Boss To New Employee: “It’s Been Brought To My Attention That You’re A Lesbian.”

by Ingrid Galvez-Thorp

My name is Ingrid Galvez-Thorp and I’m originally from New Rochelle, New York.

Leading up to the ‘96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, I found out at my job that there was opportunities to transfer. They were looking to build out diversity and so they were actively recruiting people that were diverse, who were from other countries, who spoke other languages. They wanted to really showcase that they were a diverse company. And I jumped at the opportunity and I was thrilled.

Within a couple of weeks of getting there, there’s a huge gathering of all these recruits from all across the country, who were basically the diversity team. And so here we are. We get invited by, not just our boss, but our boss’s boss. And she is a big deal.

Everyone’s getting to know each other. “Where’re you from? Oh, what school did you go to?” and everyone’s having a great time. Lunch is being served, swept away. Dessert is being served, swept away. The next thing you hear is her asking the server for a hot cup of coffee. He brings her a cup. She starts drinking it. Everybody’s – the conversation picks up again. The next thing you notice is that the server back in he asks how everything is and does anybody need anything else.

And so at this point, she picks up her coffee and sticks her pinky in it and says, “I piss hotter than this. I ordered a hot cup of coffee. Now if you could or if you would, please bring me a hot cup of coffee.” Puts it down.

We all had this, almost like this, bubble above our heads, saying, “What the hell did I just signed up for?” And I just breathed in and breathed out and tried to keep cool and pretend that “no big deal, no big deal.” Then everybody goes back to their respective bases and works and does everything they’re supposed to do.

So, you know, here I am. I’m excited to meet my new colleagues, my new co-workers. And I’m getting to meet them one at a time, based on our schedules and when we’re being assigned to work together.

And there’s one gal who came in and was like, “Oh, hey, you know, so-and-so, you know, glad to have you,” and then when I spoke up and she asked me where I was from and I told her I was from from New York, she was like, “Oh, you’re a Yankee.” I had been warned that when someone says stuff like that that there’s hidden meaning behind it. And I thought, okay, so this is where I am.

I went with an open mind and an open heart, and it was really sad for me to recognize the subtle digs that were taken against me. You knew who was originally from the area and you definitely knew who they had imported in, if you will.

Here I am, showing up to work, plugging along, and a few months later, I get a call from my boss’s boss. She invited me to lunch and it’s just the 2 of us. It was at California Pizza Kitchen. We sat across from each other in a small booth and she wanted to know how things were going for me and whether I was experiencing anything negatively.

I shared with her that I didn’t think anything bad was happening. I thought that I was showing up, doing a good job, and that everything else was okay. She then went on to tell me that some of my colleagues had approached her letting her know that they had a difficult time with me and that they were uncomfortable with me. And she stopped.

She says, “It’s been brought to my attention that you’re a lesbian.”

All I could do was gulp and utter, “Yes, I am.” I was cringing on the inside. I didn’t know – did my answer mean that I was fired? I had no idea. I just looked at her.

She leaned over and she said, “My sister is a butch dyke.” She got a big smile on her face and just said, “Now, if anybody gives you a hard time, don’t mess with them. You just come see me and I will handle it.”

That moment, clearly, still with me. Twenty-one years later, I’m still affected by those words, simply because those words gave me permission to show up as who I was, gave me permission to be authentic in my personal and my work life, and I had an ally.

The lunch with my boss changed me. And the ways that it changed me was it made me a much more dedicated employee, a much more conscientious employee. It really, I don’t know, it dug to the core of fully embracing the company that you’re working for. Championing for your company, being an advocate for your company, and being proud of where you’re working, and letting everybody know, “Hey! I work here! And yes, I’m really proud of it because people that work here are great! And we do good stuff and we make good things happen and why not?” And so, I rode that for as long as I could, for sure.

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