On Facing Bully Bigots in the Workplace

Question: How to deal with conceited heterosexual colleagues who make fun of other people's sexual orientations, and frequently laughed it all out loud?


Dear FReAK,

Thank you for your question. First of all, I am sorry to know that your colleagues are treating you badly and made hurtful jokes that are unhealthy and disrespectful to you and your choice of sexual orientation. In this case, you need to peel in deep the situational context of your office. Is it friendly and safe for you to discuss this sensitive issue or if you take any further action? Although not ideal, but sometimes refraining back a bit to review a situation that might harm you is better than receiving a backlash instead. In the case of you having a supportive environment, what I can suggest to you is standing up for yourself. Bullying and harassment are very common experiences that happen to people with non-normative gender expression. But, just because it is common, doesn’t mean you should tolerate it. You can tell them directly that the jokes are not funny. Next, you can establish an ally in your workplace who would also stand up with you against those bullies. Co-workers who are supportive can help you a lot in this situation. So, with allies on your side who are brave to stand up and say no to bullying will get you a lot of advantage. Other action that you can do is to review the policy in your workplace to see if there’s any protective policies or regulations from verbal and non-verbal harassment and what issues that are covered by the regulations or the policies. With this, you’re not only standing up for yourself, but you also educate the perpetrators that their action is hurting other people’s feelings and rights.

A gender-based bullying behavior sometimes escalated because of one’s insecurities or past childhood that gave them negative attitudes toward femininity, therefore, preparing counter arguments sometimes can also help you in this situation. For example, a simple statement like, ‘wow, your masculinity is so fragile to my femininity’. A simple passive-aggressive statement that won’t create conflicts but instead it will give a reflection for them to think more about the behavior without putting you in danger. Because sometimes being passive-aggressive helps you to find your own inner peace. Or, you can always opt to simply tell them ‘It’s not funny’ or remarks like ‘Your humor is insensitive.’

In the case of a not-so friendly workplace, I would immediately suggest that you look for other friendlier workplace environment. I do understand that it is not easy to find a job replacement, quickly. But your safety is worth it. Keep in mind that you have to always consider your safety before you take any actions, because if they treat you badly, you’re responsible to yourself to ensure that you treat yourself kindly. There’s always a chance you might even face more hostile treatment when you stand up for yourself against bullies. Always love yourself first. Stay safe!


Freakily yours,


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