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I Am A Security Guard: We're Here, We're Queer

On a recent Sunday night, I got a reminder about an unexpected benefit of my job.

There was a lull in activity. A rush of shoppers had ended. Some employees left for the evening.

I stood at my post near the registers. The Head Guard hung nearby. Two cashiers I'll call Raquel and Mary relaxed after ringing sales. Raquel has a curvy build. Marisa, the youngest cashier, combines a deadpan sense of humor with a steely gaze.

We chatted. Somehow our conversation turned to homosexuality.

"If I was like that, I would kill myself," the Head Guard said.

"I'm offended," Marisa said.

"That's just how I feel," the Head Guard said. "Nothing personal."

The conversation died down. We resumed our duties.

I tried to concentrate on the store's merchandise, but continued to reflect on Marisa's rebuke. It reminded me the store is located in a neighborhood that is very tolerant of gays and lesbians.

That acceptance provided a bit of serendipity for me. Most of the locals are minorities who range from working class to poor. The tolerance counters the notion held by some that residents of the inner city hate homosexuals.

While standing at my post, I've seen gays and lesbians of every hue, body type and level of openness comfortably patronize the store. Some come alone. Others arrive as couples finishing a night out. One cashier swears women have made out in the aisles.

One of the regulars sports shoulder-length hair and wears tight blue jeans that flatter his curvy hips and buttocks. He gossips on a cell phone while shopping for makeup after midnight. One of the cashiers told me he turns tricks in the neighborhood.

Even male cross-dressers proudly stroll the aisles. My favorite fooled me the first time I saw him. He had a coquettish manner, neck-length hair, earrings and a tight mini-skirt that showed off supple legs. Since then, I've seen him shop with male dates.

Sometimes, tensions arise when a couple shops at the store. One night, two men walked in and split up. Because shoplifters try that ploy, I watched the man who lingered in cosmetics. His friend loudly complained about me. They eventually bought merchandise and left. On another night, a woman with a butch haircut glared at one of the stockboys. He had oogled her friend's D cups.

Several co-workers have expressed support for gays and lesbians. One of Marisa's best male friends came out to her during their last year in high school. Raquel's younger brother has a boyfriend. One of the stockboys told me sexuality does not matter. He suspects I'm gay.

He's right. I came out of the closet several years ago. None of my co-workers know.

Despite the acceptance, I'm not out at the job. My effectiveness may be jeopardized if word spread to customers. A shoplifter might yell a slur. I may blow my cool. The situation could escalate.

I've come close to outing myself. I once told the Nice Cashier that my favorite cross-dresser had nice legs. Once at the end of a shift, I submitted my backpack to the Cool Assistant Manager for the standard check. I had forgotten about a copy of Gay Chicago magazine in it. My eyes widened as he peeked inside the bag. I held my breath. Luckily, he did not see it.

Although I'm not out at the job, I've gotten much satisfaction by watching gays and lesbians visit the store as though they were in well-known gay-friendly enclaves like Boystown and Andersonville. They don't have to travel out of their neighborhood to be themselves.

I got further confirmation of that fact later that Sunday night. A regular, a gay waiter, unloaded his basket at a register. One of his items, a DVD of a gay romantic comedy called Adam & Steve, rested on the counter.

-

A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain. He welcomes your comments.

-

See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in our Life at Work collection.



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Posted on January 20, 2011


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
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SPORTS - Why Was This Game Even Scheduled?

BOOKS - Postdictatorship Argentina.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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