On putting 'I'm gay' on a tongue-in-cheek mock-up of a business card (and all the bloody grief it's causing)…

So I’ve been trying to respond to the thread about my apparent obsession with going on about my sexuality (note – they’re talking about this) that’s manifested over at NSLog(); except now all my comments are getting bounced for ‘questionable content’. I’ve tried removing all the rude words from what I write, but god knows it’s hard, and it doesn’t appear to be doing any good. Before anyone goes running at his head suggesting that he’s blocking comments like this to avoid debate, I should point out that I’ve been having problems with the MTBlacklist questionable content filters recently, so I’m not implying anything. Instead I thought I’d just post it here, with all the rude words back in… Feel free to post your own thoughts about this stuff either here or over on his site… But be nice, eh?

If what you’re doing here is warning me that by having my sexuality on a card I might give out to people might stop me getting jobs, then thank you very much. Clearly by my age I wouldn’t have figured that out already.

Figures suggest that people who don’t meet their partners at school or university tend to meet them through work. Clearly this happens by complete coincidence – two people (let’s say they’re straight) are so conscious that they must not be flagrant about their heterosexuality that they avoid all mention of it for years until they happen to bump into each other at some kind of ‘straight bar’, recognise their attraction suddenly and fall into each other’s arms. Clearly there’s absolutely no assumption that it’s okay to flirt with each other at a Christmas party or whatever. Clearly no one talks about what they did at the weekend if it could possibly be construed as to make any reference (direct or indirectly) to whether they’re gay or straight or not. So they wouldn’t say that they’d cooked a meal for their girlfriend, or go to see a film with their boyfriend. Clearly they wouldn’t say out loud that they’d had a birthday party for their 3-year old son. I mean all of these things would be shouting from the rooftops about their sexuality. They may as well be standing outside your house with placards or rutting like Bonobo monkeys on the photocopier.

And quite right, I think, they should be ashamed of themselves – fornicating with their partners at home! Giving birth to children! Socialising with their family! Getting married! The shame. They make me sick.

I can honestly say that I’m stunned by your statement that you cannot see the difference between someone feeling the need to make it clear they were gay to avoid discomfort and awkwardness for themselves and their colleagues, and the fact that straight people simply don’t need to do that stuff. Straight sexuality comes up in conversation a dozen times a day – by association, by reference, however.

At no point during my piece over on or here have I said that a gay person should ‘go on about’ their sexuality. In fact quite the opposite. As far as I’m concerned, getting it out of the way early means that the whole thing becomes less of an issue – not more. It’s about everyone knowing where they stand, so that they don’t say something crass in the office like, “Oh that photocopier is so gay” while someone over the other side of the room feels it like a kick in the head. It’s so that the gay individual concerned doesn’t have to go through this whole long drawn-out tentative process with each member of staff as issues of boyfriends/girlfriends, what you did at the weekend, what you think about some piece of the news, whether you fancy that bird in accounting come up in idle conversation. Because that stuff is bloody difficult and infuriating and frankly I’m not prepared to go back to a time where I have to go through all that bollocks every time I happen to meet a new human being.

All of which misses the point. I don’t make a secret of my sexuality, but nor do I tend to make a big deal about it. Most people who read my site have no idea that I’m gay. They find it a ‘surprise’ when they find out. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish that they weren’t assuming that I was straight. I wish it wasn’t an issue at all, but it remains one I’m afraid. I could bring my sexuality into my site all the bloody time if I wanted to, but I don’t. I think I’ve struck a good balance between making my sexuality clear and then getting it off the table to talk about other stuff. And if you don’t like that balance, well frankly tough. I don’t care whether you like it or not. I’ll be damned if I’m going to treat the rest of my life like my teenage years and live in fear of ‘being found out’.

I should also point out that you’ve missed a hell of a lot of qualifying language from my post as well. I mean the very title includes, “In a happier world…”. The text itself calls it a “Tongue-in-cheek-ish slightly-bored early-evening version of what I would kind of like my business card to be like.” I stand by it – if anything your reaction makes me want to use it more – but it was never meant to be anything but a throwaway offhand happy and less formal card that I felt represented me accurately. It’s true that I don’t think that the normal separation of life and work is a reasonable one – that I think that we should act according to our principles in both, that we should care about our work all the time, that it should ideally be a passion and as much of our personality as things like your sexuality or nationality or political beliefs or whatever. I really care about my work and don’t just see it as something that pays the bills, any more than I think my sexuality is just about something that happens in bed with a friend. But just because I’m not as willing to distinguish between the things I get paid to do and the things I do because I think it’s the right and proper way of operating in the world, doesn’t make it reasonable for you to conflate two words on a mock-up of a business card with a form of big swinging-dick sex-obsessed radical queer activism!

