afraid? How can I run continually, having to overcome fear, economic problems, and condemnation? There is no way to gain confidence, just more opportunity for self-hate.

But latest I have realised that it is necessary to speak out for both physical and psychological reasons. And perhaps that speaking out may bring understanding in others.

To be able to speak out in the future I should overcome self-hate. I must overcome any guilt I might have about my sexual orientation. I want to concentrate on both of these things now.

Twenty days after this incident, I had a conversation with a colleague from my company:

He: “Nice DP”

Me. “Thank you”

He: “Sorry”. 

What I felt was uncontrolled anger. After everything is done and I am disgraced and no longer employed, and filled with fears, would any good come of a simple apology? My hope for a future is lost and will this simple apology help me to recover it? I typed a long response but didn’t send it. My fear was that he would send an angry reply or give me an angry phone call.

After thinking for a while, I simply replied “It’s ok”.

When someone is suppressed and threatened by violence, what else can he say?

 

Also readLonging for love, sex, marriage and make-up: Narratives of sexuality from the disabled

 

Are sex and gender the same? Or are they different? Confused? Read our explainer here.

There's a lot more to LGBTQ+ than the rainbow filter in your profile picture. Read our exhaustive explainer here.

 

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