I am fully out as a gay man at the company where I work. I came out over a year and a half ago. But when I work outside the four walls of my company, it can feel like I am back in the closet. I serve on the board of directors of a company that my company owns, along with six other companies. Four times a year, I fly off to different cities for the board meetings. I have never come out to my fellow board members. One of the Vice President’s of the company, on whose board I serve, is an out lesbian, and I am out to her. She is a ray of light to me in this staid business relationship.
Last night I sat at a board dinner, the evening before our quarterly board meeting, with the other board members, company leadership, and two spouses. There were about sixteen of us seated around a very long table. The conversation was lively, and people easily referred to their husbands or wives and their children as we talked. On my right sat the wife of the president of the company, and on my left sat a new female board member.
The president’s wife started to talk with another woman and me about the spiralizer she had just purchased for her KitchenAid. She was raving about the different foods she had tried in her new spiralizer the day before. I had never heard of a spiralizer but quickly got the idea of what it was. She excitedly described spiralizing and apple, a zucchini, and a potato and make spirals for her salad and to pan fry.
I began to talk about my recent cooking. I explained that since I separated from my wife two and a half years ago, I had been doing a lot of cooking. I told her about cooking for a small dinner party I gave last month and my purchase last week of a Cuisinart food processor. I thought to myself, this is such a gay conversation. None of the other men at this table, all of whom are married, would be having an animated discussion about a spiralizer. I thought about coming out to her, but there was no reason I could think to do so. It also did not feel right to come out to her when I had not come out to her husband, who runs the company first, so I remained mum on the topic.
The new board member talked about her role in her company, having just joined less than three months ago. She had this interesting combination of femininity with several masculine mannerisms and a more masculine, cigar-chomping way of talking. I wondered if she was a lesbian. I thought it would be cool if we could come out to each other. But late in the conversation, she mentioned her husband. Darn, I thought, she is straight. So I did not say anything about being gay.
While I enjoy this board, not being out makes me feel like I am back in the closet. It makes for a feeling of both discomfort and loneliness within the group. Other than the one gay executive, it is a very straight group. All are married and most with children. I plan to find an opportunity to come out to the president of this company and his team, and some of the other board members over the next few months. I think it would have me feel at ease in the group and not so separate—no more traveling in the closet.