Oh and somewhere along the line you also make some comment about how I seem to have a lot of respect for myself, and I’m beginning to think that’s really where a lot of this stuff is coming from. If you find me personally annoying or offensive then just say so and we can talk about that like grown-ups. Seems at the moment that the only person fixating on my sexuality is you.

31 replies on “On putting 'I'm gay' on a tongue-in-cheek mock-up of a business card (and all the bloody grief it's causing)…”

Filed under: Tom’s gay. Big deal.
As a ‘straight’, when a close friend came out a few years ago I find it has changed my viewpoint on a lot of the topics you mentioned. Alas we are not at the point where sexuality is a non-issue (for some people) and to be honest I’d rather know if people are gay or not as well.
For no other reason than I’d hope it would allow them to be more comfortable in their environment (work, home, socialising).

Actually, I think you imply/talk about the whole sexuality thing fairly infrequently. I’ve been lurking here quite a while and it took me quite some time to realise. I think it is difficult not to form a mental picture of the author, it’s just something that is instinctive, even with very little information. In my mind there’s no way you could ever have had blond hair. I would have dismissed it as photoshop trickery if the first picture of you I saw had been blonde-haired. Seriously though, just because people can’t help having preconceptions, it doesn’t mean they should feel forced-upon or affronted when they turn out to be wrong.
Anyway, this is your site right?

When I read that business-card the other day, I was thinking to myself that your mentioning you’re gay would probably find some troll to have a go at you. And I was right, unfortunately. Well, in the end it’s your business card and your wanting to convey as much as possible about yourself in a relevant framework on as little space as possible. If you feel it’s important to tell prospective employers you’re gay, it simply can’t be a matter of discussion. Period.

I have nothing to add to this besides to say it’s wonderful to work in a place where you’re possibly more likely to be assumed you were gay and I’d like to see Erik try to work at a place like that and avoid waving his flagrant heterosexuality in people’s faces. Oh and to say well said, Tom. 😉

Ironically, the statement about your sexuality barely registered on my radar. I was instead startled by your very public age declaration!
Seriously though. In retrospect I rather regret not having declared my sexuality on my CV, or at least mentioned it during the interview, when I applied for my current job 8 years ago. Doing so would have circumvented a great deal of frustration.

Duncan, I’ve known Tom was gay since I subscribed to his feed two years ago. It’s not a big deal. Slapping it on a business card makes it a deal. And hey, it’s a question of the day. I don’t see a whole lot of people answering the very simple question: what does being gay have to do with performing a job well?
And Tom, the “questionable content” rejection is from MT-Blacklist. It contains only 175 items and I rarely get spam. The Brits spell it “socialising” and that tripped a filter for cialis. Cuz here we spell it socializing.
MT-Blacklist comment denial on ‘NSLog();’.
Author: Tom Coates; Email:
String matched: cialis

Not to mention, if I’d taken 3 seconds to look, I would have seen that Tom said socialising in his post. Tsk!
Anyway, this argument clearly stems from disagreements over how much one’s personal life should infringe upon one’s business life. I have to side with Tom, because I don’t see how you can work effectively without sharing even shallow personal truths. Why should gay people have to lie day-to-day just to avoid confrontation. I myself might not choose to tell people I’m straight, but that’s because they are correct when they assume I am, so their assumption doesn’t cause any embarrasment.
As to the matter of how formal a business card should be, can’t we allow Tom to suggest that business cards shouldn’t be as formal as they currently are? Indeed, that’s exactly how I took the tone of his post – not that he should put those exact things on his business card, just that he should feel free to if that’s how he wants to come across.

