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Poll Reveals That More Than 50 Percent Of Gays Are Not Out At Work


One out of two of you homos aren’t out at the workplace, according to a just released poll on LGBTs in the workforce by the Human Rights Campaign.

The HRC polled 806 LGBT people and found that 53 percent aren’t out of the closet at work, an even worse percentage than the 51 percent who weren’t comfortable enough to be out during the same poll conducted back in 2009.

Noting the change for the worse, the poll points to the prevalence of antigay language and conversation in the workplace. 25 percent of those polled revealed that they hear offensive language and conversation at work, and 35 percent are not only in the closet, they actually lie about their personal lives.

Lying about who you are to people whose opinions don’t really matter? Bye, Felicias.

Thankfully HRC Workplace Equality Program director Deena Fidas is slightly less judgmental than us, and rightfully points to the work that still needs to be done beyond legislation to make the workplace safe for LGBT individuals:

‘It’s not enough to simply implement inclusive policies — those policies need to be augmented by training and accountability, and [leaders] need to be on the lookout for unconscious bias”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, though the first step is for the 53 percent to come all the way out of the closet. Battles can’t be fought on the sidelines, folks.

Besides, it’s just so much roomier out here!




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  • hyhybt

    People whose opinions don’t matter? Unfriendly coworkers can sabotage a person’s work in a million ways, often subtle enough not to catch. And that’s when you don’t have the threat of losing your job directly for being known as gay, and sometimes even when you have a supportive boss.

  • gaym50ish

    Many gay people I’m acquainted with are SELECTIVELY out. They may be out to some family members but not to grandma who’s a homophobe. They might be out to a brother or sister but not to their religious parents who might stop paying their tuition if they knew. And not being out at work is also quite often purely for self-preservation.

    Remember, it was not that long ago that a soldier couldn’t be out. If you work for the Boy Scouts of America, a Catholic school or an NFL team, you probably don’t want to be out. Those of us who are out to the whole world tend to think EVERY gay person should be, but it’s an individual choice, and one we should respect.

    I have known too many gays who were fired even when they were doing an outstanding job, and they had no legal recourse. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to take that risk.

  • gskorich

    they might not think they are and unless they are lying to their co workers, chances are the co workers know. there are signs. lets say you work in an office, if you are chatting more with the ladies than the gents that could be a sign, your co workers know if you are tying for one of your coworkers. guys chat women up, its what they do and if they aren’t chatting them up they are chatting about them with the other guys. if you are of a certain age and you are single, thats a sign. if you aren’t going for the after work drink with the crew that could be a sign, the office women know everything. you aren’t hiding anything

  • Alan down in Florida

    Get ENDA passed an let it become the law of the land and those numbers will plummet. Also never assume that just because you haven’t said it aloud that the people you work with don’t know.

  • hyhybt

    @gskorich: Even at that, though, some people will turn on you when it moves from belief and supposition to stated fact.

  • SeanRESU

    I’m a public school teacher in western ks so I walk a fine line. Most of my coworkers know I’m gay but I keep it away from the students and the parents.

  • Shannon1981

    I can understand not being out at work. I am one of those gays who is out everywhere and really doesn’t give a shit who knows what and what they think, but, I have that luxury these days. I am an editor and a writer for liberal websites. My bosses are more than fine with queers. However, it wasn’t always like that.

    When I was in my last round of college, I worked for the bookstore on campus part time. Like many college bookstores, it was owned by Barnes and Noble, which has an LGBT inclusive non discrimination policy. However, that didn’t stop the place, located on the campus of a tech school in South Carolina, from being a hotbed of homophobia and religious zealotry.

    There was an older lady who worked there who literally preached to anyone who would listen, and when she found I was a gay atheist instead of a straight Christian, she went to town, telling me how her sister used to “live in sin” like me before she “found the lord.” Once, a group of employees, including the manager, had a long conversation about how gay people were not born this way, and essentially insinuated that we were likely molested, and the trauma from that turned us queer. I won’t repeat the exact things they said, because they are too vile and do not deserve a public platform. They also knew I was queer, and had this conversation within earshot. Needless to say, it was not a friendly work environment at all. Further, considering the fact that the manager participated, there was no one for me to go to for help in solving the issue.

    In short, this is the kind of thing that keeps LGBT people in the closet at work. Often, we choose between being ourselves and potentially suffering harassment or even losing our jobs.

  • TheNewEnergyDude

    Wow…53%? These days? I had no idea. And am really quite surprised, considering how much more gays are in the news these days.

    Goes to show there is still so much work to do.

    Prayers go out to those 53% who are still in the closet or only selectively out…very very constricting being in that closet…I can’t even imagine being in there anymore…makes my heart ache for them remembering how that was way back then…

  • joey

    i work at a university for over 2o yrs now and while there are people here that are out, i’m not. being in or out of a closet is a personal choice that depends on a persons comfort level and that is based on many variables in a persons life. of course people may suspect or guess, but i dont feel like opening up my personal life to people i work with. its no ones business who i am, and i think it would be inappropriate for someone to ask this in a work place.

