Are you 'out' in the workplace?
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
It's Pride month. A month when LGBTQ+ issues and campaigns appear at the forefront of the media and a spotlight shines brightly into the LGBTQ+ world.
It got me thinking... many of us 'come out' (personally hate that phrase but more of that another time) to our families and friends, but how comfortable do we feel sharing information like that at work.
Stonewall's 'LGBT in Britain - Work Report' has some startling figures.
More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination
One in ten black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (10%) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year
Nearly two in five bi people (38%) aren't out to anyone at work
These figures frighten me, although they don't surprise me. Looking back at my career, I worked in one of the most inclusive sectors in the world. My career was hospitality focused for nearly 20 years. I'd worked in hotels since I was 18 and yet still I'd reached the age of 31 before I shared my sexual orientation with my family and my friends - and of course a select few of my work colleagues. So what stopped me?
The inner voice that many of us battle with kept my orientation under wraps far longer than was necessary with hindsight. I made the decision to leave the company I was working for as I knew that staying there would have kept an enormous part of me hidden from my colleagues.
Soon after leaving, I decided to be honest with everyone. I didn't handle everything brilliantly and I found the work conversations incredibly difficult as I was still in touch with former colleagues, but I needed to leave to be able to come out. I've reflected on this so many times over the years and I think I've settled on the reasons. I'd hidden my truth from my colleagues for so long that I felt I just wasn't brave enough to admit I'd been hiding it from them and had been deliberately misleading. I felt it would be a topic of conversation around the business (not through malice, just the hotel grapevines working at their best) and I didn't want to be the reason people were talking. Everyone around me would have been supportive so this isn't a reflection on them - it was a progressive and wonderful business. My issue was with my own perception.
So you'd think it would get easier? Well it has to a degree, now I have the worry that me being my true self might put potential clients off working with us. That's something that I've done a lot of work with and I'm at a place now where I no longer hide anything - I'm happier, healthier and actually a lot more confident in my ability and being. If people choose not to work with us because of it... well that says more about them.
So this Pride month, let's celebrate the workplaces that create inclusive and diverse cultures where people can be authentic and real. Every human being deserves to be happy in their own skin. Let's also remember that 'coming out' shouldn't be headline news for anyone and until we get to that stage - there is still plenty of work to do.