Erik – to be honest the only reference you’ll find to me saying that I’d be using a business card to actually get a job is in a comment on the other thread where I say, “Yeah I think TOM COATES, NERD might not get me many jobs or anything.”
I don’t really think business cards generally get you jobs. I might be wrong. But it seems to me that normally they’re just brain-joggers with some core contact details on em. Being gay clearly doesn’t make me do the job better that doesn’t mean it’s not useful for people to know. If it alleviates social problems later then it’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. I should point out that there is a bit of a difference between a CV and a business card – if people employed me on the basis of my card alone I’d be frankly a bit mystified by their behaviour) and I should also point out again that I made it very very clear that I was talking about a business card for happier times, where perhaps the reaction to someone just mentioning that they are gay wouldn’t cause such a bloody furore.
All this is irrelevant because the core point is not whether or not being gay makes you better at the job (as I’ve said, I only think people knowing you’re gay makes it easier to do your job), but more importantly, why stating you’re gay on a business card should be innappropriate. So it might not be totally relevant to some people. Does that make it actively destructive, negative or bad to say it? Seems to me that it’s either useful or it’s irrelevant. I can’t see a context where it’s actually bad (except in the extreme case, when the person you’ve giving it to is actively homophobic).

It’s telling that there’s a controversy about declaring your sexuality when, in fact, you didn’t put a traditional job title on the card! If you can’t distill all your interests, skills, and role into two words, then obviously you’ve failed at the business card.
All sarcasm aside, you easily beat every glossy, over-designed card I’ve ever seen as a way to establish identity. If you were applying for a grunt programmer or contract design position, then sure, the traditional route may work better. Interaction design, social software and the like require a strong understanding of people, interaction, and socializing — all of which you’ve established on that card.

I posted this comment on Erik’s blog, too, but the conversation is split all over the place so I think I’ll add it here.
To answer the original question (What the h*** does being gay have to do with getting a job?) and the second question posed in the comments of Tom’s blog (what does being gay have to do with performing a job well?)
Well, here’s something that hasn’t been brought up at all: I work for a company that doesn’t offer insurance to gay partners. My boyfriend attends a law school that doesn’t, either (although the ABA in the US does offer alternative insurance for gay law students). Nobody asked either of us whether we were gay during any kind of interview process, because of course it would be an invasion of privacy. And now this company & this school have no idea what sort of climate has been created for gay employees, because they have no idea who their gay employees are.
So there you go. Health insurance and benefits packages are pretty important aspects of accepting a job or doing a job well, in my mind. And they’re something straight people take for granted that gay people can’t.

three comments.
1) i like the card. and you don’t look 32. (this coming from someone who just entered his 30s.)
2) WRT benefits per Brian W’s post, i always ask if they offer domestic partners benefits. if they say no, i usually move on.
3) i’m always bothered by the idea that when gay people talk about their boyfriends/girlfriends it’s a flaunting, but when straight people talk them, it’s not even considered. i wish they could realize that. it’s very much the idea that everyone is straight until you say otherwise.

that’s funny because my first reaction to that card was that i’m surprised you would want to let everyone know your email address like that.
i can partially sympathize with you wanting to get it all out of the way right away. i wish i had a business card that said “i’m vegetarian and diabetic.” i’m quite annoyed with feeling compelled to explain my food and drug habbits. i can only imagine sexuality would be worse.

Well said, Tom.
Sheesh. What an uproar — no one seems to notice that most business cards might as well say “straight” because that’s what is assumed.

Holy crap, Uhura’s black?! Er, I mean Tom’s gay?!
your sexuality is part of who you are; if you feel it important for people to know it, then it belongs on your card. If not, then meh. I can certainly imagine that there would be advantages to making sure that people knew, and that is what is really sad here.

This is all very well Tom, but what is more important is the fact you omitted a very critical piece of information from your business card..the fact that you frequently get whooped by a girly on Xbox Live 😉 Surely an essential piece of information that everyone needs to know!

Whilst sexuality has no impact on how one does one’s job, it can have a massive impact upon how one feels at work, and that can have an impact on how one does one job. I have a very good friend who actively disguises the fact that he’s gay both at work and from anyone who doesn’t know him very, very well.
His reasoning is that it’s no-one’s business but his own, but his motivation is more to do with being worried about how people will react. I actually only found out that he was gay because of a very awkward conversation that we had in response to the fact that I (obviously) had a crush on him and he wanted to clear the air so that we could get on with being friends without all that unresolved sexual tension thing going on.
Thing is, I know how much effort he puts in to trying to make his sexuality invisible and I am convinced that his life would be easier on so many levels if he didn’t feel he had to do this. I respect his decision and I understand why he does it, but in an ideal world it would be so nice if we could all just be who we are, and be open about who we are, without having to worry about it.
Although this would then result in my business card having “Suw Charman: Nosy Bitch” on it. Hmm.

