May 15, 2017 Articles

When It Comes to Being Out at Work, Some Things Haven't Budged in 30 Years

By William Weinberger

Disclaimer: This article was originally published in The Advocate on February 1, 2017.

In September 1982, I started my first job at a firm after law school, at the Los Angeles office of what was then one of the five largest firms in the United States. On Friday evening, the young attorneys would meet in the main conference room, where the firm supplied a well-stocked cart of spirits and mixers. This "happy hour" was my most uncomfortable, miserable time at the firm. And yet I continued to attend, because I thought it was necessary to be part of the clan.

But I was not part of the clan: I was gay and not out at the firm. After several drinks, some of the associates—I remember in particular one senior associate and a younger associate he mentored—would begin telling jokes about lesbians and gay men, and those jokes continued relentlessly. I left the gathering as soon as I could, after calculating how long I needed to stay to avoid the appearance that I was leaving because of the jokes.

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