“Without risk, there is no reward.”
It’s a cliché precisely because it’s true. And it’s true for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in one key way. Living our lives openly and authentically is still a risk. Granted, for some of us it’s much easier than others, but it’s a risk nonetheless.
We must respect everyone’s right to choose when, where and how to come out for themselves. When we do decide to take that step, we take on the very real risk of losing family, friends, and the ability to make a living. For some, that risk is more daunting than it is for others. For LGBT people, even in 2010, simply being oneself can, and does, cause great harm.
For those who have faced the risk and have found the strength to move through the fear, great rewards can await on the other side. Hollywood, as a visible microcosm of culture in this country, offers a glimpse into the positive benefits of coming out. In the past several months, celebrities like Wanda Sykes, Meredith Baxter, Ricky Martin, Adam Lambert and others have publicly confirmed their orientation – with no negative consequences to their professional careers whatsoever. Indeed, even straight celebrities who choose to come out as allies of our community, such as Lady Gaga, Kathy Griffin, and others, have seen their celebrity status increase, rather than decrease as a result.
Being out as an LGBT professional in your own workplace can have similar, positive results. Not only does it alleviate the constant pressure of remaining in the closet, it allows employees to help create a workplace that is more welcoming for the next LGBT person. Indeed, as more of us come out at work, more workplaces feel the pressure to measure up to standards like those set by the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index – which, in the end, will help make a difference for everyone.
Photo Credit: See-ming Lee