Yes, LiLo, she's looking at you. According to a report released by Stonewall, lesbians find it hard to come out in their workplaces — more than their male counterparts. In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Jane Czyzselska argues that this is due in part to the lack of openly gay female role models — in the workplace and elsewhere.Whereas, Czyzselska says, there are an increasing number of openly gay male role models in various walks of life, the comparable women can be listed on one hand — and a few of those are probably assumed to be gay, but haven't actually come out publicly. As a result, she says, lesbians face a very different set of prejudices and a more difficult coming-out process. As she says, "an established community of other gay men at work helps gay men to come out, because there's often a formal or informal club for them to join." Well, I'm sure plenty of young gay men would be delighted by this blithe assessment of their circumstances! But no one can argue that the challenges for a lesbian coming out at work aren't unique: "Think about it — as a woman, you've already got one strike against you in terms of a diversity box to check. As a lesbian there's the second one as well." She points out the hidden minefields of discussing one's personal life, the elaborate deceptions that can fill a workday with a hundred small stresses and undermine the trust of a work dynamic. What she says next seems in some ways to confuse her argument:
Happily, those who were confident about their sexual orientation generally felt being a gay woman gave them a distinct advantage in the workplace. Some participants who had been open about being gay found the experience empowering, because it had raised their profile, facilitated networking opportunities and helped them to feel more equal with men in their place of work.
While these results are certainly encouraging, this does feel in some wise reductive; doesn't it stand to reason that those women so "confident about their sexual orientation" are already more prone to healthy work relationships — or that perhaps they're already in more supportive work environments? "People can't be confident enough to come out in this environment but if they come out they'll be confident which will improve the environment" for others, this seems to say — and glosses over a lot of potentially painful variables. That said, at the end of the day, change probably does need to come on the heels of just such simplistic change — a giant step for woman, a small step for womankind. Sometimes we need someone to coin the cliches for us before we can use them. The Invisible Women [The Guardian]