The Ins And Outs Of Coming Out In A New Workplace
If you Google my name, a bunch of articles about being a raging queer come up, as well as my incredibly gay Twitter account. It’s not uncommon for a potential employer to Google you – so I was surprised when I started a new job recently and was asked right away, “What’s your boyfriend’s name?”
I’m aware that I’m pretty privileged to be openly out of the closet; some people aren’t afforded that. Either way, a lot of the times a new employer won’t be aware of your sexuality. Although their knowledge of it definitely shouldn’t impact your work or treatment, hopping back in the closet for a new job can feel pretty lousy for some people.
#1 You shouldn’t have to come out at work, but you should feel that you can
You’re under no obligation to disclose your sexuality at a new workplace. Just as much as you don’t need to hear what Susan from Accounts got up to with her husband on their anniversary, your sexuality and what you do outside work is totally your business.
Pressure to disclose or being outed without your consent is damaging and can easily fall into workplace harassment. So if you’d rather not speak about it, that’s a totally valid choice!
That said – your workplace should provide an environment that you feel like you can come out and not face risks doing so. It also can be quite difficult to stay closeted if people do the thing where they constantly ask about your private life.
#2 Know your rights, babe
If you do want to come out to your new workplace, yay! You should know – you’ve got a bunch of rights backing you up.
The Fair Work Act deems that discrimination or adverse action based on your sexuality is unlawful. Basically, if your employers treat you in a negative way based on telling them your sexuality, you can call the Fair Work Ombudsman for support and advice.
Your work life should resume pretty much the same if you decide to come out. You might get some “my niece is a lesbian! You should date her!” but besides the cringe harmless stuff, they need to be treating you no differently.
Just know that homophobia, inappropriate jokes or comments and anything that makes you feel targeted for your sexuality in the workplace is not okay.
#3 Armed with your rights and ready to come out?
This step is entirely up to you. Come out however you want or you feel suits you and your workplace.
Slipping a same-sex partner into a conversation at the water cooler or correcting someone if they assume the gender of who you’re with could totally work for you.
If your workplace has an already queer-friendly or open culture, you could try doing what I did; writing, “by the way I’M GAY!” with a GIF of Fergie blowing a kiss in an email to my colleagues.
#4 Let your work know how they can support you best
Make sure your workplace has both policy and culture in place that make you and any other LGBTI employee feel supported.
A strong culture of respect and equality is important, as well as a well-communicated zero-tolerance policy to homophobia, transphobia and other discrimination.
There could be other ways your workplace could be welcoming and supportive of queer employees, such as relevant training around LGBTIQA issues, supporting relevant organisations or focusing on inclusive language in company communication (such as “partners” instead of “husbands and wives”).
If it’s necessary, you should feel comfortable talking to your managers or bosses about any ways you can think of that can promote LGBT-friendly workplace. Maybe hanging some pride flags in the break room would work for you.
#5 Reach out if you need it
If you’ve encountered any issues with how you’re being treated after coming out, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission or a state-based equivalent can take calls and help your situation. There are queer-focused mental health groups that can also assist if need be.
Surrounding yourself with queer organisations or networks can help too, even if it’s just to rant about what’s happening in the world. Have a copy of your fave queer magazine on your desk and chuck some rainbow stickers on your desk if that’s what you need.
Whether you feel the need to come out or not, you deserve to be your babin’ self in the workplace. If you’re going keep it to yourself, all power to you.
But if you’d rather come to the office on your Pride float, make sure you arrive early because I’m sure it’ll be taking up two car spots.
Dani Leever is a freelance writer from Melbourne. Working as the Online Content Assistant at Archer Magazine, Dani’s has had work published in SBS, VICE, Broadsheet and Pedestrian.tv. When not writing, Dani is a workshop presenter for PROJECT ROCKIT, Australia’s youth-driven movement against cyberbullying, hate and prejudice.