I am lucky to live in a country where my sexual orientation, in most cases, doesn’t matter. I am married to a woman, we have 2 kids and for the most part, no one cares. For this reason, most people would expect that being gay at work is no big deal. But is it?
First, being openly gay at work was a conscious decision I had to make. Do I want to tell everyone I’m gay, do I want to be vague about my partner or do I want to hide this part of my life? Since I came out at the age of 23, I have always promised myself not to hide again and therefore, I have always been out at work, with all that this entails. For my straight colleagues here in Denmark, being out at work seems easy, but is it really? When one decides to be out at work, one needs to accept that there will be awkward moments, one needs to accept to be confronted to skepticism, preconceptions, bad jokes, stereotypes and asked ridiculous questions. A great example of this would be when I was asked who was the husband in my relationship with my wife. My husband? What?
Additionally, being gay and open at work in a large global company also means coming out to colleagues from various countries where being gay is not always recognized or accepted. From personal experience, I can only say that it’s not easy to come out to colleagues from Middle-East or some parts of Asia… Not all people know how to react and there is always a chance my relationship with colleagues could be impacted negatively by me revealing my identity.
Therefore, being gay in the corporate world is not always easy. Labels, stigma, stereotypes are still often applied to anyone who comes out.
It is the World Pride in Copenhagen right now and I want to use this moment to remind employees around the world the importance of supporting the #LGBTQIA community. We are your colleagues, your friends and your family… I’d also like to take this moment to remind companies that, even in highly accepting countries, being gay at work is not easy. Coming out to colleagues takes courage, we don’t always know how this will be received and how it might impact our image and opportunities at work. It’s critical that companies support, educate and stand firm on their policies to ensure people like me feel safe and included at work everyday.
Happy world #pride everyone!