In a recent survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, it was revealed that 46% of LGBTQ workers in the U.S. remain closeted at work with stereotyping, sexualization of their orientation, and discrimination being among the top reasons why. As a result, 31% say that they feel unhappy or depressed at work with many feeling pressured to lie about their personal lives.
There is a chasmic double standard with regard to intermingling personal life and work: While the majority of non-LGBTQ workers report regularly talking about their spouses, families, and life outside of work, 59% believe that it's unprofessional to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. Additionally, 46% of non-LGBTQ workers say that they wouldn't feel comfortable working with an LGBTQ co-worker. The majority cited not wanting "to hear about their co-worker's sex life" as their top reason.
It's disappointing that these workers fail to realize is that heterosexuality and cisgender are just as much orientations and gender identities as any other, but this attitude is also damaging to the work lives of their LGBTQ colleagues. This precarious, conditional acceptance leads 20% of LGBTQ workers to avoid special events at work such as lunch, happy hour, or a holiday party. Sharing and camaraderie create the work environment we experience, but when a barrier stands between you and feeling fully included at work, the ability to connect is made all the more difficult.
The survey also found that 28% of LGBTQ workers surveyed said they lie about their personal lives because they're worried their co-workers will be uncomfortable. LGBTQ workers shouldn't be curating their lives just so their non-LGBTQ co-workers feel more comfortable. The unfortunate part is that their inference isn't misplaced.
When inappropriate jokes and discrimination do occur, it often goes unreported because LGBTQ workers don't believe their supervisor or HR department will do anything. Nearly half believe that, even if a company policy exists, that it may or may not be enforced based on their supervisors personal opinions.
Companies need to do better than that. A policy shouldn't be the reason we call out inappropriate behavior or make an effort to include our co-workers. Co-workers are co-workers, and a work environment isn't a good one until it serves everyone who works there.