As gay, Asian men, the balance between the image we project at work and the expression of our inner selves may often conflict. Just recently, I spent several hours constructing an aggressively tall Easter bonnet to enter a local contest at a gay bar here in Chicago. Here’s a photo of me (on the left) and my friend, fashion designer, Kevin Vong. Kevin took first place and I took a respectable third, considering the tough competition.
Now, some would consider this decision as a move that might compromise my professional life. While I’m a writer for a trade magazine, I’m not necessarily in the spotlight representing my company; nor am I in a leadership position. That being said, such overt displays of femininity may certainly compromise my ability to move into a leadership role going into the future.
My retort? I have none. I am openly gay at work, and in my mind, the bosses above me will have already judged me–either believing that it makes a difference or that it doesn’t. In their gut, they’re going to believe one thing or the other. You may disagree, but I don’t think they’re going to change any of their opinions if they see me in this outfit or not. If they feel negatively about a gay man in leadership, this photo will affirm their belief. If they don’t, then they’ll think, live and let live.
In this age of social media, I have to go back to my high school days to find something about me that wasn’t overtly gay. So for me personally, I crossed that line decades ago.
So in terms of how much do I put out there regarding my own personal expression? What kind of a balancing act do I play with who I am and how I want to be perceived as at work? Well, apparently, I stand defiant in choosing my inner truth above all else.
Now, I’m not going to walk into work dressed like this–hell, I’m not going to walk into a gay bar dressed like this unless it’s Easter or I’m just feeling pretty. And doing so wouldn’t be speaking my truth either.
But I am through with any real pretense. This wasn’t a half-ass hat. It took boning, stitching and a twisted eye. I’m proud of this, as I am proud of being an accomplished, award-winning writer and upbeat, supportive team player at work.
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