Michael Crawford

Being in the Closet Hurts Career

Filed By Michael Crawford | November 03, 2007 12:35 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-gay discrimination, employment non-discrimination, ENDA, gay rights

As if the weekly revelations of anti-gay Republicans having sex with with members of the same sex were not enough reason to come out, a new study has found that being in the closet can cause your job to suck even more. The study called Making the Invisible Visible: Fear and Disclosure of Sexual Orientation at Work is based on questionnaires filled out by 500 LGB people and the results will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

From 365Gay.com:

"These findings were both striking and disturbing; those who reported more fear of the negative consequences of full disclosure had less positive job and career attitudes, received fewer promotions, and reported more physical stress-related symptoms than those who reported less fear," wrote researchers, Belle Rose Ragins and Romila Singh of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and John M. Cornwell of Rice University.

The results of the study should not come as a surprise as we have known either from personal experience or anecdotal information from friends that the being in the closet places and extraordinary emotional burden on us. Anyone who has blown open the closet door can tell you of the weight lifted from their shoulders once they no longer put energy into hiding the truth about their sexuality.

This research further makes the case for why non-discrimination legislation is so critical. In 31 states there are no employment protections based on sexual orientation even though such discrimination is widespread.

The researchers pointed to previous studies that indicated that between 25 and 66 percent of lesbian or gay workers had experienced discrimination. Of the participants in this study, 37 percent said they had faced discrimination because others suspected or assumed they were gay or lesbian. More than 10 percent said they had been physically harassed. More than 22 percent said they had been verbally harassed. Nearly 31 percent said they had resigned from a job, had been fired from a job or had left a job because of discrimination.


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A pity that, as usual, this study ignores the plight of transgender and gender-variant employees. At the beginning of next year, when three new transgender-protective anti-discrimination laws take effect, gender-variant Americans will be protected against discrimination in just 12 states, but almost 50% of the country in terms of population when combined with state and local ordinances.

I would argue that while being in the closet certainly is stressful and can have an impact on ones work performance, the true result of remaining in the closet to reduce our community's visible numbers and political power and thus help facilitate the continuance of the kind of social and political climate that causes more LGBT people to feel unable to live and present themselves to the world openly and honestly.

The numbers cited here are significantly higher where transgender people are concerned, and of course, one can only imagine how much stress is added when selfish politicians, in concert with the country's largest and richest LGBT civil rights organization, tell them that protecting their rights under the law is far less important than protecting the jobs of influential politicians in Washington and those who, like themselves, look and act like straight people.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 3, 2007 2:31 PM

I am not sure why they did not include trans identified people in the study. They definitely need to be included in future studies.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 3, 2007 6:52 PM

It's good to hear the results, which confirm what I've always felt anecdotally.

I've decided that my next job, I want to be hired as an out trans person. Whether or not I can actually do that though, remains to be seen.

I don't know if we can say that Joe S. or Barney F. "look and act like straight people". Never met them, but I've seen YoutTube, and I could pick them out from a mile away.

This study might go a ways in explaining why queers tend to make less money than straight people. It also explains the discrepancy between studies based on Advocate questionnaires and those from representative studies - those most affected by discrimination are left out of the former.

Michael,

I recently wrote a guest post at the Brazen Careerist blog called: Gays who are out of the closet at work have stronger careers.

I couldn't agree more! Come out.