Gay cop faces harassment - Breast cancer makes me nervous about sex - Gay couple (plus cat) contemplates a holiday photo card

Gay cop faces harassment

Q: I started working as a police officer just last year. When I was first hired, pretty much everyone asked me why I'm not married. Then came the gay jokes. I’ve tried to let it go since I'm still a rookie, but it seems like they know I'm gay and want to push me out the door. How would you handle this?

A: As a law enforcement officer yourself, you may know that the workplace you’re describing pretty much fits the description of “hostile” and your treatment verges on harassment. It may even be sexual harassment, depending on various factors such as whether your harassers know you’re gay. Often, people think that sexual harassment only happens to women, but that’s not the case. In fact, it was only recently that same-sex sexual harassment became widely accepted as real. The law now extends its protections to all of us, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

However your workplace mistreatment might eventually be categorized, there are things you can do about it. Start by talking informally and off-the-record to a supervisor or ombudsman (someone whom you think is generally supportive), to decide whether or not to file an official complaint. At the same time, do your best to make sure you have communicated that the “jokes” offend you or make you uncomfortable. This communication can be in person, by letter or through email. In addition, keep a diary of what’s going on, including dates, times, places and what exactly has been said and done and by whom. Also keep track what you have done in response.

If all else fails, make an official report to the department and/or contact an LGBT rights group or an attorney specializing in employment law to find out your options. But be careful: Lesbians and gay men can be fired at will simply because of their sexual orientation. And until Congress enacts the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that will remain the case.

Breast cancer makes me nervous about sex

Q: I’m a lesbian who’s had breast cancer. I’ve been dating a little but am uncomfortable about my body and not sure when to discuss the various health issues and the marks they’ve left. Before we have sex – or after?

A: Starting to date and then going to bed with someone new can raise all kinds of anxieties; add into the mix feeling self-conscious about scars and/or the loss of body parts and I can understand why you might feel uncomfortable. Your question is part and parcel of one of the most common of dating concerns: When do you talk about the “skeletons” in your closet? The answer is slowly. As the relationship deepens, offer up the basic facts of your medical history and be open to any questions. Not surprisingly, that’s why many of us with body image concerns (full disclosure: I have a testicular prosthesis) choose to wait to have sex until we’re comfortable enough with a new partner to discuss these issues. Still, steel yourself for the possibility of rejection. Once, after I told a new boyfriend that I had had testicular cancer, he thanked me for being honest and sent me on my way, saying: “I just buried my partner who died from cancer. I can’t go down that path again.”

The last word: Don’t forget that each of us is the composite of our experiences (surgery included), and these make our beauty unique.

Gay couple (plus cat) contemplates a holiday photo card

Q: Many of my straight friends send holiday cards with their kids front and center. Since my partner and I don’t have any offspring, can we send a card with just us as the cover models? We could add in our cat if you think that would help.

A: Most holiday photo cards feature kids (“aren’t they adorable!”) or vacation destinations (“look at how fabulous we are!”) as key elements. The truth is that these images are just another example of the deep narcissistic streak in our culture (“look at me and my beautiful family”). But there are limits: It’s actually pretty rare that couples alone -- straight or gay -- pose for their close-ups without a supporting player. Since equality is all about parity, I’d say do go ahead with your close-up—just don’t forget your cat (“isn’t she beautiful?”)

One last note: If you’re not already out, this is quietly effective way to do so. Imagine the photo: two husbands and their cat in front of the fireplace. (“The warmest of holidays from Justin, Benji, and Garfield!”)

Steven Petrow writes for the Huffington Post, Advocate.com and 365Gay.com and is the author of the forthcoming book, “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners” www.gaymanners.com. Have a question? Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.