  • Merv

    @TheNewEnergyDude – “Prayers go out to those 53% who are still in the closet…”. Prayer? Really? Religion is what caused this problem in the first place.

  • jonjct

    being in the closet at work is not the equivalent of a coathanger abortion, it’s just nobody’s concern, because, work is just business, nothing more.

  • frshmn

    Mixing personal life with professional life is typically a mistake. Unless you volunteer information about your outside life, most people don’t/won’t ask. I won’t hang a rainbow flag on my desk, but I’m not actively deceiving people or pretending to be into women. I would say most of the 51% probably fit that category.

  • Merv

    @jonjct @frshmn – Do you eat lunch at work? Do you eat alone, or merely sit in silence while eating with others?

  • jar

    Wow. I confess i didn’t know the closet was tight on these young queens.

  • JohnnyCorby

    I found out several of my co-workers were gay by using Grindr. I try to be friendly but it is like they are very secretive. One guy goes to Chick-Fi-La everyday. I am not expecting them to put a rainbow on their cubicle but at least acknowledge me. It is really awkward knowing that your co-worker wants raw loads and aggressively advertises that fact on Grindr.

  • garretj

    @frshmn: Exactly! I don’t even know how I would have answered this poll without seeing the exact phrasing. I’m certainly not closeting myself at work, but I’m single and therefore it just doesn’t come up. Most people at work probably assume I’m straight because I live in the bible belt and that’s just expected, but since I don’t currently have a boyfriend or husband to reference there’s a really no reason to just announce that I’m gay. I’ll answer honestly if asked, but I’d guess a lot of these ‘closeted’ workers that were polled simply haven’t had a reason to mention their sexuality at work.

  • Cobalt Blue

    @JohnnyCorby: LOL.

  • TheNewEnergyDude

    @Merv: you know, it’s funny…I am non-religious and don’t pray at all, but for some reason, the word just actually seemed to “fit” for this scenario. I like to replace that p word with “good thoughts”. Much more non-denominational. :)

  • curan

    Am I really hearing this correctly?

    I’m supposed to endanger my career for your social agenda?


    Hell no.

    No frigging way.

  • Scribe38

    When I worked in construction I didn’t tell anyone unless they asked. I would bring my partner to company outings but never really explained the nature of what we were. Now I am in nursing school (Catholic) and bring it up when people ask what I did for the weekend. Just got to a point in my life where I stopped giving a crap. I’m not going to fault dudes who aren’t there yet.

  • Ben Dover

    “people whose opinions don’t really matter?”

    You can’t have it both ways. If their opinions don’t matter, why do they need to know?

    But I suppose the cat is out of the bag if:

    – you’re bored by football talk and you don’t bet in the March Madness pool;

    – you tend to avoid the weekly or near-daily birthday cake ritual (like Elaine on “Seinfeld”);

    – you don’t pretend to care about religion;

    – you’re older than about 26 and never talk about girls;

    – you’re older than about 28 and you’ve given head to most of the “straight” married guys there (oops, maybe that was just me);

    – they know you don’t live in the suburbs.

    Then they probably know already!

  • tdx3fan

    Forgive me if I don’t believe that HRC would conduct a fair and unbiassed poll (since their very existence requires them to see a problem then attempt to fix it), but I fail to believe this is overly generalizable to the entire population. This might be true of their sample size, but unless they controlled for factors, its not remotely true of all gays everywhere.

    I would say it depends on your state and your occupation. If you have an occupation that requires a highly trained and skilled professional and there is a lack of highly trained professionals around you than you are more likely going to be yourself.

    That being said, I have never been closeted at work from day 1, and I never will be. My partner isn’t either, and he works for a major “Republican” law firm that has full on same-sex partner benefits. I’ve met almost all of his co-workers as his partner, and they have been amazing to me.

    I talk about him all the time when I go to classes (getting a Master’s degree) and when I was at work I also talked about him as well. There has never been an issue, and our state has no protections towards LGBT people. Of course, I worked in a female dominated profession (nursing assistant) and am going into an equality dominated profession (counseling).

  • tdx3fan

    @TheNewEnergyDude: Yes a lot more “work” to do. Since most people don’t really desire to do that work themselves they read this and write a check to HRC. Hence why I don’t really believe it coming out of poll from HRC.

  • tdx3fan

    @Merv: Stupid people on a power trip are what caused this problem in the first place. They simply used religion as an excuse.

  • tdx3fan

    @curan: For my social agenda? No. For your own health? Yes. Studies have shown that those that have to remain in the closet their entire lives end up with shortened life spans. That much pressure is never good on anyone. If you don’t work at a place where you can be out then find another job.

  • Rusty

    @gaym50ish: I agree because it’s very hard on some people who end up losing everything.

  • KDub

    If it’s not your closet, don’t worry about it. What’s in the next man’s closet is his business. Don’t see any of you over opinionated bitches offering to pay anybody’s bills.

