Out of the closet and into the workplace

Today is National Coming Out Day and, like last year, I think it’s the perfect time for a coming out story. This time it’s about how I came out to my current employer – EMC Isilon.

During the interview with the hiring manager, Ryan Farris, it came up naturally in the conversation that, at the time, I was married to a man. Some question was posed to which the natural response was “My husband and I…”, and being the natural response, I said it. I had decided years before that I didn’t want to work for a manager or an employer who had an issue with me being gay. Ryan didn’t bat an eye at my response. Nor has anyone at the company ever batted an eye in my almost 2 years there.

In short: I didn’t ‘come out’ to my manager or fellow employees – I simply lived my life as out. I am very fortunate to work in a industry where this is possible. Others aren’t so fortunate and those of us who can owe it to others to be out in our personal lives and at work.

And it’s entirely appropriate to point out that EMC Isilon recently publicly announced their support for marriage equality.


This morning two friends pointed me to someone’s Facebook picture of a guy riding a bus. It was obvious that the photo was taken without the guy’s knowledge and he’s intently doing something on his phone. Some comments to the photo are as follows:

I’m not sure if it is the angle or your camera but he looks REALLY disproportionate. Almost like Mister Mackey but with biceps

He looks like my neighbor.

Haters gonna hate. I very much approve.

I don’t hate. If I hated, I’d say he looks like Billy Quizboy from Venture Brothers. I he just looks disproportionate. I’m sure he’s great for circus funhouse mirror sex with out the funhouse mirrors

He’s attractive, but his head looks so long. I think it is an artifact…well I hope it is.

Not a huge fan of the big head on stick body and long skinny face.

And his long bumpy nose? Angles? I shouldn’t judge. I mean, maybe he’s a wonderful person inside.

Remember gentlemen, facebook is a public forum…. what goes around comes around, especially when it comes to snarky bitchy comments about a ‘stranger’… So think twice about ‘sharing’ your judgements about people on a public website.

He is one of the nicest guys, and very cute– in photos and in person.

Wow, such snark! Some of them are pretty funny, actually.

Except it’s a picture of me.

I’m busily writing this blog post on my iPhone while riding the southbound 1 bus on my way to work. The last two comments are from the friends who let me know I was the topic of conversation with someone and their 500 closest friends.

Not exactly the best start to my Monday morning and it really bothered me all day. Like many gay men I’m rather insecure about how I look. I’m not unaware of my long neck and bumpy nose — neither of which I have much control over. If they had gone for my clothing or posture or shoes I’d have shrugged it off, but they went for the jugular — on things I can’t change. This was the first time since high school that I’ve felt so belittled, so bullied.

It bothered me so much that I had to leave work early. I took a long walk on the waterfront listening to music and texting my friend Shaun, who responded with righteous indignation on my behalf. He very astutely observed that “Judgement comes with our [gay] cards. Some people apply it more liberally and without consequence than others.”

Kenny suggested I contact Facebook and have the post removed on grounds that it was taken without my knowledge and verging on stalking. I was, and am still, very much against this on the grounds that it was taken in a public space and I’m a huge proponent of free speech and freedom of expression. I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be boundaries on the freedom of speech, but we as a society gain nothing by stifling that with which we do not agree. Instead we owe it to ourselves to talk about it, to try and learn from it.

So lets learn from this. In today’s connected world, anonymous photos don’t remain anonymous for long, particularly if shared with several hundred “friends” on Facebook. Anonymity, of both subject and object, is on its death bed and we need to act accordingly. Sadly, manners seem on their way out too. Being belittled isn’t just a problem for students in grade school, it sadly survives well into adulthood. But at least we adults can step back and see the bigger picture. Imagine how much more difficult it is for today’s youth who are exposed to such off-the-cuff commentary from their peers but don’t yet have the perspective needed to put it into context. This is what we need to watch out for.

Finally, to the commenter who suggested I looked disproportionate: you are dead on. I have a disproportionate amount of compassion and empathy to my fellow human beings. And I challenge you to find anyone more generous and fiercely loyal to their friends. I’m quite aware that I’ll never be a model, but I’m very proud to say that I am indeed a wonderful person on the inside, even if I’m not all that modest.

A week of Fitbit

I’ve had my Fitbit for a week now. Fitbit is an electronic pedometer that tracks your steps and stairs and from them attempts to estimate your calorie burn and miles walked. It syncs to a website via USB dongle which tracks your daily metrics1. It allows you to set goals with the intent of encouraging you to increase your overall physical activity.

The past week I made a concerted effort to not increase my activity beyond the usual to get a baseline (I’m a performance engineer – this should surprise no one). I ended up walking 92,132 steps, climbed 167 flights of stairs, and traversed 43.1 miles. 4 mile and 8 mile runs were included in this as well as my regular gym workouts — a fairly normal week. Interestingly Fitbit vastly underestimates my mileage, by about half, when I run so I consider the distance metric to be of dubious value.

Fitbit starts you out with a daily step goal of 10k/day and 70k/week. I generally, but not always, hit the 10k/day goal. Some days I ended up only walking 8k, and then there were days I did 21k and 18k. I’ll be bumping up my daily goal to 15k steps now that I have a baseline. I’m not all that interested in tracking stairs at the moment. I get plenty of that type of exercise with my lower-body workouts at the gym, much of which Fitbit doesn’t track (it seems to get confused with my weighted traveling lunges for instance).

The Fitbit website incorporates a social aspect to it as well (what doesn’t these days) and lets you compete with friends. As with most social sites you can tweak what friends and the public can see about your profile. Here’s mine if you’re curious. I’m interested to see a few more weeks worth of data. You can’t optimize what you can’t measure!

1 I have the Ultra which requires the dongle to sync, albeit wirelessly from the device to the dongle. At the end of October they’ll be releasing the One model which is suppose to sync to ‘select devices’ wirelessly without the dongle — similar to how the Nike+ FuelBand works.