I had a bit of a close call in work last week when I came very close to inadvertently outing myself due to my own carelessness.
The morning after I had been out to the restaurant with Andrea my wife and I were driving into work when she looked at my hand on the gear stick and exclaimed “Look at your nails!” It seemed that I hadn’t been careful enough in removing my red nail varnish the previous evening. There were little flecks of red in the quick of most of my fingers and, even more worryingly, there was a distinctly pink hue to most of my fingertips. I brushed her worries aside and said that nobody would notice, it just wouldn’t register with anyone. How wrong I was!
About an hour after arriving in work, I was in a meeting with the rest of my team. There were six of us around a round table, and I was sitting shuffling papers when one of my male colleagues (we’ll call him Arthur) said “Bob don’t take this the wrong way but are you wearing nail varnish? Have you been dressing up as a woman?” My heart sank. “No!” I shouted, a bit too eagerly. Then everyone else looked at my fingers and murmured “Oh yes I see it too” to general laughter. On the spot I blurted out some story about me having been playing with daughter no2 the previous day and she had though it was hilarious to paint daddy’s nails. I’m not 100% convinced that they bought it! but it seemed to quieten them down. My friend Lauren, the one person in work who does know about Kirsty, gave me a shocked and knowing look, then she said “You ought to see the colour of his toenails”. I felt the redness rising from my neck to my face, but I managed to control it and hopefully it died down quickly, but the damage may have been done. I tried to play along, making jokes at my own expense, anything but letting my colleagues know the truth. Eventually the commotion died down and the meeting continued.
I spoke to Lauren later and she seems to have been almost as horrified as me when Arthur spotted my nails. The problem she had was that if there is a bit of banter going on in the office, she is almost invariably at the centre of it, so she felt that if she didn’t join in with some sort of wisecrack it may have made things look even more suspicious.
Later that day Arthur sent an email round the team. The header of the email said “Great Bargains”. In the text he had written “Some great deals here if any of you are interested” followed by a link to deals on nail varnish at Boots. I had to just lap it up, but I asked him how he knew so much about where to find these deals.
I should add at this point that the Arthur is a very religious person and is also shockingly homophobic. Not homophobic in that he wants gay people strung up, but literally homophobic – he is terrified of gay people and genuinely seems to find the idea of two men or two women both baffling and repulsive. There used to be a couple of gay men in our office who were in a relationship with each other, which eventually became a civil partnership. They were just two other colleagues as far as most of us were concerned, but Arthur repeatedly shook his head and shuddered when they walked past him together, even though they were just walking and talking, not holding hands or any other sort of public display of affection. Lauren once called him out on his homophobia (as I have done too), telling him that one of her best friends is lesbian but it makes no difference to their friendship. Arthur asked if this friend had been abused as a child, which would have put her off men. As far as he was concerned, nothing else could explain her being gay as it couldn’t possibly have just occurred naturally.
I mention all this because I decided to play on his aversion to things LGBT. I asked him how he would react if what he had initially accused me of were actually the truth, if he would find that hard to deal with. He shuddered, made a “sick” face, shook his head, waved his arms about and couldn’t even form a sentence. While his behaviour is shocking, the fact that he had this reaction leads me to believe that he doesn’t really think I am TG.
Later that afternoon I had to go out to a meeting with a client. During the meeting, my phone beeped at me that I had a text message. I ignored it until after meeting, which went well, and then saw that it was from another male colleague, Graham. The text said “Don’t shake his hand! Remember the nail varnish!” I replied jokingly “It’s ok, he was very complimentary about my colour”. Another reply then came back “Arthur says you’re a poof”. I was very concerned that my guess that Arthur had bought my story might not actually be correct. I was close to texting back “I’d rather be a poof than a homophobe” but in the end deleted it and didn’t respond.
The next morning I was quite nervous coming in to work. I was all set to confront Arthur and ask him if he thought I was a poof (sic) but thankfully when I arrived Lauren told me that the texts were all Graham’s work to wind me up, and that Arthur had said nothing of the sort. Maybe it would all be ok after all.
The jibes have continued for the last week, most significantly when the Giro d’Italia cycle race started in Belfast. The leader of the race wears a pink jersey, and most of the city was kitted out in pink in celebration. I kept getting asked if I was going to paint my nails pink for the race, then someone else would reply that I do that anyway. Just an example of these little jokes that have gone on.
On balance I do think that I have got away with my slip-up, but it’s come as a rude awakening for me. I have clearly become far too cavalier with keeping my trans* nature secret. I am very definitely skating on thin ice at work and if I make another slip like that, the playing-with-daughter story will not be bought a second time. Next time, my secret will be out, and I will be outed. Maybe in the long run, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but if I ever do come out fully, I would much rather do it at a time of my own choosing.
That’s all for now, next time it’ll be back to normal service with some more Kirsty’s Wednesday Night Adventures (and I had a great one a couple of nights ago).