Today, 9,000 or nearly three percent of all federal employees self-identify as LGBTQ.1 Recent polling suggests that workplaces are becoming increasingly inclusive of the queer community. Additionally, states are adopting progressive legislation that extends many employment benefits to queer-identified employees. Nevertheless, there may be some facts to consider before choosing to come out in the workplace.
Regulations and Laws
One of the most important issues to consider is physical safety at work. Due to a lack of national policy on LGBTQ discrimination, states and companies’ antidiscrimination policies vary greatly from each other. For instance, only half of American states have extended anti-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and trans identity. Fortunately, many of the largest companies in the world prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 61% of businesses prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, compared to just three businesses in 2000, and 62 percent provide health insurance benefits to their employees’ domestic partner in the U.S.2
Unfortunately, benefits for the trans community are far less widespread than those for gays and lesbians. According to the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, only about eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have transgender-inclusive health coverage.3 It is extremely important to be well-versed on state laws and company policies. Be informed about what constitutes as discrimination so you are able to report it and take proper action against the aggressor.
Your workplace is going to be unique from a heterosexual workplace, however, Catalyst.org and the Human Right Campaign have offered useful guidelines to evaluate LGBTQ inclusiveness in a workplace.4
- Does your organization use inclusive language in invitations and for social/business networking functions (e.g., “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife”)?
- Do senior leaders in your organization model inclusive behavior toward LGBTQ staff?
- What behaviors/actions are valued in your organization? Do any of these exclude LGBTQ people?
- Does your organization have LGBTQ antidiscrimination policy statements which are publicly available on your company’s internal and/or external website?
- Does your organization provide transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits?
- Does your organization offer comprehensive, organization-wide LGBT diversity and inclusion training?
Answering these general questions can provide you with information that indicates your organizations; familiarity with queer people in the environment. Additionally, it can present insight into the general policies relating to LGBTQ people. Ultimately, these questions can greatly influence your decision to come out in your workplace.
There are many positives to being out in the workplace. First, you no longer have to deal with the stress of hiding your sexual orientation or gender identity. You may no longer be frightened of questions that could reveal details of your personal life. Your overall productivity may increase. The disappearance of identity-related stress may improve your ability to work efficiency. Additionally, your overall health can improve. Diminished levels of anxiety about your personal life can change your mood for the better. Your increased happiness may lead other employees to further appreciate your presence at work and at social events. Lastly, being out could make you feel content. Coming out can be a little scary but it can leave you the numerous benefits.
1. "Current Research | Out & Equal Workplace Advocates." Current Research | Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
2. Catalyst. Quick Take: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Workplace Issues. New York: Catalyst, May 15, 2014.
3. "Coming Out at Work." Human Rights Campaign. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
4. Catalyst Staff. "Tips for Creating an LGBT-Inclusive Workplace Environment." Profiles in Diversity Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
Last Updated: 20 October 2014