Bringing your true self to the workplace can be life changing, so where to begin?
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE VIA PEXELS
Welcome to this week’s IMO AKA In My Opinion. This is a column where we approach some questions, queries and dilemmas we often hear from our readership and offer up some advice. Remember, this is by no means a one-size-fits-all kinda deal, but hopefully these words help you feel less alone.
While there is legislation in place to protect staff against discrimation at work based on sexual orientation and gender identity, many LGBTQI employees will know the sad truth that homophobia and transphobia at work are still rampant today. With this in mind, it’s important to know that if you feel like the security of your job or your mental wellbeing would be at risk by coming out at work, then please consider this when contemplating doing so and have plans in place for how to handle this if it becomes an issue.
You may be able to garner how this might go down by thinking about the type of company you work for. Are there other out members of staff? Is the company responsive to feedback from its employees? Does the company not only do Diversity & Inclusion training, but act on it? What does your contract say about policies when it comes to harassment in the workplace? These are all indications that may help you plan your next move. At some previous jobs, I intentionally compartmentalised my life as I knew that coming out at work would lead to a multitude of uncomfortable conversations and would not be met with respect. Hopefully in the future, we can all live authentically at work no matter what role we have.
There’s a myth that coming out at work isn’t important. But being safe to bring your true self to work is extremely important. After all, our identities often come up in the workplace. From which bathroom we use to what our response might be if someone asks us if we have a boyfriend. So how should you begin?
Do you have a trusted person you can talk to confidentially in the company?
Coming out can be a daunting task, especially in the workplace where you may have less of an idea of how people may respond. Having someone you can trust to be in your corner will really help make navigating this less of an emotional burden. Whether this is a colleague who you already know to be an ally who may advocate for you, or someone in HR. It’s been incredibly beneficial for me in the past to have a co-worker who is there to advocate for me whether that’s correcting others when they misgender me or to just be an ear when met with identity related issues at work.
Prepare what you are going to say
In an ideal world, employers would be well versed on what the needs may be for LGBTQI staff. However, when coming out to your boss, they may not quite understand what your label means or what would be required for you to be safe at work. Do you need access to a different bathroom or a gender neutral one? What name and pronouns should be used on your documents? Do any changes need to be made to your uniform? These are all things employers may not think to ask.
Voice your ideas
It can be intimidating to speak up about things that could improve the workplace not just for yourself, but for others too. If you work for a rather large company with an abundance of staff, you might want to suggest that they start an LGBTQI group or something similar. This is also a great way to show off your skills at coming up with initiative ways to improve the company.
Hopefully you come out, people respect your truth and you can go on to thrive within your role. If this is not the case and you are met with harassment, it is important to be well informed about your next steps. Before coming out at work, take the time to educate yourself on what your rights are as a worker and what resources are out there to keep you safe at work.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a therapist, or professional coach in any way. This advice is just based on my own lived experience and would likely change for each nuanced individual. But I hope that you can take something from this. DIVA does not necessarily agree or disagree with the statements made in this column.
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