In 2006 I was doing some informational interviews in an attempt to break into technical writing. At the time I was practising what I had learned at school by volunteering at local gay organizations like Gayway.
At one interview I went to, a gay technical writer pulled me aside.
“I know this is going to sound harsh, but I’m saying this as a member of the team,” he said. “Your resumé is too gay. You need to butch it up a bit.”
Swear to God I am not making this up.
Now I’ll admit the words gay and AIDS are speckled across my resumé, but so are Hewlett-Packard and Ernst & Young. It wasn’t like I had sprayed it with Calvin Klein’s Obsession.
Getting this piece of advice from another gay guy did not make it easier to swallow (pun intended); in fact, it was the complete opposite. This wasn’t just a piece of paper he was calling “too gay.” It was my entire personal history. Excuse me for working in a gay bar and not going right to college. I had some figuring out to do.
Being a wizard with Microsoft Word and a bit of a wordsmith, I could pump up some aspects of my so-called career and downplay others, but there is no mistaking what I am: a homo. An employer can figure this out, either by my resumé or when I start lisping.
Still, were employers looking at my resumé and thinking “troublemaker”?
For a period of time I actually considered volunteering for “straight” charities — something in cancer, perhaps — but I couldn’t help but feel they have plenty of help: probably not all they need but more than Boys R Us.
At the interview for my next permanent job I actually apologized for my resumé, explaining how gay it was in advance. Like if you weren’t careful a penis might fall out.
“On the contrary,” the HR person said. “It’s not gay enough.”
Now that I’m unemployed and working on my resumé, that tech writer’s voice keeps echoing in my ears, “Butch it up a little.”
It’s not as difficult as it was, now that I’ve written for corporations. But the fact is anyone who Googles my name will be taken directly to everything I’ve ever written for Xtra, where if the ads don’t shock you, my discussing dildos will.
Will that prevent me from getting a job or two? Probably. But is that the kind of employer I would want to work for? Definitely not.
I guess you could say that by being out in my resumé, I’m saving us both a lot of time.