Q: My company is organising a summer party. Partners are invited, too. I'm gay and, working for a rather traditional accountancy firm, have always been very discreet about my private life. I'd like to take my boyfriend to the party - I'm fed up with pretending to be someone I'm not - but I'm nervous about the reaction. What should I do?
A: I'd be pretty certain that all your immediate colleagues are well aware that you're gay and see nothing particularly remarkable about the fact. They won't have brought the matter up because of your own reticence on the subject. Since you've never mentioned it, they've thoughtfully assumed you've preferred to keep it that way.
So when you accept your invitation to this party, don't make a great thing about it but do make it absolutely clear that you'll be bringing your partner and that your partner is male. (I hope he hasn't got one of those ambiguous names such as Hilary or Evelyn.) Write, for example, 'Many thanks for the invitation and I'm very pleased to accept. I'll be bringing my partner, Thomas Wright. He's delighted to be included and much looks forward to meeting you all.'
Even the most traditional of accountancy firms will have noticed that we're now well into the 21st century. I think you'll be surprised - and gratified - by just how little consternation your partner's gender causes and by how warmly and naturally he's greeted. So you should see this party not as a problem but as a welcome opportunity. It's the perfect occasion for you to shed your pretence and to be seen by everyone for what you are; with no gossip, no speculation, in fact, without a single word being spoken. Don't pass it up.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.