Being out and open in the workplace may be a challenge for some employees, especially as there is no federal law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
There are benefits to being out at work when it is conducive to do so. These include:
- Being able to bring one’s “whole self” to work.
- Eliminating the need to hide or mislead co-workers.
- The ability to build stronger and more trusting relationships in the workplace.
- Breaking down barriers allowing for an understanding of the LGBTQ community.
People who can come out in the workplace can focus and be more productive.
Those who wish to come out at work to relieve the daily stress of hiding their “true self” should think through the process and consider the following:
- Does the employer have a written non-discrimination policy?
- Is there anything within the policy that specifically addresses sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression?
- Does your state, county, or city have a non-discrimination law, including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?
- Does the company insurance cover domestic partner benefits?
Is there an LGBTQ employee resource group at the company?
Annually, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation publishes the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. This is a national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees.
Currently, more than 500 major businesses are listed. Consider researching the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index to see it the company is rated, and the rating has it earned.
Also, take into consideration the overall climate in your workplace:
- Are any of the current employees who are openly LGBTQ?
- Do people tend to make derogatory comments or jokes?
Consider your work relationships:
- Do people discuss their personal lives?
- Do they ask questions about yours?
- Is the overall atmosphere friendly or guarded?
Connecting with others who have also had to make the decision about whether or not to come out at work is helpful. Research or join an LGBTQ professional organization. These typically offer workshops, conferences, networking, and information on labor laws in your area that create safe and equitable workplaces for LGBTQ people. These include:
- Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists: www.aglp.org
- Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN): www.glsen.org
- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Employee Association of the U.S. Department of Justice: http://dojpride.org
- Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies: www.glifaa.org
- Gay and Lesbian Medical Association: www.glma.org
- Lesbian and Gay Veterinary Medical Association: www.lgvma.org
- Out and Equal Workplace Advocates: www.outandequal.org
- National Gay Pilots Association: www.ngpa.org
- National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association: www.nlgja.org
- National Lesbian and Gay Bar Association: www.lgbtbar.org
- National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals: www.noglstp.org
- Pride at Work, AFL-CIO www.prideatwork.org