Saturday, March 22, 2008

Outed at Work

Reposted from my blog by request:

As some of you may know by now, I have made no secret of my atheism to anyone outside my family. I have not told my parents or grandparents simply because I think my grandparents would literally die if they found out (and I do mean literally - they are quite old and very devout). Although I am open and honest about my atheism at work when asked, I do not go out of my way to talk about it. Those who know respect me enough to live and let live. I accord them the same respect.

I have a new boss now who is a Southern Baptist. He seems like a nice enough guy but something that happened today has me a bit upset. Our financial consultant and my immediate supervisor were both talking with me today in front of my boss when the consultant brought up my atheism. I felt embarrassed and shocked - we don't normally speak so openly about religion and I had wanted my boss to get to know me first for my character and the quality of my work. When I mentioned to the two later that I was a bit upset, they kind of blew it all off as no big deal. My supervisor said it didn't matter because she'd already told him I was ... she couldn't even say the word "atheist." I said, "Why were you discussing it him? It has nothing to do with my work." She replied that she didn't want him to say something to offend me. I have no doubt that she is telling the truth. I trust her completely and I know neither of these people meant any harm. They know me and they are comfortable with me.

What they don't understand (and what I tried to explain to them) is that not everyone is so tolerant. I told them about my atheist friends who were threatened and run out of a nearby town just a couple of years ago because they didn't want the public school preaching and teaching religion to their son. I expressed concern that some people might treat me badly or make things harder for me because of my atheism. They just didn't get it. I suppose when you've never been hated and shunned like the atheists and gays, then maybe you just can't really understand.

So here I sit now wondering how I should feel. I was outed to my boss before I even realized I was outed! My friends say it's no big deal but it feels like a violation somehow. I feel like I'm on display and my boss will be watching me to see what I may say or do next. Am I paranoid or is there a possibility that I will suffer in some way?

As silly as it may sound, I think I'm uncomfortable because I no longer feel in control. When we all just got along and accepted each other, things were fine. But now that I know someone feels she must reveal my atheism (even for my own sake), I don't have that sense of control anymore. I feel diminished, somehow, as if I had ceased to become a person in that conversation and just an atheist who needed to be handled carefully.

I don't want to be treated differently because I'm an atheist. I don't want anyone to make changes in order to make me feel comfortable. I want people to do what's right by me because it is right and I fully intend to reciprocate.

I want people to see me as a good person who happens to be an atheist and not the other way around. But no matter what happens as a result of this, I will continue to proclaim myself a proud member of the reality-based community. I can only hope that the consequences will not be severe.


vjack said...

Thanks for posting this, Agnosticat. I'm interested to know if others are "out" to their co-workers and how they have been received since.

My co-workers know that I do not go to church or celebrate any religious holidays, but I have not used the dreaded "a word" just yet because I haven't been asked directly.

Psychodiva said...

it may be different ov er here I think but my co-workers have always known- but it isn't as if I walk around saying i'm an atheist- its only if it comes up in conversation or if someone says something I find offensive - ie too religious or an assumption of beliefs- then I will make a stand. In the UK it just doesn't really come up as it has absolutley nothing to do with work.
although I work in the public sector so I have no idea what it is like in a company- my husband- also an atheist says it never comes up as religion is thought to interfere with work and if someone was always spouting about it- they would probabaly be told not to - it definitely would not have an impact on appraisals or promotion here

damestrato said...

A few people know about my atheism, and they pick the best time to bring it up; in front of a crowd of believers! I guess that a one on one conversation doesn't interest them? There are certain functions that i don't attend, because i fear the ambush, the intervention:>

vjack said...

damestrato raises an interesting point about the timing with which this sort of thing is brought up. Related to that, I feel like those who know I am an atheist tend to have a very short memory. It is almost as if they expect I might be an atheist one week but not the next. If I didn't want to attend church with you last week because I don't believe in your god and find it a thorough waste of time, why would I want to go this week?

buster said...

Whilst I sympathize... imagine what is like to be "outed" as gay or lesbian?

When you've had dog shit put in your locker, people have pissed in your trash, you've started a new job to find that nobody will speak to you and that you're fired the next day without explanation, you get set on in the car park....

Come on! Butch up a bit!