(This question was adapted from a recent online chat. To see the full transcript, please click here.)
Q: How do you handle things like office wedding showers at work for gay couples? I’ve had experiences where, even though they’re held for straight couples all the time by managers and co-workers, people are wary to host them for gay ones because they don’t want to take sides on a political issue or isolate conservative employees. I know something like this can seem minor, but I feel like it sends a pretty strong message that gay employees and their families aren’t valued. Am I being too sensitive?
A: No, you’re not being too sensitive. And honestly, this question highlights for me why I’m not a big proponent of office wedding showers, period. Whether for a straight or gay couple. Work is for work and it immediately gets complicated when we start to blur the boundaries between what’s professional and what’s personal. I know many of my workplace colleagues have issues with showers in general: Will everyone be invited? How much do I spend on a gift? And so on. I also know a good number of LGBT people who feel isolated or left out when there’s yet another straight wedding shower (especially if they live in one of the 31 states where same-sex marriage is illegal and therefore they can’t marry).
Basically, my advice is to advocate for fairness here. If an office manager is going to hold wedding and baby showers for opposite sex couples then it’s only right to do the same for everyone else. I actually don’t think it’s a minor issue for the reason you noted because to exclude gays and lesbians does, as you wrote: “Sends a pretty strong message that gay employees and their families aren’t valued.”
And this is why all wedding showers are best held among family and friends outside of the workplace.
Agree or disagree with my advice? Let me know in the comments below.
Every other week, Steven Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his new column, Civilities. E-mail questions to Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org (unfortunately not all questions can be answered). You can also reach Steven on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow and on Twitter @stevenpetrow.