Workplace Pride: Is It Worth It?

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Over the last twenty years there has been increasing formal and informal pressure from the LGBTQ community to “come out” at work.  Early academic models such as the Cass (1979) or Troiden (1988) models of LGBTQ development suggested that “full” integration of one’s sexual orientation required some aspect of coming out and most models implied or required that this also happen in the workplace.   

However, nearly forty years after the publication of Cass’s first model we think a bit differently about identity in the workplace.  The unfortunate reality is that at the time of the publishing of this newsletter there are STILL (yes, in 2017, STILL) many states that have absolutely no LGBTQ or gender identity protection laws.  They are:

Idaho            South Dakota        Louisiana        Mississippi

Wyoming         Nebraska        West Virginia        Florida

Alabama        Kansas        Tennessee

Arkansas        Oklahoma        South Carolina

North Dakota        Texas            Georgia

Questions to Consider

The human rights campaign recommends asking yourself some questions about whether or not to come out at work.  We feel that the most important questions may be:

Does your state or locality have a nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity expression?

What is the overall climate in your workplace?  Do people tend to make derogatory comments or jokes?  Are any of your co-workers openly LGBTQ?

Is there a LGBTQ employee resource group at your workplace?

There can be many benefits of coming out at work, not the least of which is a feeling of being more fully authentic with co-workers and customers. However, personal safety should always be a paramount concern.  Here at 2Human Strategies we STRONGLY privilege the safety and comfort of individual employees.  The unfortunate reality is that it may not be safe for someone to come out at their workplace and that individual is BEST suited to decide if they feel safe in their work environment. 

How can workplace allies be most helpful?

Sometimes well-meaning folks in the workplace identify an individual that they think might be gay but isn’t out.  These well-meaning folks then try to ask questions or insinuate to this person that it is O.K. to come out.  Unfortunately this may not be the most helpful course of action.  The reality of an LGBTQ person is that they will come out to you if they want to and if it is important to them.  

So what can a well-meaning advocate do?  There are many possible solutions. The key is to stop thinking on an individual level and start thinking on a more systemic/HR policy level.  For example:

Does your employer have a written non-discrimination policy?  Does it specifically cover sexual orientation and/or gender/identity/expression?  Do the insurance benefits that your employer offers explicitly cover domestic partner benefits?  Does your health care policy cover transitioning costs?  Does your employer’s harassment policy explicitly cite sexual and gender orientation in its language?  Do the forms that your employer’s HR department use have options for non-binary gendered responses?  Are individuals ever asked about their preferred gender pronouns during the on-boarding process?    

By creating systems that not only communicate but actually afford an increased level of safety, individual LGBTQ employees may feel more free to share their authentic selves within their work communities.  

Looking at the numbers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, the top twenty states with the highest median household income are as follows (listed in order of highest household median income to lowest household median income):

Maryland        New Hampshire    Delaware    New York

New Jersey        Virginia        Washington    Rhode Island

California         Hawaii            Wyoming    Illinois

Connecticut        Minnesota        Utah        Vermont

Massachusetts    Alaska            Colorado    North Dakota

State employment Protections for LGBTQ AND Gender
Only Protection for State Employees
No state level protection

Only four (20%) of these top income earning states do not have protections for the LGBTQ  employee.  The reality, from an employment perspective, is that it may make far more sense to move both businesses and employment to a state that offers LGBTQ protections, regardless of whether someone is a member of the LGBTQ community or not.      


Cass, V. (1979). Homosexual Identity Formation: A theoretical Model. Journal of Homosexuality, 4(3), 219-235.

Troiden, R. (1988). Homosexual Identity Development. Journal of Adolescent Healthcare, 9(3). 105-113



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