Coming out can be scary. Even once individuals are out to their family and friends, they delay or decline to come out at work. There's good reason to fear coming out in your workplace. Employers are not currently prohibited from engaging in sexual orientation discrimination by federal law and LBGT employees are legally protected from such actions in only a handful of states.
The fact that there is not much legal protection from discrimination for LGBT employees may weigh heavily in your decision to come out. However, there are several pros to being out in the workplace.
Pros of Coming Out at Work
- You no longer have to lie or exclude information about your personal life and the people in it.
- With the ability to be more open about yourself you may develop closer relationships with your co-worker.
- Offers opportunities for greater understanding and fewer barriers between yourself and co-workers.
- Allows you to be your “whole self” at work.
- Being open can make you more productive by eliminating the stress and energy drain of maintaining the facade.
Despite the positives of coming out at work, there remain some negative possibilities which should be considered before choosing to proceed with coming out to your boss and co-workers.
Cons of Coming Out in Your Workplace
- You may be fired or given fewer opportunities.
- Some co-workers may treat you differently or avoid you altogether once they learn the truth.
- Your partner may not be welcomed or invited to company gatherings for fear of making others uncomfortable.
Preparing to Come Out at Work
Before you come out at work make sure your are prepared for the outcome. So here are some things to think about as you consider whether or not to come out at work:
- Assess the situation. Is your workplace a hostile or homophobic environment? How open is the company to diversity?
- Check the local/state non-discrimination laws. See if local or state laws cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender expression/identity.
- Be aware of your company’s non-discrimination policy. Find out if your company has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and familiarize yourself with its details.
- Identify helpful resources. Consult with other gay or lesbian employees at your company and see if your company has groups or resources specifically designed to address the issues of LBGT employees.
- Find out your company’s ranking on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. The HRC evaluates the best and worst companies for LBGT employees.
If you follow the suggestions above and still feel uncertain about coming out, you may wish to take more time until you feel fully assured or consider finding a more comfortable and accepting work environment.