Is it wise, what’s the best way, and whats the impact of not coming out?
Let me tell you what I know.
I have worked first hand with thousands of LGBT individuals all around the world. During my sessions with them, 99% of individuals disclosed to me they are not fully ‘out’ at work. AND of these, 96% disclosed they ‘wore a mask’ to hide the real version of themselves. They choose to present a version of themselves that will be ‘accepted’ so they will fit in.
The official stats from Stonewall UK look like this. A quarter of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers are not open to colleagues about their sexual orientation at all. Nearly half of trans people are not living permanently in their preferred gender role. That makes you think why not? The reason they are not is from fear it might threaten their employment status.
Only last week I had 3 messages from individuals asking for advice. One had come out at work and was experiencing bullying due to a lack of understanding of how to communicate with her and the other two weren’t out and were struggling to do their role effectively because of that.
I used to believe it is not acceptable to be LGBT in business. I thought I was on my own with thinking that but I hear this from so many of my followers too. Working in a non gay-friendly business environment can leave you feeling isolated. Why? Because you can’t be yourself. You aren’t able to bring all of who you are to work, and you end up censoring what you say, do and how you communicate with your peers. I know. I used to do this. You see, I was hiding who I really was behind a mask.
I would put that mask on when I left my bedroom in the morning and wear it all day. But over time I realised I found it incredibly difficult to develop a deeper working relationship with my colleagues and noticed a huge drop in my confidence and creativity. I couldn’t wait to be alone so I could take the mask off and relax; to be the real me again.
I remember going to the bathroom at work and sitting for a while to breath, relax and compose myself again. It reached a point where I became exhausted from pretending to be someone else. Someone I’m not. The effort of self-censoring your behaviour is incredibly draining. If you do it, you know what I’m talking about.
Coming out isn’t something you do only once; you come out most days of your life. I came out many times before that ‘official occasion’ at 21 years old and have come out every day for 15 years since. Coming out at work – it doesn’t need to take up all your head space. Simply be yourself. Don’t let your creativity and talent be restricted by your sexuality or gender. And don’t think you HAVE to tell everyone. Seriously, does it matter that people know? Chances are, they already know on some level.
Remember, you have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. Surround yourself with people you can be yourself around and be sure to set boundaries. What do I mean by that? Be clear in your own mind what you will and won’t talk about with colleagues. That way you won’t be caught off guard. Most of the time, people want to know more so they can understand life from a different perspective.
People perform better when they can be themselves. The important thing here is that you are comfortable to be yourself at work. No censoring or hiding behind a mask to be accepted by others. It isn’t necessary. For you to excel at work and enjoy your time there, drop the mask and show up as the Real, Authentic and True You.
It is worth it. Trust me.