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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » LGBTQA Relationships » Two thirds of GLBs conceal their sexuality at work

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Author Topic: Two thirds of GLBs conceal their sexuality at work
PenguinBoy
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Today I attended a presentation by a member of the equality team at my local hospital. She, during her presentation, threw out the statistic that Two thirds of Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual people conceal their sexuality to their colleagues. It is such a striking number, and it sounded unacceptably high.

I tracked down the source of that stat to a 1993 study made by an organisation called stonewall... and there were various other percentages which were also very astounding.

It is evidently about 14 years out of date, and I'd wonder what the figures would be now, hopefully better, but I fear that they're most probably still quite unacceptable.

here's the source:
http://www.stonewall.org.uk/information_bank/employment/72.asp

I'd really like to hear people's opinions on that, and what their experiences of concealing their sexuality at work are. Is it out of fear of discrimination? Is there a lot of discrimination? Wouldn't most managers put a stop to such a thing? What HAVE managers done to put a stop to harassment and discrimination? What could they do?

It had me chatting through the entire tea-break, so I'm sure there's be plenty to be said... mainly why it's so and how it can be fixed!

[ 09-07-2007, 12:58 PM: Message edited by: PenguinBoy ]

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Heather
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While I've always been very out, in all places, I also confess that I've also generally had people at work assume I'm a lesbian even when I'm not.

(Just to be clear, I'm effectively what I usually call a bi-dyke: I'm more inclined to women and more femme-identified men, but overall, in the grand scheme of things, I've been pretty evenly bisexual all my life.)

Likely, some of that has to do with clearly not playing the boy-girl game, how I look, what have you. But has discrimination happened when I've been out at work, or been presumed to be queer? Hell, yes. I've been treated like a circus freak, I've had very strage standards of dress imposed on me, I've had administrations and bosses be VERY concerned with my orientation being visible in a way they were not at all concerned with my straight co-wokers, I've been called a dyke as an insult, the works. And all this is one of the most progressive, diverse cities in the world.

And per dealing with harassment, the trouble is that a) surviving is critical, so losing one's job is always very real (and it'll often get framed as being difficult, rather than being queer), b) most folks have neither the time nor the money for big lawsuits (and for many, that also means being even more outed, a very real concern in very homophobic areas) and c) it also influences your chances of getting hired or promoted when you bring harassment and discrimination to light.

As to how to fix it? Whoo-boy. Really, so long as homophobia is so pervasive, and heteroprivilege so unacknowledged, I don't see that it's going to be fixed, much in the same way that civil rights laws don't and won't fix racism: they're a band-aid that can help protect people from racism, not a means to eradicate it.

You'd think with as much coffee as I've had this morning I'd be a bit more optimistic, but alas. [Smile]

(Great topic!)

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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PenguinBoy
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(thanks!)

I had the presentation as part of my induction to a job at the aforementioned hospital. And the occupational health people said in their talk that much of the help they offer is not work related, but that the workplace is a good opportunity to get people general care. Which made me think; if there are ways that certain employees succeed in minimising the fear that their queer employees have of being themselves, it could easily be a good thing to spill into the rest of society...

As you say, people want to keep their jobs, and for that reason it's also a good place to encourage people to rethink prejudices. Unless they just bottle them for off-work hours, but working in a non discriminatory, happy and accepting environment, I'm sure it'd be difficult for it not to rub off.

Personally I've never lied, unless I myself was confused. Though I have omitted comments and details from what I've said which could have had certain people look at me negatively.

I think encouraging a culture of engaging people in how they can improve things in their own way for any minorities can help make them feel responsible. Maybe. I don't know if that happens very much. People, if told about equality simply in terms of what they should do, generally just pay lip service to it even if they express homophobia aside. If it's made part of their working responsibility to make input into how things could be improved for others, that could help for sure.

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Heather
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You know, it just crossed my mind this morning that I have even countered harassment and insult with the work I do HERE for not being straight.

One of the first things cultural conservatives usually light on when they rag on the site is that it is run by a lesbian (even though, again, I've never identified exactly that way -- not being female-exclusive, it's not a label I'm comfortable using because that's appropriation in my book, as well as false advertising, but in Homophobiaville, a woman who isn't heterosexual = lesbian, so). And with any job where you work with young people, there are particular dangers to being out, especially given how many people remain convinced that homosexuality or bisexuality is somehow contagious, and that those of us who are either are a) not safe to have around children or young people and b) want to do all we can to make children and young people queer like us.

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About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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astrocyte
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Cool topic! ka pai PenguinBoy.
(urgh this is really long. And I can't stand to change it. Bah).

I'm a student, and my parents support me still. I have really only clued in to not being straight in the past 12 months, and my (part-time, weekend job, but full time for 6 weeks of summer) workplace at the start of the year.. *shudder*.

