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Is The Closet Required To Have A Career? E-mail
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Coming out is a huge issue for most gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons. Coming out in the workplace is often the most challenging part of the process. While the entire process involves fear, heart wrenching discoveries and some risk, coming out at work is especially risky. What are the risks? What are the benefits? When and how to come out at work? Those are the questions I'd like to explore today.

Man in closet 


All of the questions posed in this article apply to all areas of coming out, to family, to friends and to your communities, not just in the workplace. In fact, in my own coming out and my work with coaching clients, the workplace is often the last place we face the issue of being gay or lesbian. Long before we are comfortable enough to tell co-workers or supervisors we are gay, we must come to terms with it ourselves, sort of a self coming out. Along the way we address a variety of issues that lay the foundation for coming out at work. I'll address those at another time. For now let's focus on the career and coming out issue.

The title poses the question, “is being in the closet required for a successful career?” The answer is not a simple yes or no, it depends greatly on the industry, location, company and you as an individual. What may work for me in the gay friendly coaching profession may not work at all for someone working in the construction trades. You and only you can make the choice as to when or if you come out at work. You determine whether the costs outweigh the benefits.

What is the closet costing your career? Stress is a common result of maintaining the closet. The stress of keeping parts of your life hidden, remembering what story was told to whom and the stress created by internal emotional conflict impact job performance. The mental energy required to keep the heterosexual illusion going reduces the amount of mental energy available for other tasks. These two factors lead to lower productivity. Resentment of co-workers can develop from having to gender neutralize your office and conversations. It also can be fostered by the perceived need to avoid company functions or by having to bring an opposite gender friend instead of your same sex partner. This resentment can lead to poor working relationships with co-workers. All of these factors may stall your career at a lower level or slow your advancement. There is also the effects of these issues on your own mental and physical health to consider.

The likelihood and actual cause of these issues will vary by individual and field of endeavor, but the effects on a career of low productivity, reduced job performance and conflict with co-workers is the same.

The risks of coming out at work fall into two basic categories, homophobic co-workers and discrimination. Homophobic co-workers may create even more stress, fear and resentment by making derogatory comments, threatening violence against you, your friends or possessions, or by isolating you from the group. This would tend to make the issues described above worse, not better. Discrimination occurs when a homophobic supervisor takes actions against you based on factors other than performance. These may include giving you less desirable assignments, withholding promotions or raises, unfair disciplinary actions and even termination. Unfortunately, in many states you have little or no recourse due to the lack of equal employment protections for the GLBT community.

The costs of staying in the closet are high and the risks of coming out can be considerable. But, what are the benefits of coming out? Among the benefits of coming out is a potentially more pleasant environment with less stress and more mental energy to devote to your work. You also are less likely to have resentment and workplace conflict. All this factors combine to yield overall improved job performance, which you could expect would lead to more steady career growth, better advancement opportunities and a more successful career, not to mention the improvements in mental and physical health.

How do you choose if, when and where to come out at work? The “if” to me is the key because that is the most personal element. Ask yourself, Am I comfortable with who I am and being gay? Am I happy with my life? How do I feel about keeping secrets or lying to appear straight? Will I be happier out of the closet? The answers to these question will guide you to whether you are ready to come out or not. The “when” will be when it seems right and may not be an event or moment in time. It often just evolves that you are out and you realize it after the fact. The choice of where to come out at work can be the most difficult. If you decide it is in your overall best interest to come out but are working for a firm or in an industry where it would not be safe you may choose to change careers. Where may be about looking for a more gay friendly employer or industry which may also effect the when. You can see why we call it the coming out process.

While we all come out in our own time and to a certain degree in our own way we don't have to reinvent the wheel. The process can be basically the same with adjustments for personal style and individual situations. Like so many challenging things in life, coming out is often easier, less frightening and ultimately more positive if you have support. The support of family, friends, a coach or mentor will make one of your biggest challenges one of your most rewarding experiences.

A final thought, for all the benefits both personally and professionally, please only come out when you can do so safely.

David Stocum is a Life Coach in private practice. Great Lives Coaching assists gay men in designing and building lives that allow and support committed relationships. He is a licensed facilitator of the Get Hired Now program. David is also the creator of The Magnetic Gay Man: Effortlessly Ending Loneliness. Ask about a 45-minute complimentary coaching session by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

-This article was obtained via www.gaylinkcontent.com's FREE article section. 

Readers have left 2 comments.
 1. Very homophobic in Yuma, AZ
Guest User, Unregistered
One cannot come out at their work place in Yuma, AZ. This is a border town/military base/agriculture/senior citizen town and NO GLBT person is safe here! All my gay friends are closeted at work to save their jobs due to blatant gay bashing. Sad!
 Posted 2008-03-17 22:49:48
 2. Miami is just as gay unfriendly
Guest User, Unregistered
I have lived in this hell called Miami for 13 years. I have been called a fag in english, spanish, creole, and probably several other languages. I tried to stay closeted, but people here make a sport of bringing you out and demoralizing you. I am currently out on sick leave and so depressed I am considering suicide. Why are people so effing cruel?
 Posted 2008-03-28 14:49:27
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