Should I be out at work?

Illustration: Nadia Snopek

@AskPeaches: I live in Boston. I just started my first job at a bank as a teller. I’ve been out since undergrad and I’m wondering whether being open at work could affect my career chances. My job is a bit on the conservative side, and while I’m not obviously queer, I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t share at work. What do you think I should do? 

@Charlie: Congrats on your new job and on finishing college. Before you out yourself, I recommend you first understand whether your company supports an inclusive work culture. Many companies have non-discrimination policies and provide benefits for LGBTQ+ employees and their families to ensure fairness for LGBTQ+ workers. In fact, we are seeing now that some companies in the Fortune 500 are even making self-disclosure a focal point in their recruitment and application processes. This will be a key indicator, at least, in understanding how important it is for the company to have an open and equitable workplace. 

Less than a year ago, I would have told you this consideration alone is not enough, given the protections for LGBTQ+ workers have been a patchwork on a state-by-state basis. However, in June of last year, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two cases that extended federal protections under the Civil Rights Act. So, no longer can an employer legally fire an employee on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

That said, be mindful that if you’re unfortunate enough to work for a bigoted or homophobic boss or don’t have leadership support, disclosing yourself can inhibit your potential for advancement, pay raise and job security. So, you will need to use your judgment on a person-by-person basis to whom you come out. 

Here at Freshfruit, we encourage everyone to live their authentic life, but not at the expense of one’s safety or livelihood. Stay true to yourself and take the time to learn how queer-friendly your coworkers are. Get to know your bosses interpersonally and impress them with your diligence and the quality of your work. In time, you may develop a work family in which it may become safe to be more open. But recognize this may not be the case. Remember, it’s not what you think about your identity that’s at play, but how others can weaponize it to your disadvantage. This is something outside of your control, and until you have more agency, I would focus more on being great at your job so that you become too invaluable for them to lose. 

I hope this helps and you are able to be yourself more fully at work. 

The Human Rights Campaign’s publishes a yearly list of the 100 Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality. Here’s the 2021 list of companies for whom LGBT Equality is a cornerstone.

The @AskPeacheas column is prepared by committee but written from one person’s experience. Send emails to askpeaches [at] freshfruitinc [dot] com with “@AskPeaches” in the subject line. Be sure to give enough background, so the advice can be more specific and relevant.

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