Was I being discriminated against for being heterosexual?
With the end of the year approaching, the stalls at the market are disappearing one by one until only a few are left in January. Many sellers decide to stay home to escape the cold, including my boss, leaving me without a job for four Saturdays in a row.
Last year I decided to ask the left-over stalls whether they could use some help in winter. Most of the salesmen were provided with enough staff members, except for one stall. Here they asked me:
“Are you bisexual?”
The answer was no. In any case, it’s not a side of me I have discovered yet. “Too bad,” answered the stall owner. After seeing my astonished face she waved the rainbow flag hanging behind her. “We only have gay or bisexual people working here.” The smile on her face made me insecure. Was she being serious? Should I be laughing? Her colleague added if I ever started to doubt my sexual orientation, I was welcome to come by again.
After heading off, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Left out? Was it unreasonable? If they have specific wishes for their team (experience, must speak Spanish…) I would be fine with that, but because it was initially, and only, my sexual orientation they asked about, I felt strange. Suddenly I was on the other side. As a heterosexual, I was not welcome.
Sometimes I am very well aware of the privileges I have as a heterosexual white woman born in Europe. I cannot remember the times I had to deal with discrimination, except because of my age, but I can’t count not being allowed on a roller coaster ride as discrimination.
I can easily get on a plane anywhere, even without showing my passport in the EU. I will never be stuck at an airport, like my Indian friend who wasn’t allowed to leave the airport of Istanbul without a visa and had to wait there for 10 hours. I am neither too fat nor too skinny, too big nor too small (except when I can’t reach the top shelf of a bookcase). I don’t have any (apparent) physical abnormalities, no weird habits or hobbies.
I am extremely privileged and I never had to do anything for it.
Was this discrimination? In fact, it was, but I accepted it. I didn’t agree with it, but if they feel more comfortable in an environment of equals (even if it confirms being different from others), who am I to make a fuss about it. Their comment wasn’t about me as a person, so I let it go. At that moment I could easily imagine someone being discriminated based on looks, something that doesn’t have anything to do with a person itself or their qualifications.
I joked about it with other colleagues at the market, and they too found it a bit strange. After some time it became a joke between me and the employees at the stall. Now, every week, they will ask me whether I’ve found out if I’m bisexual already. I’m not, but if I would be, I still don’t think I would be comfortable working there.
Yet I try to be aware of the privileges I have, how easy some (most) things are for me and be grateful for it, every day. Because for many people, it is not a given.