When the person mainly in charge of you is the co-owner, and she + the other staff start mouthing off about how incredibly butch the courier is, it is sooo not conducive to wanting to reveal anything. Or complain about anything. But then, I really can't separate feeling unsafe about this from just generally feeling uncomfortable in that environment.

The next job I had, I was semi out, from having discussions about past relationships, and never felt like I was being treated differently for it. I felt on the receiving end of crap directed at women in general, but if I had needed help from the management there I think I would have gotten it on both counts.

In terma of fostering healthier workplaces, I really think that anyone new to the workforce, but especially younger people, need to be made more aware of their rights around harassment and their obligations. Like, it would be really great if it was taught at schools. Because it was included in my contract for my last job, but the previous one was uncontracted, and no-one my age seems to read contracts anyway. I mean, I really wish people were more pro-active and cared a bit more and read the contracts and got worked up. But until that time..sigh.

PS
quote:
I've never identified exactly that way -- not being female-exclusive, it's not a label I'm comfortable using because that's appropriation in my book, as well as false advertising,
Heather, I am going to appropriate your statement a little if you don't mind. Since that's exactly why I get annoyed when people ask me how being a lesbian is going for me.
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Sakura Sky
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I was recently outed by another coworker who borrowed my cell phone to make a call and saw a picture of my girlfriend and I while they were snooping.

After that, we were treated very differently. Rumors, gossip, being ignored or suddenly treated like a bottom of the barrel employee who deserves the undesirable low-level jobs, even though I had the most seniority out of anyone.
When people started making sexual hand gestures and the like, I complained to management, but since they said no one else could testify about it as a witness, they would do nothing, not even a simple meeting about sexual harassment and offensive behavior.

So I quit. As I understand it, my state had no workplace discrimination inclusion for sexual orientation at the time and it seemed useless trying to fight it.

I'm sad to say I'm part of that statistic, since I'll be much more careful at my new job to protect my relationship from bigots.

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Surferchk07
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I guess Im lucky at my work. Im completely out. But given that I work at a huge Pro-Choice Org you can see why it was really no big deal. Half of my coworkers are gay/Bi/Queer and some our straight. Its really no big deal. But its nice to have a place where I can mention my girlfriend without having to worry that someone might do something to me for being in a same sex relationship.

However working here has also spoiled me, Where I am looking for another part time job and am now being very picky about it because I dont want to have to deal with homophobic issues or even the issues about how I look (Peircings, Tattoos, constant hair color changes) so I tend to stick with the non profits as that sector is pretty liberal normally.

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bluejumprope
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I've been out at all my jobs, but I've also semiconsciously chosen work where it's pretty easy to be out.

I've worked in warehouses where basically all the women who worked there were dykes. And I've done research/editing/computer stuff where I mostly work from home and have minimal contact with my employers. I've also lived in very progressive cities, where my employers have been very conscious of being inclusive.

Not having contact with "the public," I think is a big factor. I've never attempted to work in, for example, retail because 1) the thought makes me want to die, but 2) because I'm aware of how uncomfortable I'd feel as a visibly queer person in a heteronormative environment.

I've also turned away from otherwise appealing office jobs because of the demand for "work clothes." I don't possess "work clothes." That's because I'm poor, but also I think they usually mean, semi-dressy gender-normative clothes--which I don't feel comfortable wearing.

[ 01-19-2009, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: bluejumprope ]

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Idir
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I'm as deep in the Closet as it can get. Narnia was written for me [Razz]
But I guess pretty much everyone *assumes* that I am gay, even though only a few dare to ask.

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not_a_hobgoblin
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I am rather concerned about this, not for now- my student job in dining services means that the issue is really a non-issue, because everyone pretty much doesn't care- but for the future. I'm a music education major, and I've heard scary things about GLBT teachers and how they are treated by administrations/parents when they are outed. I don't know, however, how much of it is true. :-( Does anyone know if there are any studies about that sort of thing?

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CJT
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There's a whole lot of diversity evident in the experiences of LGBT teachers, administrators, and staff in schools. A lot of it depends on the school and community. Some schools or districts will protect the rights of students and staff within their nondiscrimination policies and others will not. Some teachers can and are out and are very supported in their communities, while others are not.

If you're looking to go into teaching it's probably a good idea to do research about the communities where you're looking to work, and find out more about the school's policies about LGBT issues. One way to get some information without necessarily outing yourself might be to find out if that school as a gay-straight alliance, as that could show that there is administrative support of LGBT students, which often can cross over into support for staff. If they do not have a GSA, you might be able to ask about whether anyone has proposed one before, or what the school board, PTA, or district might think of that.

You might be interested in checking out some information available from GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. There are also quite a few books written about the experiences of gay and lesbian teachers. Kevin Jennings has one called 1 Teacher in 10: Gay and Lesbian Teachers Tell Their Stories.

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