In stereotypical fashion, society views a female who wears Gucci slides or Saint Laurent heels as heterosexual. Which blows my mind. My friend told me I dress like Carrie Bradshaw, but I am really Cynthia Nixon. I am an out and proud lesbian who works in corporate luxury and coming out at work as been my proudest work achievement. However, there are very few out femme women in fashion, so to every new person I meet my sexual orientation is invisible.
My Coming Out At Work Story
A woman once assumed I was straight and I corrected her. She felt embarrassed and ashamed. Completely fine about it the mistake, I mentioned that it happens all the time. In turn, she felt even worse and bad for me. Confused by her response, I began to think why people assuming my identity was a bad thing?
It never dawned on me that since I came out, I allowed people to predetermine my sexual identity and let them off the hook. The more self assured I became the more I realized that society needed to change.
I do find it offensive when I have this conversation with heteronormative people. Not for assuming I am straight, but for not considering to ask, “are you seeing anybody?” As opposed to saying, “do you have a boyfriend?” There are so many alternatives for the queer community to help educate society in developing a more inclusive dialogue.
My job does not discriminate nor have I felt any negativity as a result to my sexual identity. However outside of those corporate walls, I’m immersed in a world in which labels do not exist and genderless is normal. When labels are a necessity, heteronormativity runs wild. That is the world I see and it makes me very nervous.
June 2020 Supreme Court Ruling
In June 2020, The Supreme Court decided to ban LGBTQIA discrimination in the workplace! Back in 2018, nearly 50% of Americans were still closeted at work. According to CNN, 20% of those workers felt unsafe and didn’t feel like their work environment accepted LGBTQIA people. When you don’t feel comfortable at work it can greatly effect your productivity by 30%.
Before the ruling, coming out at work depended on where you lived. In 27 states that currently 4 million LGBTQIA people reside, no law protected the gay community from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Comparatively, in the additional 21 states LGBTQIA employees were protected.
Lets Change the Narrative
The attitude of assumption needs to change. By coming out in your workplace and addressing your preferred identity would change the narrative. This radical act sets the foundation for the LGBTQIA community to bring their authentic selves to work. It takes one person to start building an inclusive environment.
We have so many LGBTQIA individuals who work in corporate America and by choosing to come out and express your preferred identification, you are paving the way. Not just for others who are coming out at work, but for the heteronormative surroundings to understand how critical this is. Not only that, but you are also being an advocate for yourself and benefiting your career as it shows strength and courage in front of your co-workers.
If we reset the narrative, think about how this could change the workplace for LGBTQIA individuals after us? According to Out.com, less than 50% of teens identify as straight. That’s HUGE. We can reshape the poor habits of heteronormative individuals and reconstruct their attitudes of thinking. Honestly, just because we have laws that protect LGBTQIA rights at work doesn’t mean that everyone else is mentally caught up.
Casual Ways To Come Out At Work
If you find yourself in a place where you are uncomfortable coming out, ask yourself why? Maybe its the environment or your co-workers? Analyze the situation and find out what is holding you back. Sometimes it helps to come out to just one co-worker and build from there.
I found it helpful to begin a conversation where I want to casually bring up my partner. Just remember, the more casual you are the more likely they will follow your lead.
Ways for Lesbian’s to Come out At Work
If you are a queer female (like myself) and sometimes “girlfriend” does not get your point across, try saying “partner.” I have found that “partner” is a more direct term as “girlfriend” can be loosely associated with friend. Living with my partner has resonated more with others than living with my girlfriend.
When I came out to my co-workers, I did it very casually. First, I would find the right time to bring up my partner in a conversation. Then, I would casually work it into a story to define my relationship. Coming out at work felt good, no actually, it felt great. I knew from that point on, I had an impact on the “standard” in the office.
Homosexuality is an invisible trait in comparison to gender or race. It’s unmeasurable if one does not identify themselves. Imagine if you finally come out at work and because of your actions, two other associates do the same as well? You are doing them a service by re-setting the standard and changing corporate America.