I Want to Come Out to My Firm

I’m a second-year associate at a conservative Chicago firm.  Thing is, I haven’t told any of my colleagues yet that I’m gay.  Yes, I’m in the closet.  At my firm anyway.  I always thought I’d magically find the perfect moment to announce my sexual orientation, but it just hasn’t presented itself.  It’s not like I run around pretending that I’m George Clooney and screwing hot bimbos left and right.  I just sort of avoid the topic altogether.  I’ve been at the firm now for over a year, and I’m tired of the deliberate ambiguity.  Is there some sort of “coming out” protocol that could help me?  Do you have any thoughts on the best way to let my colleagues know the truth?

As for your first question… No, I don’t think there’s a “coming out” protocol.  Like any personal or private issue, it’s up to the individual as to how—or whether—to disclose the information. 

“Coming out” is, no doubt, an emotional decision.  There are probably a million ways to do it, but my best advice is to “announce” your sexual orientation as informally and matter-of-factly as possible.  Break the news to your closest friends first (I’ll bet you a steak dinner they already know), and let them disseminate the news organically from there.  There’s no need for some sort of formal email or pronouncement.  Truth is, most people don’t really care.  To you, your gayness is the elephant in the room.  To everyone else, it’s irrelevant.  Lawyers are way too busy writing briefs, closing deals and kissing clients’ asses to worry about whether a second-year associate prefers men to women.

Years ago, one Friday afternoon, my law firm friend, whom I’d always assumed was gay, told me that he was going away for the weekend. I clearly sensed that he was looking to “come out” to me.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Palm Springs,” he said.

“With who?”

“A friend.  Paul.”

We shared a brief look.  “You trying to tell me you’re gay?” I asked.

“Yes.”

And that was that.  We didn’t talk about it for another second. 

What I’m saying is: It’s 2009, my gay brother.  Tell your firm-friends the truth.  They won’t blink, and you’ll feel better.  Good luck.

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I’m a second-year associate at a conservative Chicago firm.  Thing is, I haven’t told any of my colleagues yet that I’m gay.  Yes, I’m in the closet.  At my firm anyway.  I always thought I’d magically find the perfect moment to announce my sexual orientation, but it just hasn’t presented itself.  It’s not like I run around pretending that I’m George Clooney and screwing hot bimbos left and right.  I just sort of avoid the topic altogether.  I’ve been at the firm now for over a year, and I’m tired of the deliberate ambiguity.  Is there some sort of “coming out” protocol that could help me?  Do you have any thoughts on the best way to let my colleagues know the truth?

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

11 Comments

  1. people in law firms suck

    November 2, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Hate to say it, but people do care.  They don’t care that you actually are gay, but the sad nature of people in large firms is that everyone wonders and speculates because they’re miserable and desperate for gossip.  If anyone even thinks you might be gay and you’ve never told anyone, you’re the subject of rumors.  And if you’re out in your non-firm life, then it’s not the secret in the firm you’re thinking.  You need to pull the rug out from under all the nosy people and come out.  As soon as you flat-out tell everyone, the sooner they’ll have nothing to talk about, and the issue for you will be much more comfortable than it is now.  Good luck!!

  2. BL1Y

    November 2, 2009 at 8:43 am

    What’s weird about this situation is that while this guy probably thinks that no one at the firm should care that’s he’s gay, the only reason he wants to tell is because he in fact does want them to care.  He doesn’t just want to people to know, he wants them to know and have a positive response.

  3. Lady lawyer

    November 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I do not understand why you have to tell.  If it does not affect your job, then it is not impt.  Conservative firms all react differently.  I knew a great paralegal who was let go because they found she had an abortion.  Why she told someone, I do not know.  If you think they will embrace you, dream on.  Continue doing a great job and keep your personal business personal.

  4. Dannie

    November 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t think you need to share your sexual orientation. why not keep it private from co-workers because it’s not as if they are your friends.

  5. Anon

    November 2, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Lady Lawyer:  Really?  Someone got fired for having an abortion?  That sounds insane and against the law.

  6. BL1Y

    November 2, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    She probably got fired not for having an abortion, but for making her abortion an issue in the office.

  7. Notwithstanding the foregoing

    November 3, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Anon.  Why would it be illegal to fire someone for having an abortion?  The fact that the government cannot punish someone for engaging in a particular activity doesn’t mean an employer cannot fire an employee for doing so.

  8. BL1Y

    November 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I don’t think baby killers is a protected class.

  9. PseudoPartner

    November 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Don’t listen to these people.  Of course it matters.  You’re not just an assembly line worker.  Reputation matters.  Who you are in “private” matters.  If you aspire to partnership, everything about your family and your “lifestyle” become important.
    BLY1 is clueless.  Breeders think it is a simple matter to “keep your sex life to yourself” when they’re the ones assuming everyone has a sex life with someone of the opposite gender.  They’re the ones always asking personal questions. 
    Playing the “answer in a gender neutral way” game quickly becomes tedious.
    I came out at my firm when I went to the Managing Partner and asked the firm to make insurance benefits available for my significant other.
    A few folks I was closer to knew before hand when I gave them honest answers to their questions.  What did you do this weekend?  Worked in the yard.  Oh, do you own a house?  Yep.  You’re single, right?  Nope.  Oh, I didn’t know.  What’s your husband’s name?  Martha.  Ohhhhh.
    Just treat it like the “no big deal” it is and when people ask you questions, give them honest answers.
    That’s what they get for asking and assuming.
    Good luck.

  10. Guano Dubango

    November 4, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Law firms to not really care what you do with your privates AFTER work.  Just make sure not to start nuzzling up to any mean AT work.  No one is interested in seeing that.

  11. Alma Federer

    November 7, 2009 at 5:12 am

    I agree with Guano.  Also, the fact that there are gay men reduces the gene pool for eligible females like me.  We just can not win in this strange world.

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