  • DickieJohnson

    @KDub: I’m in total agreement. Every workplace is different, and just one hateful a$$hole, and they’re everywhere, in case you don’t know, can really ruin things. Fortunately for me, it’s always been a non-issue for my entire career. Now, when it comes to a bunch of fags, (Oops!!!) I mean, Gay Men, working for a GAY blog/newsletter, WTF do you have to fear about job security? I think HALF of us being “out at work” is pretty good. Even after ENDA gets passed, some bosses & coworkers will still be total A-holes.

  • LadyL

    @jonjct: I don’t think I can agree… Things can get complicated in ways you didn’t anticipate.
    Think about what it means in real, day to day terms to stay closeted where you work, how stressful it becomes, always keeping everyone at arms length. Consider this–straight people bring virtually every aspect of their personal lives into the office because they can. It’s always something. They’re excitedly planning an upcoming wedding; or proudly displaying new pictures of spouse and kids all around their desks; or chatting in break rooms and staff kitchens about holiday plans, Valentine’s Day plans, romantic getaways to celebrate upcoming anniversaries…it goes on and on.
    Invariably, having shared all that, they ask you about your life, expecting you to share in the same way. They’re not prying, they’re just curious.
    So what do you say? You could lie, but how far are you prepared to go with lying before you start tripping over the lies (and beginning to resent everyone around you for making you feel like you have to do that)?
    You could say “that’s none of your business” but that response will be viewed as strange and cold and in this day and age practically screams “I’m gay and terrified to acknowledge it.” What if some of your coworkers are also your friends? Are you honest with them or not? For most of us, our jobs are not just paychecks, they’re where we spend a lot of our lives.

  • curan

    . Please never do this. If you’re gay, if you’re straight, if you’re anything and everything else, it doesn’t matter, but don’t let that be the first and most important thing about you. Would you ever introduce yourself by saying, “Hi, I’m Jimmy, and I like to pork any hole that smells”? No. No! But so many people do this in an unspoken way.

    Having sexuality is great. Loving sex is great. But when you let sex become your identity, you reduce yourself to a use or a user. This can really be seen in the world of “the lifestyle.” Do you know the lifestyle? Hold on to your butts if you don’t, and I mean that literally.

    “The lifestyle” is what people in it use to refer to swing culture, or BDSM, or any sort of organized pansexual “thing.” It’s hard to describe, but it can and will involve orgies and get-togethers in which no sex actually happens but people exist in clearly defined roles as dominants and submissives, and they are always “on” in a weird, sexually judgmental way.

    tdx3fan: No, I don’t think that’s such a great idea.

  • LadyL

    I began a new job at the end of last year, wondering how I was going to deal with this issue because I knew sooner or later, one way or another, I would have to. Finally, it happened: a couple of weeks ago I walked into the staff room as a conversation about marriage and divorce was going on between three coworkers. I said nothing, just sat at my desk and tried to concentrate on my work… but one of my coworkers interrupted himself and looked over at me.
    “Lorraine, have you ever been married?” he asked. I decided to be honest–no, that’s not right. I should say I didn’t give myself time to be dishonest. I took a deep breath and immediately answered the question, mentally crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t regret it.
    “Well, no. But then it’s only recently that someone like me could legally marry,” I said. There was a moment’s silence as my meaning sunk in. They looked surprised. And then…they all smiled at me.
    “Ohh, got it! Right!” and so on. And the four of us began a lively discussion about marriage equality and LGBT rights. I was HUGELY relieved and happy. And touched, when the coworker who had asked me if I was married, later told me that he loved the way I came out. I knew what he meant and for my part I was grateful to be given the opportunity to do it in such a simple and organic way.
    Okay; all that said, I do understand that many people feel they simply can’t have that kind of conversation. In some places, it is a real risk. But my experience has taught me that often the biggest obstacle is not your coworkers or your boss–it’s you and your fears.

  • LadyL

    @curan: But this is precisely the problem with staying closeted. In what way is being out “letting sex become your identity”?? You’re making the argument of the homophobic bigot who sees gay and lesbian people only in sexual terms. Really the only way to get people to see you as a person and not a walking sex organ is to let them know you’re there. Then it’s YOU they say hello to every day, not some abstract sex fantasy.

  • KDub

    @curan: “Having sexuality is great. Loving sex is great. But when you let sex become your identity, you reduce yourself to a use or a user.” So many of the problems gay men struggle with could be fixed if they just learned to stop doing this. That excerpt from the Cracked article is the most sensible thing I’ve read on this blog in a long time!

  • joey

    everyones situation, job, location, co workers and boss’ are different so its different for everyone. you might have a situation thats its ok to talk about it, i may not. ive never told anyone, no one has asked. if i am asked what i did last weekend i tell them was with family or some friends then just change the subject to work or something…its not nor ever has been “stressful” for me not to share my personal life. yes they might wonder, it might bug them i dont share but thats their problem not mine. i have no problem handling a situation that i feel is getting too personal.

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