The LGBTQ+ community is celebrating the signing of The Respect for Marriage Act by U.S. President Biden, requiring the U.S. federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial civil marriages in the United States, and protects religious liberty.
To be sure, this is a HUGE reason to celebrate. And, although our relationships are now protected by law, many LGBTQ+ professionals still struggle with talking about their marriages in a professional setting. We aren’t guaranteed a level of psychological safety and often don’t find it in our workplaces.
Vulnerability is a privilege. The lower the risk of consequences, the easier it is to be courageous. For LGBTQ+ professionals, being vulnerable (and authentic) may have the opposite effect of bringing people closer to us.
When we talk about our partners at work, we often don’t know who is listening. We don’t know if our client, who seems open, hides their support for Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that advocates for reparative therapy, sees homosexuality as a moral evil, and lobbies hard to bring a fundamentalist viewpoint to the political process and school boards.
We ask ourselves: Is this a risk I am ready to take? We are talking about our livelihood, our dreams, our sense of accomplishment. The stakes are high.
I recognize this is a cynical way of thinking and I know that there are a massive number of allies who have our backs. And, as a career transformation and mental health coach, I hear the stories of exclusion and othering. There is a reason why half of LGBTQ+ professionals are closeted at work.
Because the stakes are so high and often we don’t hold the power, it is not uniquely up to the LGBTQ+ community to lead the charge on this. Beyond that I don’t know what the answer is here. What do I tell the executive who is tired of being in the closet at work but terrified that her career aspirations will evaporate if she invites people into her personal world? What questions do I ask the transgender software engineer who is surrounded by people who make off-handed comments about anyone who doesn’t fit into heteronormative culture?
I need your help. What advice and suggestions would you give? What questions would you ask them? What do you want to know?
Kirsten Bunch is a writer, speaker and certified leadership and career coach who helps LGBTQ+ professionals get promoted to leadership positions without sacrificing their queer identities. Get your free The Out CEO Checklist.