Being Out At Work
Being Yourself In a Straight World
So, you're happy in the fact you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or questioning. Your family and friends all know, or may not, you've accepted you for being you. What's the next step now? Activism? Maybe, for some. But for most of us who are old enough to be out working, it's at work.
The decision to come out at work is not a light one to make, but now that you've made it, what happens next? There are several things to consider.
Are you alone in being the only same sex attracted, or differently gendered person in your workplace? Would your sexuality/gender identity or expression be an issue at work? Are there others in your position?
All of these are good questions to ask yourself, to make sure you are ready, and to make sure you are safe in your workplace. Not all of us will have a friend within the workplace who we are already out to, though some while. If that is you, let them in on the fact that you are ready to tell others. If it's not you, then make sure you are supported well outside of work.
Steps To Successful Coming Out
So, now that you're safe, and supported, where to? Steps to a hopefully successful coming out at work are as follows:
- Sound out your workmate prior to announcing anything. Hypothetical scenerios, discussions on current events such as gay marriage etc are helpful. This way you'll have some knowledge of how they view such things. You may even find that they are very friendly towards you, or be in a similar situation
- Unless you are feeling particularly strong, I wouldn't recommend coming out to everyone at once. A better idea is to come out to someone who you trust at work, who you know will understand due to careful listening into conversations etc in step one. Someone who can be supportive of you, as you continue as far as you want to continue.
- This doesn't all have to happen at once. You can take your time. You'll know when the time is right to tell each person you want to tell.
- Only go as quickly, or as far as you feel comfortable.
Now, some people may work in large organistions, I'm not suggesting that you come out to all of the several hundred, or thousand, people you work with. If you are struggling to gather the courage, or need some support, if you are in a large organistion - you may have a group or part of your union who are much like a GSA, or a support net for others who identify as LGBTQI. These people may be able to help also.
What About Negative Workplaces?
Some of us also work in places where our sexuality/gender identity or expression could cause issues with the work we do, the people we see, the people/things we deal with. Such as patients, customers, colleagues who do not view the world as equal nor us, occasions where our sexuality etc may come into question or be looked upon as negative.
Discrimination in the workplace, for many places, is illegal on the basis on sexual orientation. I am aware that certain states in the USA however do not have this in their laws - where it is legal to fire someone for being LGBT. My suggestion in these situations is REALLY sound out your workplace before coming out. Do not come out if it could risk your work, and therefore your livelihood, and possibly everything you own.
Occasions where sexuality could be brought into question, or looked upon as negative, vary from occupation to occupation - whilst it sucks to have to hide - it isn't usually something that your customers, clients, or patients need to know. I usually only tell anyone if they ASK DIRECTLY - which means that they are usually suspicious/curious anyway!. My work is not affected by my sexuality - whether people know or not.
There are areas where it may be a good thing to be out to your clients etc, for example as a LGBT centre.
But it all boils down to one thing: You are the ONLY ONE who can decide whether or not you want to be out. DO NOT let others decide for you.