Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A reader's journey to being an out gay guy in a banking job

A few weeks ago, just after the Lord Browne story broke, I received an email from an Asian reader who now works in London . In my reply I asked him whether he would mind me posting his email in my "Reader's Stories" section. He said he was happy for me to do that, so here's his story. Hopefully it'll inspire other readers to follow similar paths if they find themselves trapped somewhere which isn't very gay friendly.

Dear GB,

It is quite pleasant to read through your blog. I've been your loyal blog fan for a while. The current Browne story and your experience as a gay city worker have both echoed my experience. Here is my journey.

I come from an East Asian country to study my master degree here in UK . Then I found my BF and, luckily, after graduating, I'm now working in the City for a branch of an Asian bank.

Before I come to the UK for study, my first job was also a banking job in my home country. At that time, I was confused and scared to death to be 'out'. The company culture makes me tend to lie and hide all the time. I also have to try my best to distance myself from the "Marriage" thing. It was a life of being trapped.

So I decided to give myself a break and come to the UK to get a master degree. During my study, I ended up chatting online with my "other half" who really was from "the other half" of the globe (southern hemisphere). 6 months later, he moved to London, and I finished my degree and moved down to London as well.

At first I was struggling at first to get a job after graduating although I am holding a masters degree from a top UK business school. Banking experience of a freshman back home was nothing here. Apart from a UK degree, I have no UK connection. I realise that to stay here with him I have to break the norm during the interview process. As my right to work full time was from my unmarried partner visa, job agents and interviewers unavoidably had to touch the visa status question to ask why I can work in the UK . I decide to gamble in every interview. Once they touched the question, I was just immediately out as a gay man and moved on. I confidently show interviewers my honesty and also stop them wasting time on this issue. It's my experience and background that counts. Take it or leave it.

Surprisingly, this attitude actually earned me more chances to get into interviews because some job agents did want to help me (of course, they get money too if I get a job). At the final stage of my current job interview, I told my managers that because I have to co-operate with them in the future job tasks, it's better to be honest with them that I am gay. I want to make it clear that the gay business is none of your business. For co-workers, I strategically gossip with them individually that I am gay. Now most people know but nobody talks.

Sometimes at work, some straight male co-workers still like to deliberately say to me "Look, that girl is hot. She is ….…. Don't you think so?" I always just smile and say nothing. Once they found I am bored on the girl issue, they will leave me alone.

At most East Asian Banks, no matter here or back in Asia , the managers are in a straight world kind of network. I am currently doing a Middle Office role for syndicated loans here in the London office. My manager seems want to try and let me move to Front Office and start to build up some contacts here. Because of my background, he started to take me to meet people in the circle of Asian Banks here. I am kind of under pressure because Asian people will start conversation about family, wife, girlfriend very quick. Currently, I am still doing the silly smiling thing. I think I still need to figure out a way to accommodate myself in these social circumstances.

After I come out (which is about 5 years ago), I've decided and told myself I don't want to lie about "I am not gay" anymore. But I also don't like to say immediately unless I can capture a person's view on gay, and be familiar with him/her for a while. So for some social situations I am still learning how to be comfortable.

In spite of this remaining issue, it's a new life for me now, a gay foreigner working in the macho banking area. I don't know what kind of challenges exactly lies in front of me. But I know from my past experience that my faith and my attitude can get me over it. I have nothing to lose. It's the final situation I want to be in.


Snoskred said...

Sometimes at work, some straight male co-workers still like to deliberately say to me "Look, that girl is hot. She is ….…. Don't you think so?"

I find this quite interesting. I'm not lesbian, but I can find women to be attractive. Does being gay makes you feel that you can't have an opinion on whether a girl is hot or not? You feel like they're having a go at you when they say this? Could it just be that they are being "blokey" and trying to include you in things? Do you think that maybe you are interpreting their actions differently because you are gay, and maybe that they're not having a go at all?

Me personally, I think Kylie Minogue is hot, and so is Beyonce. There's probably other women I would add to the list, and it's not just looks that makes them attractive to me. Intelligence is important too. Just because I don't sleep with women doesn't mean I can't express an opinion on their attractiveness.

Maybe you are interpreting things correctly, but is there a chance you're not? It's a question worth asking, I think.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am the guy in the Email. I can completely understand where you (snoskred) stands for you point. I can perceive the beauty of female. But straight guys do talk about girls in a different way if no girl around. U know...the humble "She is ..." I used will become "she has big OO." or "She is so XXX." Some adjectives in which, me as a gay guy, I am not interested at all. But, in the other way, I don't want to interrupt others conversation. So all I can do is just smiling and listening...(and be a spy for that girl...)))

Freelance Listener said...

I'm the same really. Feel no need to hide the fact I'm gay but also don't shout it from the rooftops.

Anonymous said...

I find your story very intresting and very challenging indeed.

I am a lawyer and worked in the City for three years but left and came back to BKK where I am from in 2005.

I have dated girls and had gfs all my life but none lasted very long. Until a few months ago I feel like stop lying to myself and i have then stopped dating girls.

What I now want to do is to move back to the City and start new life all over as a gay man. It is a combination of my deep affection for the UK and London and the chance to explore the other side of life or real side. When I was there last time I dated only girls and now being asked by everyone I know about gf, marriage and other stuffs in connection therewith is not the best thing.

I am now 30 and thinking seriously of moving back and get on with an honest life. It will be difficult as I am not from the UK and only connection was a master degree from the UK and work experience but I was there at first on secondment from the office here.

If you could give me any idea or suggestions that would be great. Many thanks

GB said...

Sorry to say anonymous that I'm not an expert on immigation into the UK, or rules for work visas etc. But if you want gay oriented advice though, send me a 'Dear GB' email :-).

Take care, GB xxx