This is the last of a three-part series about a cop and his firefighter boyfriend who want to be more open about their relationship and sexual orientation, but have concerns considering the male-dominated paramilitary professions each of them have chosen and work in.
In case you missed the previous posts, read:
So what words of sage advice did I give these guys?
My advice to them included:
- Take it slow; tell your family first and build your support at home. This is a link to a past blog post about the process I went through when I came out to my Mom. This is a link to a summary of the same.
- Realize that you are struggling with feelings of being dishonest. For a cop, in particular, being honest is an important characteristic that defines who he is. Read this post about how a gay cop struggled with coming out because he felt that by keeping his sexual orientation private, he was being dishonest with himself and his co-workers who have to protect and care for him and vice-versa.
- Don’t talk about your personal life at work. It can be easy for a casual conversation to go south, such as “we saw [x] movie last night–it was great.” This begs the question, “who was the ‘we’ you are talking about?” There is no need to introduce these complications, so keeping your personal life at home is a wise practice. (I can’t tell you how many times I got ‘burned’ by joining a casual conversation and bringing my personal life into it. Most people don’t need or want to know that stuff.)
- If anyone directly asks you about your sexual orientation or if you are dating a guy, don’t lie. Just be honest with a casual response, “yes.” Period.
- Avoid the “fake family hetero lifestyle lie.” There are some gay men who make up a wife/girlfriend, children, and family life and tell stories about things you did with them, their schooling, etc. This is a very poor decision and can lead to tragic consequences. Lies always catch up and liars get caught.
- If you have an account on social media like Facebook, watch what you post. Believe me, most of your “friends” are lurkers. They watch what you post, including status updates and photos. Be thoughtful about your postings because many people make assumptions about your character and lifestyle by viewing what you post.
- If you enjoy socializing with your co-workers at picnics, barbeques, or other activities where dates, spouses, and children will attend, and you want to bring your date to an event, then prepare for that in advance. Approach your co-workers one-on-one and be matter-of-fact: “I am bringing (name) with me to (event). He is important in my life. I hope you will like him. Just giving you a heads-up.” Then be direct but brief when answering the inevitable questions that will follow. By giving advanced notice, you will be able to both prepare your co-workers so they will not have a negative reaction cause by being surprised, and you will also be able to gauge their thinking.
- Most important: just be yourself. You are no different from the man you were yesterday. However, you will feel relieved from having that anxiety lifted from your shoulders.
I don’t know if my advice would be all that helpful. I am not a cop or a firefighter. I cannot pretend to know what their work environment is truly like. So I closed with an offer to put my new cop friend in contact with the cop who came out in his unit and to the Blue Pride forum — an on-line discussion board for first responders including police and firefighters. There are many men who have been through what these guys are going through, and can help them far better than I can.
I told them that if they wanted to talk some more, I would be happy to see them again.
Then my new cop friend regained his appetite, wolfed down his meal, and got seconds. We talked about a lot of other things after that. Smiled, shook hands, and rode our motorcycles toward home. Thanks to my friend JT for bringing us together. I send my best wishes to my new friends as they embark on their journey of honesty.
Life is short: be honest with yourself, your family, your friends, and your co-workers.