Acceptance 101: LGBT Employees

24 Sep

“I just got back from my two best friends’ wedding in New Hampshire, the brides looked so gorgeous.”

“Oh…so I wonder what today’s meeting is going to be about?”

As I walked with the crowd of coworkers heading to our daily meeting during a regular day in my summer internship, I couldn’t help but overhear this tidbit of conversation behind me, along with its implications. I could tell that the other coworker instantly felt uncomfortable with the idea of two same-gendered people getting married, and I wondered how the first speaker felt after that awkward but revealing silence.

Lack of Acceptance

The fight for equality and fair treatment for LGBT people has progressed in stutters and stops, with occasional victories such as the recent legalization of gay marriage in New York. However, in the office, even within the most professional settings, there is still much prominent animosity towards LGBT people. People who go beyond stereotypes know you can’t tell who is straight and who is not; unfortunately, those who don’t will persist in making derogatory comments about a group of people who just might be working alongside them and hearing every word. However, the particular coworker whom I overheard chose not to make a comment and abruptly changed the topic, which in some respects is more polite but in others all the more hurtful in her refusal to acknowledge same-sex relationships. This silent rejection, even if it wasn’t of my other coworker specifically, is the social equivalent of offering a rare steak to someone who’s a known vegetarian.

Don’t Assume

These days, I like to think that it’s now more socially unacceptable to out oneself as a bigot instead of LGBT. Even though a strongly heteronormative culture still prevails in society and in the office, more and more people are becoming braver and choosing to come out, so that managers and employers need to adjust their communication accordingly to make everyone feel included. On a grand scale, companies have started to implement policies that protect LGBT employees from discrimination. But on a micro scale, simple things such as using all-inclusive language as opposed to gender-specific words, accepting your colleague regardless of sexual orientation, and speaking up against inappropriate comments go a long way in ensuring that discrimination goes out the door and inclusive communication goes on the rise.

For more information on issues in the workplace for LGBT employees, visit these following links:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/06/workplace_discrimination.html

http://www.catalyst.org/press-release/150/new-catalyst-research-reveals-workplace-barriers-for-lgbt-employees-limit-advancement-opportunities-and-contributions-to-organizations

by Audrey Chan

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One Response to “Acceptance 101: LGBT Employees”

  1. Jonathan Emden September 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    I would first like to say that this is an important issue, and I am glad that you are addressing it. That said, I think there is too much emphasis on judging others’ motives rather than what specifically you are asking companies to do. For more on this issue, I recommend you read the Human Rights Campaign’s website and take a position on some of the initiatves that they are pushing. Your article points out that it is not longer socially acceptable to display homophobic thoughts, but what are you advocating that people to do as a way to change their attitudes? What sorts of policies should be implimented to protect LGBT workers?

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