Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :

“I Didn’t Feel Safe to Come Out”: LGBTQ+ Experiences in the Workplace

345 Views
Ireland took a giant leap forward with the passing of the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015, but many LGBTQ+ people in Ireland are still being discriminated against in the workplace.
Taryn de Vere talks to four people who have felt the brunt of this discrimination directly, and hears how the support of just one co-worker can make a world of difference.

 

According to the largest LGBTQ study undertaken in Ireland 34% of LGBTI people had self-harmed with almost half of these doing so in the past year.

Mary McAleese said the report’s findings were as “essential and revealing as horrifying. The ongoing damage is undeniable. That it involves so many young people is tragic. That it is solvable is the good news.”

The report recommended improving the visibility of LGBTQ+ people and challenging negative attitudes saying that “all sections of Irish society have a role to play”.

Employers have a responsibility to make sure their workplaces are inclusive and safe for their employees, though the varying experiences of LGBTQ+ people in Ireland show that many are failing at this basic requirement.

 

Being a junior member of the team Caitin says she fees too intimidated to speak out about the queerphobic work atmosphere.

 

Caitlin* works full time in a clerical position for the government. She is queer and non binary but says that because of the environment at her workplace she doesn’t feel comfortable coming out.

“I’ve heard a lot of passing comments, especially to do with trans people.” Caitlin says that when files come in with photos of the public her colleagues poke fun at the appearance of people, “joking about them having a sex change, or joking about “Lesbos”.”

Being a junior member of the team Caitin says she fees too intimidated to speak out about the queerphobic work atmosphere.

“I didn’t speak up because I didn’t feel comfortable or confident enough. On one occasion, a year or two back, there was a long and loud discussion about, “why do they need gay marriage. Can the gays not just marry the lesbians and stop bothering everyone”.”

“As I’m not out I am constantly misgendered because they don’t know not to.” Caitlin says she is assumed to be both a woman and heterosexual and her colleagues ask her if she has a boyfriend.

“It just wears on you. I’ve had two work colleagues come out to me, one as ace and one as a lesbian and I immediately felt SO much more comfortable.”

Given the overt transphobia of her workplace Caitlin says she feels asking her workmates to use her correct pronouns would be, “too much effort and not worth it.”

 

Section 37 (of the Irish constitution) was only amended last year to remove the discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

 

Siobhan* is a queer woman from Dublin who is training as an educational psychologist, but previously worked in autism education and family support. She says she would have preferred to have trained as a primary teacher but that Section 37 legislation gave schools under religious patronage the right to discriminate based on their ethos.

Siobhan says this would have meant precarious employment for her if she didn’t actively hide her sexuality. Section 37 was only amended last year to remove the discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

“With such a vast proportion of schools under Roman Catholic patronage, I felt that my employment would never be secure and that my career advancement would be halted if I were ever to come out in a woman/woman relationship.”

Siobhan says that she has not always felt safe to come out in her workplaces.

“I’ve been employed by individual families of children with special needs to work with them in their homes on an ongoing basis, and I’ve occasionally had to deal with queerphobic remarks: eg a father who maintained that gay people shouldn’t be allowed adopt/ marry/ be affectionate in public, but that “dykes are ok”. In that situation I didn’t feel safe to come out, as I feared losing my job and income.”

 

I suspect it’s easier now that I’m in my late 30s – people are less like to have assumptions about bisexuality as a experimental phase or an attention seeking phenomenon

 

“It’s only in recent years that I’ve been out at work. When you’re bi-spectrum and dating a man, people tend to assume heterosexuality (even though I’ve never been in a relationship with a straight guy). That can mean you’re in the position of constantly having to come out, and frankly it’s really tiresome. So for years I went with keeping my private life private.”

Siobhan says she has created a method of letting people know she is queer.

“I’ve perfected an art of casually mentioning same-sex partners/ ex partners with appropriate pronouns, in a very off hand way… But it’s taken me a long time to get there, the first few times I let individual workmates know, I felt utterly exposed and terrified of their reactions!”

