As we mark National Coming Out Day, Gay Times got in touch with Glamazon, Amazon’s worldwide LGBTQ community group, to get their views on coming out in the workplace.
Recent research by Stonewall shows that 25 per cent of LGBT+ people are not out to their work colleagues, while just last month a new study found that one in 10 LGBT+ employees have experienced bullying in their place of work because of their sexuality.
Add to that a study conducted last year by Pride in London which found that 74 percent of the LGBT+ community felt the need to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity altogether, and it’s clearly an issue that needs more attenmtion.
However, as gay rights charity Stonewall advocate, “people perform better when they can be themselves”. Indeed, research shows that employees are up to 32 per cent more productive when they feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work.
“When you meet new people, you have to repeat the coming out process over and over again. It can be challenging to do this with your colleagues but for me I’ve found it’s better to find the strength in the beginning than to let it linger,” said Luca Sale, co-chair of Glamazon UK, Amazon’s global LGBT+ network, and Manager of Solutions Architecture at Amazon.
“For me it’s about being myself, honest and visible, it’s an easy way to come out without saying anything.
“For some people, coming out in a natural way can help make other people feel comfortable. For example, rather than saying, ‘I’m gay’, some people may prefer to try something casual like ‘my boyfriend loves cycling’.
“Finally I like to use humour to diffuse any awkwardness for me or them. Being able to laugh instantly breaks down barriers and puts people at ease.”
Glamazon member Belinda Hughes is Senior Manager, Marketing, Amazon Devices, adds: “Picking the right company culture is really important. A relaxed environment allows employees to be themselves naturally.
“During my interview for Amazon, we talked about diversity and inclusion in such a robust way that I felt instantly comfortable. I just knew then that it would be a ‘safe’ company for me to be myself and come out at.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the interview process to try and gauge the company’s culture before you join.
Belinda continues: “I find that the people who are not coming out tend to have been in the same company and in the closet for some time. For friends I’ve spoken to in that situation, they said it’s really awkward for them because after 15 years of dodging the question it only gets harder and harder to hide.
“Not coming out creates a bit of a wall between you and your colleagues. When you bond you can potentially be so much more of a team.
“When it comes to the task of coming out, for me I’ve found it’s much easier to rip the band aid off and just do it.”
Christon Mallett, who identifies as non-binary gendered, is a Marketing Manager for Amazon Appstore. Christon doesn’t think people should feel pressured to disclose their sexuality in the workplace if they don’t want to.
“There are some places I’ve worked where I don’t feel it’s relevant for people to know my sexuality – so I don’t tell them. I think it really depends how much of a personal connection you want to have with your colleagues,” says Christon.
“Talking about being gay opens up a whole new conversation – and people will do that thing of, ‘oh my cousin’s friend is gay’, and that’s the exact reason sometimes I don’t want to say anything.
“I have a strong distinction between my work and personal life. However, if I was with co-workers at a pub I’d be much more open to talking about it than in a meeting – it’s important to choose the right setting.
“Finally, my advice would be to take a look into any support networks or groups you can join. Gay people group together because they have shared common experiences. If you have a safe place where you can laugh about your experiences and support each other together, you’ll feel much more confident.”