I have no problem with being a little rude about this subject outside work but I can't think of a PC answers if this subject came up for discussion in the office.

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    When you say "a little rude" do you mean handling sexually explicit conversation, handling intrusive questioning, handling others being offensive about you, being (deliberately or accidentally) offensive about your colleagues, ...? – Julia Hayward Jun 24 '15 at 7:42
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    Does it matter? I can be little rude outside work but not at work. Rude as in giving answers like "mind your own business" – Ulkoma Jun 24 '15 at 7:45
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    Just clarifying the question, that's all! – Julia Hayward Jun 24 '15 at 7:55
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    You can be brisk without being rude. For example, just say "No comment." If you look at the person, smile and say this in a friendly tone, you may even be able to emotionally disarm your asker. – Brandin Jun 24 '15 at 9:24
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    @Brandin I would immediately understand that response as "Yes, I'm gay, but shhhh, it's a secret! :-)" – David K Jun 24 '15 at 12:33

I'd say something along the lines of "why? Does it matter?" and leave the ball hanging in their court. I doubt anyone sensible will consider the response to this question as something they can reasonably answer positively. And once they admit it doesn't matter, you've already moved the conversation on, away from this non-constructive subject.

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    "Are you hitting on me?" is my typical response, either expressing eagerness or disgust as the circumstances allow. It can quickly end a curious co-worker's prying, and even a manager has to be careful responding further, as they will open themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit. – HardScale Nov 6 '16 at 0:55

In a professional setting, asking unprompted about someone's sexual orientation is pretty much always inappropriate. If you don't want to be questioned, then some variation of "it's not an appropriate subject for the office" should suffice. Don't make it about yourself and why you don't want to answer; the questioner would be equally wrong asking anyone.

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    In my mind, "asking unprompted about someone's sexual orientation" is pretty much always inappropriate, period - even in a private setting. Not everyone wants to share this, and that should be respected. – sleske Jun 24 '15 at 9:22

I agree with Julia Hayward that it's inappropriate to ask at work. I'd suggest a different response, though - "it's not an appropriate subject" may come across as a bit unfriendly.

I'd go with some variation of "Why do you ask?" The response will probably be something along the lines of "Oh, I was just wondering." At that point, you respond only to this last sentence, with e.g. "Oh, OK then" - and then you change the subject. Or you could prolong it a bit with "What made you wonder?" - and whatever they say, you can still respond with "Oh, OK then" and a change of subject.

In other words - turn the question around so that they have to explain why they would even ask that question, and then change the subject.

If they persist after this, that's the time to respond with "No, I didn't answer, because I don't think it's an appropriate subject for the office". At that point their insistence is already well past the point of rudeness.

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    Seems a little passive-aggressive to me. If the entire subject is inappropriate (and I agree it is) then there is no need to get into any kind of discussion or tactical avoidance mechanism. You can just state that you think it is an inappropriate subject- you don't have to be harsh or rude about it, but stating it sets the correct boundaries IMO – Marv Mills Jun 24 '15 at 9:12
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    @MarvMills I believe this is a matter of cultural differences - one person's "clear and straight" is another person's "rude", and one person's "polite" is another person's "passive-agressive" or "weaselly". – Jenny D Jun 24 '15 at 9:18
  • Agreed. But where you are setting boundaries of appropriate behaviour I think that "clear and straight" trumps personal or cultural sensibilities. Someone finding this impolite is far less important than that person knowing where the boundaries are. – Marv Mills Jun 24 '15 at 10:00
  • @MarvMills I prefer setting the boundaries in a polite manner, saving the rudeness until the person has stepped over them after being politely informed of where they are. YMMV. – Jenny D Jun 24 '15 at 10:52
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    Asking people why they want to know is one way of setting the boundary - IMO a polite one. In the workplace, I place a higher value on keeping things on the polite side than I might in my personal life. And yes, this discussion is a splendid example of how people raised in different cultures don't agree on what is polite. – Jenny D Jun 24 '15 at 11:07

Asking someones sexual orientation is inappropriate in a work context, because it is irrelevant for the job. There is only one industry where asking about someones sexual orientation is work-related, and that is the adult entertainment and sex industry.

And even in that context it should be appropriate to answer questions about your sexual orientation with "I feel [comfortable|not comfortable] to work with [male|female|transexual] [performers|customers|content]" without revealing your actual sexual preference you have in a private context.


"I'll give you the short answer: the company hires without regard to sexual orientation. If you can't perform your job without knowing my sexual orientation, then you are working in the wrong place"

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