Earlier this month, the LGBT community celebrated National Coming Out Day. This is an occasion for pride and fostering acceptance, but as acclaimed author and staffing professional Belo Cipriani writes in a post for SFGate.com, broaching LGBT issues in the workplace remains a challenge — even in places like San Francisco, which are known for being welcoming to members of the community. Read on to get Cipriani’s “Tips for Discussing LGBT Topics at Work” and see how to navigate these perilous waters.
1. Consider What ‘Out’ Means — There are different definitions of “out,” and while some see it as being open about one’s sexuality to friends and family, others, like the Human Rights Campaign, use the term only for individuals who’ve come out publicly — i.e. to employers. It’s controversial, and you should keep this in mind as you interact with coworkers.
2. Never Out Your Coworkers — Just because someone has outed him or herself to you, it doesn’t meant the person wants everyone in the office to know. Keep the information to yourself until you’re certain it’s OK to share.
3. Never Misgender — When working with members of the transgender community, you may be unsure of how to address someone. If you don’t know whether a colleague prefers “he” or “she,” ask. “Your question will be quickly answered and you can avoid misgendering someone during meetings or to a client,” Cipriana writes.
4. Avoid ‘Gay Memorabilia’ Gifts — Working in an office sometimes means giving gifts, and whether we’re talking a simple card or a calendar someone might hang at their desk, it’s best to avoid gifts based on sexuality.
5. Don’t Make Assumptions About Colleagues’ Friends — If you encounter an LGBT coworker outside of the office and see them frequently spending time with the same person, don’t assume that other individual is a romantic interest. They might just be friends. What’s more, Cipriana writes, don’t play matchmaker and try to set up your colleagues on dates. Bad idea.