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Coming out at work

Is it wise to come out a work and if so what are the risks and how do you manage them?

The decision to come out at work is a really difficult one. Not everyone is accepting of alternate sexual orientations and gender identities so there is a risk of being discriminated against and having an impact on your job, your colleague relationships and even your future career trajectory. A lot to lose if it doesn’t go well.

Being such a weighty decision, it is one that should not be made lightly and you should only come out (to anyone, not only at work) when you feel 100% ready for it. Don’t be pressured by other people coming out, or needing to be a pioneer for LGBTI success.

Feeling comfortable and happy at your work place is far more important than doing something that other people expect of you. And if you decide not to come out at work, it is also not a sign of weakness and nothing to feel ashamed of. Keeping your job and not jeopardising your career is a healthy choice too.

It certainly isn’t easy to tell how co-workers and employers will react, but coming out at work doesn’t necessarily have to be traumatic. In fact it could even be anti-climactic. And there definitely are also pros to coming out at work. For one, it could make you more relaxed – allowing you to be more yourself, leaving pictures of your partner on your desk, chatting about your weekend. Coming out at work may also bring out the supporters. In fact, you may even inspire other co-workers to be more honest about their lifestyles and sexual preferences. But of course there are also cons – you may attract unwanted attention and negative judgement. You may find that, despite anti-discrimination laws, discrimination still exists. So you really want to suss your environment out properly and weigh your pros and cons carefully.

Just how you come out is entirely up to you. A wise move is to test the waters beforehand by making a comment about gay pride or same sex marriages. You could ask about the company’s policies around inclusiveness and diversity. This allows you to estimate whether you are in a fairly supportive environment. Disclosing your orientation can be as blasé as simply mentioning your partners name, or talking about them in a way that makes it clear you are in a same sex relationship. Alternatively you could subtly place a reference to the LGBTIQ community on your public profile that allows co-workers and employers to put two and two together.

The risks are there and it is best to be aware of them before you decide to come out. Weigh your pros and cons out carefully and try, as best you can, to ascertain whether the reaction will be hostile or supportive. Always be sure that you are ready to come out and don’t ever feel pressurised to do so.

Eric Wee Chong Tan | CFHP
Eric Wee Chong Tan

Eric is a Clinical Psychologist whose approach is warm, open, and humorous. He works respectfully with his clients to help them understand their stuck emotional patterns and their way of being with both people and life events.

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