“I suspect it’s also easier now that I’m in my late 30s – people are less like to have assumptions about bisexuality as a experimental phase or an attention seeking phenomenon. Younger women tend to get a lot of that and it’s very undermining, whereas I’m able to say that I’ve been out for two decades and am sure of my orientation.”

Siobhan is now working in an environment where her colleagues have had specific training in LGBTQ+ issues which has made her working life much easier.

“I’ve been quite lucky in that the field I’m training in is very progressive… I’ve even led some workshops on best practice for working with LGBT children for schools, and I think that’s helped: my colleagues see me as someone with a bit of authority on the subject and will consult with me on unfamiliar terminology, how to address different issues, where to get info, etc.

 

It’s always difficult to see someone every day and be professional and friendly when you know that they think that, on a very deep level, you are worth less than them.”

 

Sophie* is a Bisexual woman from Limerick, who did not feel safe in one previous workplace as her co-worker was so homophobic.

“She would say awful, violent things about LGBTQ people. It was really odd to me because she would get really angry when she ever saw same-sex couples holding hands or being affectionate. But at the same time she seemed to have no idea that two of her coworkers weren’t straight… I was always a bit afraid of what she’d do if she found out I was bi.”

“Other times I’ve worked alongside people who I knew had views that LGBTQ people were unnatural, or that it was lesser and that we shouldn’t be able to marry etc. It’s always difficult to see someone every day and be professional and friendly when you know that they think that, on a very deep level, you are worth less than them.”

“It’s like there was always an invisible obstacle between me and others – knowing, especially, that people can look down on bisexuality in a way that they wouldn’t look down on being gay. People stereotype us as indecisive and immature, and in the workplace that can impact on my professionalism and being respected.”

 

“I simply get to go and do my work without having to waste energy on worrying about whether I’ll be disrespected, or othered, for talking about the same aspects of my life that others chat about freely.”

 

In recent years Sophie started a business with another LGBTQ friend. She says the experience of working in an inclusive environment where her sexuality is a non-issue has been incredible.

“I simply get to go and do my work without having to waste energy on worrying about whether I’ll be disrespected, or othered, for talking about the same aspects of my life that others chat about freely.”

Galway woman Christine* says she “stayed in the closet” for most of her working life as it felt like “the safest thing to do”.

For Christine everything changed with the marriage referendum. Christine wanted to play and active role in the campaign for marriage equality so asked her boss if she could wear her Yes Equality badge at work.

“My manager was hesitant until I came out about my sexuality – and from then on fully supported why I was behind it, and stopped asking me to wear a No badge “for balance”.”

“That badge changed everything for me, but where I got additional support from some staff and customers, I also got harassment and disdain suddenly from others. I was out of hiding and they could see me for who I was for the first time, and that was hard to process.”

 

I put my experience with LGBT+ organizations on my CV. I talked about my queerness during my interview and it was just as normal as talking about anything else about my life

 

Christine says the experience lead her to look for work in places where she could be comfortable being Bi and that she looked for workplaces where she “could be out and safe.”

“When I applied for my now current job, I knew other LGBT+ people who worked at this company, who were out and happy and supported. This made me brave. I put my experience with LGBT+ organizations on my CV. I talked about my queerness during my interview and it was just as normal as talking about anything else about my life – so I was delighted to get the job.”

Christine says there is a queer network within the company she now works for. The company has a focus on being an inclusive workplace with resources in place to help welcome different minorities, including LGBT+ people.

“It’s a huge difference from being the only queer cashier in a rural supermarket like I was back in the day, but I’m proud of all of the experiences that have happened along the way. Every supportive co-worker over the years was hugely impactful, and I am grateful for all my experiences.”

Christine’s story demonstrates the power individual people have to make impactful changes to the working lives of LGBTQ+ people.

Most LGBTQ+ people just want to be able to get on with their work in a safe environment. As Sophie said, she loves her workplace now as she doesn’t have to waste time and energy on worrying about whether she will be disrespected or othered. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

 

About the Author

Taryn de Vere is a writer, a colourful fashion activist and a mother of 5.

Taryn de Vere Lone Parents
Follow her on:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • stumbleupon

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *