In the last couple of weeks, I have given up my job. I have arthritis in my feet, ankles and knees – the condition has impacted on my ability to work for years.
As a publican, I ran a rough pub. I was ‘out’ with my sexuality, and it was commonly accepted I could deal with troublemakers, having a smart mouth and if that failed, ‘a brick in my handbag mentality’ to wade in and split up fights. I was known for standing. I never sat when the premises was open, so no one saw the vulnerability of me not being able to stand again or the difficulty I had in walking after a short rest.
Unfortunately, like so many other publicans I lost my premises because of the economy and the cultural changes brought about by social media, among other factors.
I had a 6-month stint stacking shelves on the night shift in a supermarket until the knees gave in. I was never ‘out’ with anyone I worked with at the supermarket. It was a small group with a cross-section of ages.
“The workplace banter was focused on sex and sexuality, the derogatory aspect of which were gay remarks”
While working there I observed the cleaners. The GP had told me to stay active. The cleaners either pushed around or sat on cleaning machines. When shopping I always took a trolley, it concealed my disability and made the perfect walking aid.
I applied for and got a job managing the cleaning in a supermarket. The machines are motorised, so both an aid to walking and effortless to use. The surface of a store is even underfoot and level; the best combination for me to walk on. It is underpaid and antisocial hours, sometimes with split shifts. Again I never disclosed my sexuality. In this setting it mattered less as I discovered in society, I was less than who I was and more of what I do. In six months of employment, some of the staff neither spoke to me or acknowledged my existence.
The area manager responsible for maintaining the standard by auditing the cleaning routines was supportive of my health as was the person I worked with on most days. Even with their support, it became too much for me. I had a lot of absences.
The commute to work was around 30 minutes in duration. I left my home at 4.30am six days per week. A couple of Thursdays ago I fell on the way to my car in the morning. Fortunately, I was between two vehicles and did not end up on the ground. Twisting my right knee on the way down caused it to swell and the arthritis in it to flare up.
Now I find myself filling in forms and making applications for alternative work, where I will not have to stand so much. I feel I come with an amount of ‘baggage.’ I am disclosing the disability as it has an impact on what I can do and there is legislation in favour of employing someone with a disability.
Sexuality – Now that’s a different question. I will never deny who I am, but that does not mean I have to pro-actively promote it either. On applications to large national companies and local authorities, I disclose my sexuality. They have policies in place and training about diversity. On applications to smaller employers, I don’t.
I shouldn’t feel my sexuality is a barrier to getting a job, but I am a realist and know that is not the truth. I used to stand up for who I am, a sort of ‘I am who I am’ mindset, but lately I just seem to have lost my ‘homo mojo.’
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