By Tami Gorodetzer
I joined the corporate workforce in 2014, fresh out of college. I
held my identities in full view throughout the four years I was
active on campus and didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about
what I needed to adjust prior to starting my first “real” job. Not
long after my first day, I put up a photo of my then-girlfriend
posing with me at a summertime wedding. I was open with my
co-workers and leaders about the fact that I was dating a woman.
I had no inhibitions about my relationship and the implications
that came with it. But months later, we went through a breakup
that left me not only heartbroken, but extremely isolated from
my queer world. So, I joined my company’s PRIDE ERG.
Joining PRIDE gave me back the queer community I thought
I had lost, but I quickly noticed a pattern: we had gays, we had
lesbians, and we had allies. I had never identified as a lesbian,
but I also was never strongly vocal about being pansexual, bisexual, queer. The thing is, I’ve never felt as deep of a desire to
find a label that fit as the others around me seemed to want to
label me. Then, I took advantage of my day job and used my
company’s social media to comment on a student’s post about
Lavender Graduation. I congratulated him, told him we knew
how special the occasion is, and said we couldn’t wait to see what
he does in the future. Our Corporate Relations team heard about
my outreach and asked me to be part of a video series they did
featuring goodness of employees. In this video that was going
to be available to all internal employees of my 45k+ company, I
outed myself as bisexual. The home page of our intranet opened
to my story. It felt like employees stared at me just slightly longer
in the hallways. Suddenly, I was very out. So, what else was there
to do besides become the PRIDE president?
This should have been a celebration. Instead, it launched a seven-month identity crisis where I spent days and weeks crying
to my roommate feeling like a fraud because I was leading an
LGBT+ group but I wasn’t a lesbian. I had never claimed to be
a lesbian, though. And the “B” was always in the acronym so
there was no prerequisite to be a lesbian. But wow, did I feel
like it was a requirement! The closer I got to a year of feeling
like I wasn’t allowed to be who I am, the more conversations I
began having. First, they were private. I had a 1:1 with one of
my board members about her stories of blatant biphobia. I had
a conversation with a past leader about wanting to make sure
our group reached all audiences in the community, wondering
if we were reaching our “A’s” or our “T’s” or maybe our “B’s.”
Then, heading into the 2019 planning year, I decided these
conversations should be more public.
I pitched a storytelling event to my closest board members, some
of my closest friends. I asked if they would each be willing to
share a hard story if I agreed to do the same thing. “I Get Bi+”
was born in the spring of 2019 and launched as our first event for Pride Month that June. We featured three stories and I sat
next to two of my best friends and listened to painful realities.
My closest friend shared her stories of being cheated on by women, who happened to be bisexual, and how that made her see
bi+ women as liars, cheaters, deceptive, and attention-seeking.
Next, my vice president shared his story about the reality that
he forgets bisexual people exist. When watching a TV show, he
got distracted and a character he recently saw dating a woman
entered the screen with a man. He commented that he thought
this character was a lesbian, dismissing the option that she’s bisexual. This was a harmless and thoughtless comment but when
considering that he was helping lead a PRIDE ERG of a Fortune
100 company, should this be taken so lightly? Then it was my
turn. I shared what it was like growing up in my bisexual body,
being ashamed that I couldn’t figure it out, that I couldn’t “pick
a side.” I detailed what it was like to feel afraid to tell my queer
friends when I was dating men, worrying they would think I
am no longer queer and would exile me from my community,
my home. I explored the ways I judged myself for dating men,
wondering if it did call my queerness into question. I indulged
my audience with what it was like to know you could fall in love
with anyone, with everyone, and how that made you awkwardly
lonely when you were alone and unable to explain how you felt
to anybody. But the end of my story was explaining this gift.
Being bi+ or pan or queer or however I’m being defined today
is a gift. How lucky am I to just love, with no parameters or
discriminations? It took me a long time to like who I am and
after almost six years at my company, I got to share it. Most
of co-workers knew me as “out.” These co-workers also would
have described me as a lesbian. Most likely, that was the only
identity they knew besides gay. But after that event, after the
ways the company responded, I never shy away from my truth
in my identity, I am not afraid of correcting those around me,
and I take genuine pride in representing my openly bisexual self.
Being out as bi+ at work, not just being out at work, gave me
the understanding of how important it was to shine light on our
community in queer spaces and in corporate spaces.
Tami Gorodetzer (she/her) is a corporate professional and social activist. She has presented at multiple conferences on the topics of intersectionality,
racism in queer spaces, and bisexuality.