Coming out at work: The reasons to come out and the reasons not to

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Coming out at work about your sexual orientation is a choice. There are both benefits and disadvantages of coming out at work. In this post, Pink Families explores some of the reasons why some decide to come out and why others choose not to.

Deciding not to come out

Deciding whether or not to come out about your sexual orientation in the workplace is an easy choice for some to make. However, it’s a hard choice for others. Some people choose never to come out in the workplace and yet they have long and successful careers.

Even though it’s becoming more common for people to come out in the workplace, in some places in the world you can still lose your job because you are lesbian, bisexual or gay.

Also, being out in some work environments may influence opportunities for promotion and career opportunities. Plus, in some work environments people are subjected to violence and prejudice after coming out.

For these and other reasons some people elect not to come out.

In contrast, the reasons why others choose to come out relate to honesty and integrity, the quality of interpersonal relationships, the fear of being outed, and opportunities for education and equality.

Reasons for coming out

Honesty and integrity

Honesty and integrity is important to some people that choose to come out. Some people feel that expressing themselves about their sexual orientation at work is part of being honest and part of acting with integrity. They feel uncomfortable about not coming out.

This isn’t to say that those who decide not to come out are any less honest or they act with any less integrity. But rather, for some people they feel that their honesty and integrity is compromised in some way if they don’t come out.

Quality of interpersonal relationships

For others being out at work helps build open professional relationships. They believe that the quality of their interpersonal relationships at work will be strengthened by coming out.

Opportunities for education

Some workers see the coming out process as an opportunity to educate people about their sexual orientation and sexual orientation in general. They believe that this will help the LGBTQI community.

Fear of being outed

The fear of being outed is another reason why some people choose to come out in the workplace. For example, some workers live an openly gay lifestyle outside of work. Because of this they assess that there is an increased risk that someone will find out about their lifestyle and they will be outed.

Even though they don’t particularly want to come out, they assess that being outed at a time that is not helpful or right for them is worse than not coming out. They assess that it is better for them to handle and manage how they come out.

LGBTI rights

For others they believe that being out at work is a basic right. Everyone should be able to be truthful in all areas of their life and the workplace is just one environment where this should happen. In this respect, they see that being out at work helps achieve and maintain equality.

References

Ward J. Winstanley D. (2005). Coming Out at Work: Performativity and the Recognition and Renegotiation of Identity. The Sociological Review 53(3):447-475.

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