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Speaking Up Against LGBTQ Discrimination at Work

Workplace discrimination is unfortunately still a reality in 2022, and it is especially true for employees within the LGBTQ community.

The problem is that the situation will likely not see much of a change unless we take a stand. It won’t be easy but it may be what is required to create equality for all. If you are facing discrimination at work or you know someone who is, then you have a chance to make a difference. Let’s talk about the issue of discrimination, how to speak up, and methods for caring for yourself and your mental health during the process.

The Reality of LGBTQ Discrimination

While discrimination may not be as bad as it was 20 years ago, it still exists in many workplaces for those in the LGBTQ community. In fact, one out of 10 employees still experiences discrimination and that only accounts for those who responded to the study. Even worse, one in four LGBTQ employees has reported that they have been sexually harassed in some form or another at a current or past job.

There are many forms of discrimination that still occur today and none of them are okay. In addition to being berated by insults or becoming subject to physical violence, this unfair treatment can also come in the form of biased management. For instance, some folks are given lower rankings on their reviews and annual assessments simply due to their sexual orientation, and others may miss out on promotions even if they worked just as hard or harder than their non-LGBTQ colleagues.

While discrimination can often be overt and obvious, sometimes it can come in the form of workplace microaggressions, which are subtle behaviors against marginalized groups that can seem minor at first but can create a very uncomfortable environment over time. An example might be if your coworker says something like that they typically don’t hang out with gay people, but you’re alright in their book. Or it could be a microinvalidation, such as someone saying that they don’t see people as gay or straight, which in addition to likely not being true, also makes your identity invisible.

If you are dealing with these situations or other forms of discrimination at work, then it is time to address the situation.

How to Speak Up

In the case that you do not feel that you are being appreciated at work, it is important to still show respect for yourself and be smart about your initial reaction. When we feel that we are discriminated against, our first natural response may be to yell, cuss, or threaten to sue the boss or the company, but it is important not to hurt your case. The last thing you want to do is accuse someone of discrimination if it is found that it did not exist.

Instead, you first need to determine if this is really a case of discrimination against your sexual orientation. So, if you received a poor annual review or you were passed over for a position that you feel you deserved, then you should start by contacting your boss and asking for written feedback about why you didn't get the job. If the reasoning is that you were late on assignments or they feel you still have more to learn, then look inside and determine if that is really the case and then use that information to improve and try again when the next promotion comes along.

If you are not given a reasonable explanation or you feel that the response is based on discrimination, then you should take the next step, which is to write down the details of the situation, including the times, dates, and the people involved, so you have a solid record. Then, request a private meeting with a representative from your human resources department and state your case. Keep in mind that many companies will have a policy for reporting cases of mistreatment, and if they do, make sure to follow the procedure so you can ensure that your complaint will reach the proper party.

In the case that you have taken the proper steps, but you feel like you are not being heard, then you do have the option to take a legal path and hire an employee rights attorney who will listen to your story and tell you if you have an actionable claim. If you do, then consider moving forward so that future employees do not face the same discrimination.

How to Cope and Stay Healthy

Whether you see an immediate change in your actions or not, it is important that you take care of yourself and your mental health while reporting the discrimination. If you are constantly stressed at work, then you will not only be less effective, but when left untreated, the feelings of anxiety could lead to mental and physical issues. For instance, when we are especially stressed, our body releases a hormone called cortisol, and if we continue to feel anxiety, that increased cortisol production could impact our organs and lead to fatigue and depression.

That is why it is imperative that you try your best to keep yourself as calm as possible while you wait for your company to take action. The key is to try and practice healthy coping strategies to get you through the tough times. We don’t mean that you should ignore your feelings, but instead try to soothe your mind by doing something you love, which could be exercising, listening to your favorite music, or it could simply be that you leave work early that day, so you are no longer in the negative atmosphere.

Most importantly, you can boost your mental health by appreciating the good parts of your life. Think about the friends who love and respect you, the clubs and organizations that you belong to, and the activities that make you truly happy. In the meantime, make sure to continue speaking up against the discrimination you face and see it through until the end.

As many have seen, we still have a long way to go towards total equality, but by speaking your mind and making a stand, you can make a difference and feel comfortable when you walk into work each day.

Image Source: Cotton bro at Pexels

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