A new report says millions of gays in America are leading "double lives." This isn't progress.
Sal Romano, the closeted art director from AMC's Mad Men.
Americans, like the rest of the world, are gradually becoming more accepting of gays. Most of us now think of gay marriage as a basic right, and the momentum suggests it's only a matter of time before gays and lesbians are allowed to get married in every state of the union. Still, that doesn't mean there's not a lot of work ahead of us if our LGBT community is ever going to achieve authentic equality. The most recent reminder of this is a new study from the Center for Work-Life Policy, which says that 48 percent of college educated gays and lesbians are still closeted at their jobs. One third of them are even leading "double lives," meaning that they're closeted in the office while being out at home.
Why does this matter? Firstly, that almost half of LGBT people who are presumably working amongst other college graduates, a supposedly more accepting demographic, don't feel comfortable revealing their sexuality speaks to the fact that there's a big difference between perceived openness and actual openness. Secondly, and more importantly, being closeted at work has a detrimental impact on the health of gay and lesbian individuals: "Gay and lesbians who are not out at work are more likely to report job-related stress and isolation than their peers, and are also more likely to say they want to leave their current jobs."
It's worth noting that some gay men and women might remain closeted not out of shame, but because they don't want to "make a big deal" out of their personal lives. That's fair, but there's a difference between being a professional and hiding who you are from your colleagues. Being gay shouldn't be considered a work distraction any more than being a woman or having brown hair should be considered a work distraction. And if it is a distraction, maybe your straight coworkers need to get hip to 21st-century society.