Oh Tom I can’t believe you’ve spent so much time justifying yourself about this. One thing I learnt years ago is that there’s only one way to respond to those kind of comments – don’t waste your time, don’t even read them. It’s like, I’m not interested in about 80% of the opinions of people I know about and actually like, so why should I care what some random email person thinks? Life’s too too short.
And for what it’s worth, I thought your business card was very cute – especially the post-modern “handwriting”.

This so reminds me that a lot of temp jobs I’d had in the past, at the offices, when I’d be there maybe a month or so, SOMEBODY would always be CLEARLY trying to hint around to feel out if I were gay.
(For example, by asking me pointed questions about celebrities who are gay, or asking if I don’t have a boyfriend because I have a girlfriend or “something else”.)
The funny part about it is that I just happen to have been single for many years, and have never married.
Apparently just the fact I never mention a boyfriend or husband at temp jobs is considered “suspect” in some offices.
So let those people tell me people aren’t screaming their heterosexuality from the rooftops!
It’s true, lots of heterosexuals constantly make a big fuss about their sexuality in the workplace.
Even in workplaces where they don’t even know the people very well! (Which is always the case when you temp, generally there’s not enough time to really get to know people in that situation.)
I’m just a rather private person. I am more of the type to keep my personal life more or less seperate from work. And I’ve always felt that this was sort of NOT the norm, actually.
So I don’t know what these people are talking about at all!

Just been thinking, having read the nslog stuff again.
Would it be more realistic to say that putting your AGE on the business card may be more of a barrier to getting a job? Obviously depends on your age but… well… er.. that was it.
And whilst I remember, I’m not gay, I hope I’m tolerant and understanding, and I ‘get’ where Tom is coming from on this. Alas 2004/5 isn’t as far advanced, in attitude, from 1984/5 as some people think.

Indeed I whish there was no need to come out, but I am forced to do so repeatedly, because I am bisexual, and people appear diligent about assuming one is mono-sexual. Despite knowing my sexual orientation, they continue to presume I have a leaning, and are surprised to see me with an individual of a gender that does not match their chosen label, and don’t get me started on how (far too) many simply think that bisexuality doesn’t even exist!
I would never put my sexual orientation on a business card, simply because I constantly bring it up in the most casual and sometimes humorous ways, for the reason(s) explained above.
When I came out to my grandmother some many moons ago, she replied with: “don’t you have to pick a side?” That’s when I gave up trying to explain it.
One day I got tired of entertaining gender-less speech with my co-workers, especially when one of them simply assumed that I was single for Valentine’s because he hadn’t heard of me having a girlfriend at the time; I’ve been throwing it in everyone’s face ever since, and nobody ever complained. I’ve made a few people blush mind you, but the death toll is still at zero.

The level of patronising, aggressivity and bigotry in that thread is freaky. You shouldn’t even have bothered to explain yourself to those people, even if you have done so in an admiringly civil and patient way. WTF is their problem? I don’t even get what the obsession is about. I thought the business card was nice, what with the handwriting and informal tone and all, I sure wouldn’t have dreamt it would cause any such reaction. Clearly that proves the point(s) you are making even more.

I wanna take you to a gay bar…gay bar…gay bar…
Dude, I had no idea. The funniest part is, I read the business card post and I guess I just glossed or didn’t notice the “I am gay” part.
Don’t waste your time justifying yourself to the punks in that thread. While I’m not gay, I’m proud to be Canadian here in the gay mariage capital of North America.

I wanna take you to a gay bar…gay bar…gay bar…
Dude, I had no idea. The funniest part is, I read the business card post and I guess I just glossed or didn’t notice the “I am gay” part.
Don’t waste your time justifying yourself to the punks in that thread. While I’m not gay, I’m proud to be Canadian here in the gay marriage capital of North America.
My old cards said “troublemaker.” After a few years in the business, I was tired of people having to find out the hard way. I’m sure it’s the same for Tom.
Let’s all make a deal, shall we? You describe yourself on your card however the hell you want, and let anyone else describe themselves on their card however the hell they please. Cool?

Suck a few thousand cocks if you’re a man and people will not only call you ‘gay,’ but a manwhore, too. Oh well. Shit happens.

Comments are closed.