For those who live "alternative" lifestyles, how's the business world treating you?

For those who work in a “typical office” environment, and live a “alternative” lifestyle, how are things going? Do you fit in well? Do you keep to yourself? Are you shunned?

As for “alternative” use your imagination, because that’s subjective term.

I would say being on the LGBT spectrum, a vegan, a drug user, or playing in a rock band are good examples.

Only being a drug user has any outward indicators. Everything else on your list SHOULDN’T matter (but often does), but is also voluntary information given by the person.

In other words, being alternative doesn’t matter unless you stink at your job or you literally stick.

I have been fired twice in my life for being gay but both times was in the 80s. I think AIDS had a lot to do with that. In the 80s you said, “Gay” and people assumed you had AIDS and they could catch it from you.

I’ve worked in hotels almost my whole life, so there isn’t the stigma you get in most jobs. Once I got over 35 it was a lot easier, because everyone assumed I was gay because I was old and not married.

Being gay has come along way. I remember back in 2001 I worked as a system admin for a large hotel and one young girl (about 21) asked me about something, and I said, “Oh no, I’m gay.” And she says “Really? That is so cool.”

I recall in the late 90s I managed a call center and our clients were hotels and airlines and the coupons we had were printed on pink paper to stand out. So I said to the owner of the company, "Why don’t we print our business cards on pink cards to match? Bill, the owner says, “I can’t have a pink card, everyone will think I’m gay.” I said, “Bill you’re over 50 and not married, everyone thinks your gay anyway.”

I was vegan for 10 years. People would make a big deal about it (even though I always avoided mentioning it at all) whenever there were any eating activities going on, but other than that, it was a complete non-issue.

That describes a good 25% of my coworkers over my career in high-tech.

I’m secretly planning to implement an intricate strategy that would result in the dissolution of society as we know it via carefully targeted disruptions of the status quo. Also, I’m white but listen to hip-hop music and occasionally eat peanut butter straight from the jar.

Is that alternative enough?

As far as I know I am not “shunned”, however I’ve never been particularly social. At my job, I don’t think it matters much.

I’ve worked with all kinds, varying from flamingly gay to dress-wearing old fat guys to girls with tri-colored mohawks with no one caring a whit about their orientation or status of dress. I did work with a furry that got told he couldn’t wear his tail and ears to work because it was a distraction, but that was the extent of it. He was a bit of a loudmouth and I think he had the ‘fursecution’ chip on his shoulder, which contributed to it, I’m sure.

I wouldn’t say I live an “alternative lifestyle” by any means, but I’m a hetero woman with a live in boyfriend. I wouldn’t mention it, but he’s running for mayor, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t come up. I mean, it’s not like he’s been drawing attention to it, but he hasn’t gone out of his way to avoid the subject, and I really thought there would be some issue. Nothing in the letters to the editor about painted Jezebels, even.

Well, if he doesn’t get it, looks like there’s an opening on City Council!

Being a drug user, is sufficient enough to not only be shunned but be fired, by most companies.

:dubious:I am a drug user. I take Atenolol, 25 mg daily to control my hypertension. I am “in the closet” I suppose, as I do not feel it is anyone’s business.

I’m an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (a medieval based dress-up study-group) and I don’t talk about it at work. In my experience having any hobby not directly related to your work results in you being regarded as “not a team player” (exceptions: athletic hobbies and on-line gaming). I’m a technical writer, so if anyone at work asks about my hobbies, I chatter cheerfully about the cookbook I’m writing. I refrain from mentioning it’s based on medieval recipes.

:slight_smile: Yeah, but we don’t live in District 2. More’s the pity. Because what we REALLY need in this city is E.W. Cromartie III.

I don’t drink alcohol. Like many have mentioned this was much more of an issue in the 80’s and 90’s than it is now. There are still some people who get voraciously curious about the why’s and wherefore’s of it, but otherwise it just means I end up doing the driving a lot. It only comes up if I have the flu for a week or so; then invariably some idiot spreads the story that I’m not really sick but have “fallen off the wagon.”

I would say the one thing folks are openly discriminatory about is my being overweight. Combine that with short hair and comfortable shoes and there are some who get curious about my sexuality as well. But that comes across as more of a neutral wondering than any sort of judgmentalism.

You’ve clearly never worked for a media company!

(European here, working for a large consumer electronics company. I’ve also worked at a lot of different companies in the financial industry in the past, which tend to be more conservative.)

Yeah, most of the examples given in the OP are at the rather mundane end of the “alternative lifestyle” spectrum.

Being gay? Not an issue at all at most companies, here in the Netherlands. Being visibly transsexual may be more tricky, especially during the interview process or if you have a job which requires a lot of contact with external parties. Being into polyamory or hardcore BDSM could be an issue, but only if you bring it up in conversations more often than needed.

Vegan? Not an issue. Indeed, some co-workers may get obnoxious about it at lunchtime, but it won’t affect your career prospects if you’re a competent and generally easy-to-work-with person. Badgering your co-workers about their food habits is not going to be appreciated, of course.

Drug user? Mmm, depends on the company. Doing some soft drugs in the week-end, many companies here in the Netherlands won’t mind, but I would avoid mentioning it too often. Hard drugs, probably better keep your habits to yourself, although I know of at least one example of a guy being very open about his fondness for all kinds of interesting neurochemicals, working as a laboratory assistant at a pharmaceutics manufacturer.

Playing in a rock band? I never thought of that as an alternative lifestyle; it’s just another hobby, isn’t it? As long as you do it in your spare time, why would anybody care?

Now, let’s talk about real alternative lifestyles. Having lots of tattoos and body modifications in places which aren’t easily covered by a business suit? Yes, that will affect your chances at passing an interview, and it will definitely hamper your chances of being promoted to middle management or above. Belonging to some fringe religion which requires you to wear special clothes and observe highly visual rituals during work-hours? Could get you assigned the “too high maintenance” label.

Just my opinion, but I think you underestimate the pressure for conformity in the American workplace. Any hobby other than sports, television, or your children’s activites is viewed with suspicion, in my experience.

Well, the OP didn’t ask specifically about American companies only, so I thought I’d throw in a European perspective, for comparison. But indeed, I didn’t realise things were that bad in the States. Thanks for fighting my ignorance, depressing though it may be…

(By the way, in case anybody wonders why the sentence quoted by The Devil’s Grandmother disappeared from my post: I mostly had the “playing in a rock band” thing in mind when I made the remark about hobbies. Then, after posting, I thought “Oh my God, did I just called being gay or lesbian a hobby? On the SDMB? I’m going to get crucified!” Since nobody had responded yet, I decided to just edit the post instead of writing a follow-up.)

Thanks for the explanation, Walton Firm, I would hate to have quoted you as saying something you didn’t say.
I’ve never worked in Europe, but some of my friends who have say coworkers are less likely to endure the we’re-one-happy-family metaphors that some American companies proclaim.
I hope it’s not as bad everywhere as I made it sound…I got fired for being a lesbian (seriously, and I was living with my boyfriend at the time) so I may be extra-paranoid about conversations with coworkers.

Is that not illegal in the US? Here in Canada, firing based on sexual orientation would be a breach of human rights laws.