Let me ask you something – if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, how many times have you had to ‘come out of the closet’?
The answer will always – always – be more than once. But why is that?
It might be a common misconception that once a person ‘comes out’ it’s a one-and-done and everyone is just suddenly in the know. The reality is that now, everywhere you go, every new job, you have to do a loop-the-loop back through those revolving doors and come out all over again.
But the problem with this is that research published by Vodafone and Out Now found that 41% of young people who were open about their sexuality before starting their first job went ‘back in the closet’ and stayed there.
And there are many reasons why this could have happened – one study found that US employers were more likely to view resumes from visibly gay or lesbian applicants unfavourably. Another survey reported that 53% of LGBTQ+ workers would hear jokes about lesbian or gay people, and Stonewall discovered that almost a third of non-binary people (31%) and one in five trans people didn’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression.
The thread that binds all these findings together is a company’s culture. The truth is, when you identify as queer, you can immediately sense whether the environment you are in makes you feel safe to express who you are. The culture of an organization is an indication of overall attitudes, and so it is so important for businesses to ensure that they are creating a safe space where all feel comfortable.
So where to start?
Go right to the root – when you think about the metaphorical ‘closet’, it is spoken about as if people are born inside of it. The reality is, you are put inside, and then forced to come out of it over and over again for the benefit of everyone else. Understanding the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic microaggressions that are embedded even in such commonplace phrases is a great first step to knowing how to identify and eradicate them in your workplace.
It them comes down to management and leadership to set the precedent. Providing regular LGBTQ+ inclusion training, updating your policies and procedures, all the way down to using inclusive language (if straight co-workers also began referring to their husbands/wives as ‘partners’, this small but monumental change can make those in queer relationships feel comfortable sharing details of their own personal lives).
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020