Queering the Work Place: The LGBTQ Experience in Employment
It’s June 30th, and rainbow profile pictures are dawned by every corporation under the sun. Even your WiFi provider are advocating for acceptance. In a lapse on the internet, it seems that everyone is together and connected for the entirety of pride month.
Then, as soon as midnight hits and July comes around, the pride seemingly expires, and the default profile pictures come back into formation, right on schedule. Almost like clockwork! This notion of 'rainbow capitalism' has become somewhat of an internet joke that comes around this time of year. Whilst the sentiments of these companies are nice, the matter of a fact is, this support should ideally be a mainstay in the ethos and conscience of employers all year round.
More cynically, some of it doesn’t come from a place of complex understanding, but instead an online bandwagon. There are still many strides that need to be made for further acceptance and this definitely extends to work environments and what it means to be ‘out’ a work can be high stakes. While employment discrimination based on gender and sexual identity is prohibited, in 2019 21% of LGBTQ Europeans have reported the experience of workplace bias and discrimination, and this rate in the US is at 36% for specifically transgender people.
Almost half of LGBTQ employees are closeted. While being closeted at work may not sound like a big deal, it’s repercussions can be immense. For those who pass as cisgender and heterosexual, it can be a tough choice between relative safety and invisibility, or facing social stigma and an economic disadvantage. If someone isn’t able to be perceived as such, especially those who are gender nonconforming, being safe isn’t an option, and they are more at risk for discrimination.The questions remains, if we’re advocating for equality in this digital space, what can we do to make strides for inclusion for queer employees beyond online virality?
It shouldn’t be a taxing role for the queer employees themselves to create these spaces alone. A lot of what co-worker allies can do on basic terms are small gestures; not working under any assumptions about somebody’s background and identity, accommodating somebody’s pronouns and stating your own, even compassion beyond self interest comes a long way.
In terms of complex ideas, the introduction of further workplace policies against discrimination, and flexible work hours and paid leave to support non-traditional families, such as those with disabilities. This support can hep communities, like queer people, who frequently face marginalisation. Finally, promoting cisgender ally-ship and greater empathy can be essential.
Being queer at work can bring anxieties, but the sense of community that comes with being out is very affirming and rewarding, and inevitably contributes to somebody’s work. Creating more open and innovative work spaces promotes better wellbeing, more productivity, and a better place to work.
Happy belated Pride Month!