According to this study (PDF), only 52% of LGBT workers are out at the office. Of note from the study:
- LGBT employees who are not out reported significantly greater feelings of being stalled in their careers and greater dissatisfaction with their rates of promotion and advancement.
- LGBT employees who are not out are 40 percent less likely to trust their employer than those who are out.
- Employees who remain closeted and isolated are 73 percent more likely to leave their companies within the next three years.
This is sad. Like I blogged about just three days ago for National Coming Out Day, I’m fully out at the office and have been for about a decade.
I remember what it’s like to not be out in some areas though – it’s like living a double life. In your ‘out’ life you can be yourself. You don’t filter what you say or how it’s phrased. Your attention is on the task at had, be it work or play.
In your ‘not out’ life, you’re constantly filtering everything you say. You play “pronoun search and replace” in all verbal and written communication. If you’re seeing someone you might even change their name to the opposite gender in some circles. You abstain from work parties where spouses are welcome. Oh, and through all of this you’re also suppose to focus on your work tasks and be productive. Sound like a lot of work? It is.
And before someone helpfully chimes in that “everyone should just leave their personal life at home — there’s no need for them to bring it up at the office”, let me call it: bull shit. I challenge anyone to go through a week at the office without somehow bringing up your friends, your family, or outside-of-work activities that somehow indicates what team you play for. It won’t happen.
In addition to the social aspect of coming out at the office (“how will my coworkers treat me”) there’s the more serious issue: in 29 states it’s perfecty legal to be fired just because you’re gay. (Yet another reason why I’ll never move back to Texas — as if I needed another.)
All of us gays who work for supportive companies owe it to ourselves and our community to be out at the office. We have no excuse. To those who are out in the 29 states who don’t work for supportive companies: thank you for being brave.
And maybe most importantly, to all the straight allies who make it easy to be out at the office: thank you for making who you go home to a non-issue in the workplace.