LGBTQ Equality In The Workplace

I see in forums that I belong to, where community members are asking if anyone knows of companies that are LGBTQ friendly and if they are hiring. I have often wondered if that’s the only way we should look at job opportunities. Yes, LGBTQ friendly workplaces definitely give an advantage to a queer person but I  think that shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. I also want to know what the company culture is like and if there are, in fact, LGBTQ people working for the company. It is our due diligence to make sure we check out the companies we want to work for. See where their dollars go and what kind of people or ideals do they stand behind. These tell you more about the actual acceptance of LGBTQ people.

I know what you are saying, we still live in a world where being LGBTQ can get you kicked out of your apartment or fired from your job. There are only 21 states that offer protections for LGBTQ people. There are 15 states who think it is perfectly legal to fire an LGBTQ person. The front runners of that group are Texas, Tennessee, and Nebraska. This doesn’t even begin to speak to the companies that are operating in those states.

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It still surprises me how someone can have such hate for a person that appears to be or has outed themselves as LGBTQ. All this is based on the kinds of people that we are physically, sexually, and romantically attracted to. I don’t make it a habit to know what my coworkers do in the bedroom, so why can I not have the same privilege? Think of how that could go… We could each wear name tags that tell a little bit about who we are and what we like,. Here is an example. “Hello, my name is Stacy. I like heavy S&M. I liked to be tied up and pissed on. Humiliate me in front of your friends really gets me going. I also like going to my friend’s house and shoving random things inside my body before putting them back to where I found them.” Wow, that could be information overload. The point is that what you do when you arent at work doesn’t affect your job, so why should someone I date make an exception?

I can admit that I do have it a little easier, I work for a local non-profit that is very welcoming of people. When I pitched to them to start working with the local LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, they immediately saw the value in that partnership. We reached out to them. At the time I was hired, I was one of two openly Queer people on staff. We worked in conjunction with the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce to provide training on LGBTQ inclusion in workplaces, for our staff and members. We have also been working on more training for transgender awareness. While I am at work, I am treated like everyone, no special privileges, no animosity, and absolutely no caring about who I sleep with other than if I am in a happy relationship. Its been a work in progress to get the training we need and to work with people about their misconceptions, but we are moving in the right direction. So yes, I am pretty lucky.

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That is not true for many millions of LGBTQ workers in our country. They still go to work each day wondering if they will be fired for who they are or who they love. There are plenty of surveys talking about the quality of life at work. 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexuals and 90% of transgender workers have said they have been discriminated against in their workplaces. This is bad for not only our LGBTQ community but the actual businesses themselves. There is a study that suggests that the US economy could save $9 billion annually if organizations were more effective at implementing diversity and inclusion policies.

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Not only is there monetary savings but inclusion efforts help increase profit margins for a company because workers are happier and less stressed to be at work. If an employee isn’t focusing on whether or not they may be fired for being queer could open them up to putting much more effort into their careers. We are finding that more and more LGBTQ youth go back into the closet after they graduate college and start into their first job. This is due to the fear of any negative repercussions for being out. This means you are already starting a job with more stress than our heterosexual counterparts. Sure you could argue that staying in the closet would eliminate this worry, but does it really?

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If you have to work to hide who you are that means you are telling little white lies all over your conversations so you don’t give clues about who you are. Think about the amount of work it takes to keep up those appearances. Keeping track of all the stories you have to tell different people just to make them feel you are just like them. Sounds much too exhausting to me, it is much easier to be able to be upfront. Fine, you could say that you don’t share any specifics about your personal life, but how well does that work out? Water cooler banter is a part of almost every job. This is where Ted from Accounting will often regale his coworkers on his football parties and what his “little woman” did for his guests. Some can even go so far as to talk about sex with their male coworkers. How do you navigate those situations without people wondering why you are ducking out of conversations?

While looking for a company that is LGBTQ friendly is a good place to start, it isn’t the end of that search. Looking deeper into who the company is and what their work environment is like gives you a much better picture of how inclusive they actually are. Be careful in your search that you aren’t swayed by the first one that says they are inclusive. You may show up to work to find out that the actual work/life environment is completely different from the face they sold you.

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