by Julie Beach | For LGBT employees, sometimes Valentine’s Day at work can be a day not of love, but loathing. While the day has been linked to romantic love since the 16thcentury, few employers offer or mandate any sort of officially sanctioned Valentine’s workplace event. At most, employees will talk about their Valentine’s plans around the coffee pot or someone might bring in a special desert. It’s these settings of casual workplace chit-chat that can fill LGBT employees with dread, but can also provide opportunities for you to share equally with your co-workers. With just a bit of forethought, you can relax and breeze right through the day.
If You Aren’t Out at Work-Don’t Worry!
Valentine’s Day is not for everyone ─ many employees don’t give much thought to it. If you don’t say anything about your personal plans with a special someone, don’t be afraid that you are setting yourself up for curiosity and suspicious prying into your private life. Many employees, whether they are partnered, dating or single, won’t say much about Valentine’s Day at work; it’s just not that important. Increasingly employers have done a good job of explaining the value of diversity to their employees, so it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will make you feel uncomfortable by tempting you into a lie or any other defensive posture. As one straight-ally employee here at Out & Equal told me, “I haven’t had a date for Valentine’s Day in 12 years, so tell them it’s no big deal—many people don’t even want to hear about Valentine’s Day.”
A Day for Coming Out?
If you’ve made an assessment of personal risk and you feel your employer is an LGBT-inclusive employer, Valentine’s Day can be a conversation-starter in which you come out for the first time or come out “a little further” beyond your personal work friends. If this circumstance fits you, just join in the casual workplace chit-chat and mention your own Valentine’s plans. Match your co-workers tone and demeanor with “I’m taking Bill out to dinner,” or “I am going to a party with Paulo.” Don’t make apologies or give unnecessary explanations –just act equal to your co-workers because you are.
Leave Any Overtly Personal Talk about Valentine’s Plans OUT of the Workplace
Like any other employee, LGBT employees should keep any discussion about their Valentine plans limited to references and language that is acceptable in the workplace. It’s fine to mention you are going out to dinner with your partner or date to a special restaurant, just like any other employee. If others are speaking in more detail than that, you should definitely walk away or change the subject, LGBT or not.