Outed at Work

Reposted from my blog by request:

As some of you may know by now, I have made no secret of my atheism to anyone outside my family. I have not told my parents or grandparents simply because I think my grandparents would literally die if they found out (and I do mean literally - they are quite old and very devout). Although I am open and honest about my atheism at work when asked, I do not go out of my way to talk about it. Those who know respect me enough to live and let live. I accord them the same respect.

I have a new boss now who is a Southern Baptist. He seems like a nice enough guy but something that happened today has me a bit upset. Our financial consultant and my immediate supervisor were both talking with me today in front of my boss when the consultant brought up my atheism. I felt embarrassed and shocked - we don't normally speak so openly about religion and I had wanted my boss to get to know me first for my character and the quality of my work. When I mentioned to the two later that I was a bit upset, they kind of blew it all off as no big deal. My supervisor said it didn't matter because she'd already told him I was ... she couldn't even say the word "atheist." I said, "Why were you discussing it him? It has nothing to do with my work." She replied that she didn't want him to say something to offend me. I have no doubt that she is telling the truth. I trust her completely and I know neither of these people meant any harm. They know me and they are comfortable with me.

What they don't understand (and what I tried to explain to them) is that not everyone is so tolerant. I told them about my atheist friends who were threatened and run out of a nearby town just a couple of years ago because they didn't want the public school preaching and teaching religion to their son. I expressed concern that some people might treat me badly or make things harder for me because of my atheism. They just didn't get it. I suppose when you've never been hated and shunned like the atheists and gays, then maybe you just can't really understand.

So here I sit now wondering how I should feel. I was outed to my boss before I even realized I was outed! My friends say it's no big deal but it feels like a violation somehow. I feel like I'm on display and my boss will be watching me to see what I may say or do next. Am I paranoid or is there a possibility that I will suffer in some way?

As silly as it may sound, I think I'm uncomfortable because I no longer feel in control. When we all just got along and accepted each other, things were fine. But now that I know someone feels she must reveal my atheism (even for my own sake), I don't have that sense of control anymore. I feel diminished, somehow, as if I had ceased to become a person in that conversation and just an atheist who needed to be handled carefully.

I don't want to be treated differently because I'm an atheist. I don't want anyone to make changes in order to make me feel comfortable. I want people to do what's right by me because it is right and I fully intend to reciprocate.

I want people to see me as a good person who happens to be an atheist and not the other way around. But no matter what happens as a result of this, I will continue to proclaim myself a proud member of the reality-based community. I can only hope that the consequences will not be severe.