To Be Or Not To Be—Out On the Job


Photo: Paduraru Catalin Alexandru/

Whatever job you get or career you choose, the first decision you make, consciously or unconsciously, is to be or not to be—out.

It’s the No. 1 issue batted around on The Focus Group, the LGBT business show that debuted on Sirius XM’s OutQ Satellite Radio Channel in April. The call-in show features calls from everyday people as well as expert guests knowledgeable about issues on the “out” side of business, looking at them from a gay and lesbian perspective.

Co-hosted by John Nash and Tim Bennett, gay men with backgrounds in LGBT marketing and advertising, the show dishes on topics of interest to consumers and business owners alike. But the first order of business for a lesbian or gay employee/employer is always to “manage your identity,” the hosts agree.

“How much do you reveal? Who knows and when should they know, and how does it effect your move up the ladder?,” asks Nash. “Can it be an advantage? If it’s MTV or Google, no one cares [about your sexuality],” otherwise, it could be a touchy issue.

That’s why many gays and lesbians get into careers related to leisure or entertainment, the hosts say.

Some top lesbian entrepreneurs agree. Beth Shaw, founder of YogaFit, said that she doesn’t hide her sexuality, but what she does and how she presents herself impacts her international business.

Chef Susan Feniger remembers a tinge of dread 25 years ago when TV Guide approached her and business partner Mary Sue Milliken about profiling them as the Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales. Today, as a respected chef and owner of four restaurants, including Border Grill in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay, Feniger says her sexuality “is never an issue.”

The Focus Group is reaching gays and lesbians “in the smallest towns and the biggest cities,” with guest hosts speaking on topics from daycare and dependent benefits to navigating corporate America.

“The surprising thing to us is the diversity,” says Bennett, who describes their listeners as gay, lesbian and straight; from upscale to truck drivers; consumers to business owners. “Fans of talk radio tend to be a lot more diverse than you might expect.”

Having the LGBT connection makes a difference, says Nash. “I don’t always identify as a gay male, I’m [also] an uncle, a cyclist …but at a certain point I need a gay and lesbian sensibility. There’s something about somebody who’s looking at the facts the same way that I am.”

The Focus Group airs live 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, EST, rebroadcasting on Sundays. The 6-year-old OutQ is the nation's only 24-hour radio channel for the LGBT community.

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