Why It's Important for LGBTQ+ To Come Out in The Workplace
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. Which I found hysterical. I am a out and proud lesbian who works in corporate luxury. However, because there are very few women like me, my lifestyle is presumed as heterosexual and femme gay women are almost invisible.
A few years back when I was slowly developing a voice, a woman once assumed I was straight and I corrected her. She felt embarrassed and ashamed. I was completely fine about it and told her this happens to me all the time. In turn, she felt even worse and bad for me. Which was questionable, as I was used to the, "Ok, cool" response. Instead, she said, "you poor thing, this happens to you all the time?"
It never dawned on me that since I came out, I allowed people to predetermine my sexual identity and let them off the hook once they were corrected. The more self assured I became the more I realized that it's time society learns 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 am immersed into a world in which labels are either an absence or a significant symbol used in identifying ourselves. When labels are a necessity, heteronormativity runs wild. That is the world I see and it makes me very nervous.
I think what we do in the LGBTQIA space is magical. Miraculously, we come together to create a place of unity and acceptance and stand against hate and discrimination. For decades, we have made history and surpassed everyone's expectations in delivering positive legal change in our society. This is what I celebrate and it has dramatically impacted me over the past few years. Therefore, working in a space where it is not really talked about or celebrated, kills me inside.
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 choose to come out, 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. According to NPR , in 2011 nearly half of college- educated LGBTQIA professionals were nervous to come out in the work place. That was only seven years ago!
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. If it’s fear of discrimination (harassment or bullying) then this is covered by the Equality Act. 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. I prefer to start on a smaller scale. Just remember, the more casual you are the more likely they will follow your lead.
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 then living with my girlfriend.
When I came out to my co-workers, I did it very casually. I would find the right time to bring up my partner in a conversation. Once that ball was dropped it was easy lifting from there. I felt good coming out, no actually, it felt great. I knew from that point on, we no longer had a "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.