Being true to myself is almost impossible at work because I work in the education sector. It is a constant fear that I will be 'outed' at work if I am not careful with my words or answers to questions about my love life (or rather the lack of), and in my response to colleagues who desire to match-make me. To my students, even as they could sense that I am a lesbian, and some have even come up directly to ask me if I am one, I can only either laugh and smile, shrug my shoulders or when I am frightened for my own safety, I would give a loud 'No!' to convince them that I am straight.
Needless to say, my work performance nosedived as I became depressed over the stress of attempting to repress my sexuality and leading a double life. It got to the point where I wanted to resign from my job, despite knowing that being an educator is, and always has been, a calling for me.
Coming out to a close colleague was also a painful struggle as I had no idea how she would react in such a homophobic environment. I struggled over a long time, cried over attempts to write a letter to her and spent many agonising days waiting for her response as I left the letter on her desk over the weekend. I was relieved to find out that she was supportive of me and this time, it was years of relief. It almost felt like a heavy burden had been dropped from me. At that time, I thought to myself, 'So this is how it feels like, to be able to finally be authentic, honest to someone. To be able to have someone to confide in at work when I encounter any homophobic interactions with colleagues during meetings or even with students.' I had mixed emotions though, because in her response and attempt to be concerned for my safety, she told me to 'be careful and not to tell anyone else because the environment in the education sector is still a conservative one.' Truthfully, my heart shattered a little even though I know that this was the reality.
Yet, I need to tell myself constantly that coming out to my colleague is a big step forward for me, and God will provide for me, as He has always done so before.