By Joyce M. Stern & Steven V. Langerud

Although everyone has concerns or questions when searching for a job or considering a career change, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people have additional issues related to their sexual orientation. At Lawrence, most GLBT students have experienced a supportive environment, with an active GLBT group, supportive friends, and a university policy that specifically mentions sexual orientation in its non-discrimination and harassment policies. The workplace, however, can vary dramatically in terms of support, openness, and protection for GLBT employees. This webpage is designed to help you understand some of the issues faced by GLBT people in the workplace, as well as to give you some additional resources that will help you make decisions about your own approach to career issues.

To Be (Out) or Not to Be (Out): That is the Question!

Each individual must decide how important it is to be out, and under what circumstances she or he will come out. Your position on this will likely change throughout your lifetime, and may change from situation to situation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are most of your friends, peers, and support networks GLBT?
  • Are you active in any GLBT organizations?
  • Do you enjoy going to GLBT events such as Pride, GLBT concerts, etc?
  • Do most of your friends and family members know that you are GLBT?
  • If you have a partner, is he or she out in most situations?

For some people, being out is an integral part of who they are. They feel that hiding or minimizing their sexual orientation is "living a lie." They would likely answer "yes" to many of the above questions. Some also believe that in order for GLBT people to ever receive equal treatment and support, we must all be out and visible.

Others feel that their sexual orientation is only a small part of what defines them as a person. Other than with a few close friends, they may not share information about their sexual orientation or relationships. They are likely to answer "no" to most of the above questions. 

There are pros and cons in each position. Some research has shown that those who stay in the closet or who "pass" as heterosexual are more likely to lose self-esteem or develop other emotional problems. However, in being out, you may face discrimination or harassment. The bottom line is that you must do what is comfortable for you to do now, keeping in mind that you can change your decisions throughout your life.

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