Following the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted same-gender couples to marry in 2015, it felt for a moment as though attitudes towards the queer community were turning a corner. Each year, more and more companies and corporations show up to pride events with ornate floats and rainbow confetti, proclaiming acceptance of LGBTQ identities.
These optics have led to the common and widespread misconception that queer people have full equal rights which is, actually, far from true. Under the Trump administration, attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have actually worsened, and being part of the queer community is still difficult and even dangerous, particularly for trans people of color.
For many LGBTQ workers, being out at work is still a fraught situation. According to Out And Equal, 25% of LGBTQ employees reported experiencing employment discrimination in the last five years, and 10% of LGBTQ employees have left a job because they felt unwelcome. Currently, unemployment rates are higher for queer people than for heterosexuals, and the unemployment rate for transgender individuals is even worse, at three to four times higher than the national average, depending on race).
Currently, there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender identity. And, when it comes to state protections, laws vary. In 28 states, you can still be fired for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual and in 30 states you can be fired for being transgender. But work discrimination isn’t always always an overt act, such as getting fired. Sometimes it's an offhand homophobic comment from a coworker, an inability to respect one’s preferred pronouns, or a general office culture that suggests that some are not welcome.
In order to avoid some of these persecutions, many LGBTQ workers simply opt to stay closeted while at work. Today, it is estimated that 46% of LGBTQ Americans are in the closet at work, and chances are you work with more of them than you know. And while roughly 80% of non-LGBTQ people say LGBTQ people shouldn’t hide who they are at work, the reality is that many queer people still don't feel they can be open about their lives in their workplace.
For National Coming Out Day, we asked 11 LGBTQ individuals to anonymously share a story of how their identity has impacted their work or career — including whether or not they’ve chosen to be out in their professional lives.