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Frequently Asked Questions for LGBTQ Students
How do I evaluate if a company has an open, safe and accepting environment for LGBTQ staff?
A safe, open and accepting environment might include any of the following:
- Organization’s Affirmative Action Statement is inclusive.
- Recruitment and retention of open, self-identified LGBTQ staff.
- Hiring policies and benefits programs are inclusive of same gender partner considerations.
- Health benefits include services benefiting transgendered individuals.
- Encouragement of individuals to include all of their relevant work experience on their application and resumes, including work with LGBTQ organizations/activities.
- Information sessions and job fairs focused on LGBTQ students.
- Publications, handbooks, policy and procedure statements and other official documents are reviewed for inclusive language for all individuals, by not assuming heterosexuality as the norm.
- Employee orientation programs are inclusive of information related to LGBTQ support issues and concerns in the organization.
- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies groups exist within the organization, and are supported by the organization.
- Staff training and development programs are inclusive of LGBTQ issues.
- Security officers participate in training sessions regarding bias-related incidents and hate crimes, with specific attention to LGBTQ concerns.
What are the benefits of coming out at work?
- Allows the person to develop as a whole individual on a personal and professional level.
- Ends the hiding game! Individual is more able to share with others who s/he genuinely is and who and what is important to him/her.
- Ability to establish a network of friends and colleagues who can support and encourage the individual.
- The person is more authentic in her/his professional work and contributes on a higher level. Energy is focused on participation.
- The person experiences and feels value and self worth and is able to share significant life experiences with others, as others do.
- Ability to be viewed as a role model for others and a mentor and source of support for other professionals. Challenges false perceptions and helps develop and open, supportive work culture.
What are the drawbacks of not coming out at work?
- Stagnates the development of the individual on personal, interpersonal and professional levels.
- Person is living a dual identity, hiding her or his “true self” from others.
- Individual may filter and screen comments, behaviors, actions and attitudes that may “out” them. Energy is focused on covering up.
- The person experiences isolation and sometimes escapes from participating in group functions and activities.
- The person is unable to share significant life experiences as colleagues do, making others reluctant to be open as well.
- Perpetuated the myth that there are “only a few” LGBTQ individuals at work and presents a limited view of diversity of the culture.
How important is it for me to be out?
The extent to which you incorporate your sexuality and gender in different aspects of your life is an individual decision which may change based on situational circumstances. For some individuals, being out is a part of who they are. Others may view their sexuality and gender as only a small part of what defines them as a person. Consider the following questions:
- Are most of your friends, peers and support networks LGBT?
- Are you active in any LGBT organizations?
- Do you enjoy going to LGBT events?
- Do most of your friends and family members know that you are LGBT?
- If you have a partner, is he or she out in most situations?
Based on how you answered the above questions, consider how out you want to be in your job search and once you are employed. If you agree with the statement, "Being out is who I am," you'll want to target LGBT friendly organizations. If the statement, "Sexual orientation is only a small part of what defines me as a person; I prefer to be selective with whom I tell and don't tell" sounds more like something you'd say, you may choose to lean toward LGBT friendly organizations but keep your other options open too. Finally, the statement, "I am not comfortable sharing information about myself" might fit you the best. In that case, you might choose an environment where you can maintain your privacy.
Remember, no matter what your decision, it is yours to make...and you can always change it in the future.
How do I come out on the job?
Coming out on the job is an ongoing process and there's no one right way to do it. Even if you disclosed your sexual orientation or gender identity on your resume or in an interview, that information will not necessarily be passed on to your coworkers or supervisor. When considering coming out on the job:
- Assess your readiness.
- Perform at your best - focus first on the job at hand and establish yourself as a professional.
- Conduct a trial run - chose someone you think you can trust to be accepting, and come out to that person first.
- Have no expectations - if you hope for the best but don't expect a specific reaction, you will probably be better positioned to respond to whatever happens.
In the end, your level of disclosure is your decision and should be what is most comfortable for you.