It occurred to me today that while my entire research project was prompted by a question I have about the library I volunteer in, I’m too nervous to ask any of the people who work there for any sort of help, given the nature of the project. It’s a community education center along with being a library, and I once heard one of the secretaries discussing the actress Anne Heche as having once been romantically involved with Ellen DeGeneres but then having gone “the other way, you know, the normal way,” and what worried me was that none of the listening parties (the head librarian, the program coordinator) said any variety of “hey now” about that “normal.” One of the other secretaries, I know, is a Jehovah’s Witness; he was once joking with me about something, I forget what, and offhandedly and playfully mentioned marrying a man for his money as being an option I could undertake, and I just laughed and said that wasn’t gonna happen (both because I’m not that idea and because, well, I’m in a committed relationship with my girlfriend) and — maybe I’m spoiled, but I expect a large number of my friends would respond to that with “what about marrying a woman for her money?” i.e. acknowledging “alternative” sexualities, but possibly because he hasn’t been trained to do that and possibly because he, you know, presumably believes in his church’s doctrine that homosexuality is a sin, he did not see my dismissal as potentially because I’m not interested in men. (And to be fair, objectively, I am occasionally interested in men. But that’s getting into the business of personal and irrelevant territory.)
All of this is to say that it’s a fine line between not caring what people think of me (because in the broader sense, I don’t; I’m who I am and nobody is going to be able to change me and I’m not going to change for anybody) and wanting to be safe and comfortable in the workplace. It’s not my real workplace, I don’t get paid to be there, but I’ll have been volunteering there for three years this summer, and I mostly feel good about the experience. But I’m not sure if it’s worth jeopardizing that tenuous safety to ask for help looking into matters there (because even if they don’t make the connection between my interest in the subject and my, shall we say, personal investment in it, they still might be skeptical of why I would care about something that’s not “normal” to some degree or another), or if I should just go about it privately, or if I should bring the specific collection into it at all.