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To Be or Not To Be: Out at Work

Many LGBTQ+ employees struggle with whether or not to be out at work. Being out is never a one-time event, but an endless process of social calculation and self-disclosure. On the other hand, staying closeted is exhausting and, for many people, feels dishonest. Clearly, there are no easy answers. If you’re wrestling with this decision, consider your environment carefully.

I’m an LGBTQ+ Employee. Should I Strive Be “Out” at Work?

I’d love to say that everyone should be “out” all the time, but the truth is that employers need to earn their employees’ trust.

First, look at your Employee Handbook.  Does your employer include sexual orientation and gender identity among the classes of employees it protects from discrimination? Does your employer offer domestic partnership and other benefits that provide some measure of equity for LGBTQ employees? Check the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website to see where your employer ranks on HRC’s Equality Index.

Sadly, you also need to know your rights in your state. State laws vary widely. Even if your employer has a non-discrimination policy that prohibits mistreatment of LGBTQ individuals, you may still lack legal protections on these grounds. Sadly, LGBTQ individuals can still lose their housing and other basic rights in many states. Some may face physical violence for being LGBTQ.

Are There Other Factors I Should Consider as an LGBTQ+ Employee?

For some people, being a visible member of the LGBTQ community is a moral imperative. Being out ourselves makes the path a little safer for those who follow us. For many people, though, safety is paramount. Not everyone can be a trailblazer, at least not all the time. Remember that this decision is yours alone, and it’s both ongoing and fluid. Know yourself, be true to yourself, and let your conscience guide you.

Have you made a conscious effort to be out at work? What drove your decision? I’d love to hear from you!

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