Thriving in Homophobic Professions

This week we’re continuing our discussion of business and careers with a look at thriving in homophobic professions. Surviving is good, but not enough. We want to thrive in our chosen careers.  Securing employment in your chosen field is one thing, building a successful career is an entirely different process.

Using Experience as Your Guide

Whether it be engineering, professional sports, or construction, you’ve had some experience in your career either on a team, in school, or in a training program. That gives you a good understanding of what the culture is likely to be like.

Are you out at all? If so, how have you been received? Do you hear homophobic slurs being tossed around in the locker room, or on the job? Do you feel like you’ve become “that gay guy”? If any of these happens regularly you’re probably dealing with systemic homophobia. I’m not saying you should abandon your dream, but consider the impact on your mental health, and your prospects for promotion.

Carefully Deciding Where to Work or Play

While there are certain professions that have been traditionally more homophobic than others it doesn’t mean that a specific company, or team, tolerates that prejudice. Do your homework to figure out what an environment will really be like. Just because a company says they believe in inclusion doesn’t mean you’ll feel welcome.

Think About the Future

With finding a job covered, let’s take a longer-term view. This may be even more important. You’ll be doing his job for a long time, you need to be able to grow and develop.

Career growth often involves changing jobs, or companies. You need to be able to follow opportunities as they appear. Investigate your field thoroughly. How many options do you have for employment in a supportive environment? Can you see a career path where you can be who you are? Honestly answering these questions is powerful. If you feel that your options are good enough, then proceed.

Change from Within

If your prospects for employment and career development are pretty good you may want to consider the positive impact that an out, queer, man could have on the organization you’re working for or even the field as a whole.

I applaud anyone with the courage to fight for change. It can be powerfully self-affirming. It worked out very well for me. But, you have to be ready to fight and deal with pushback from homophobes within your organization.

It’s sometimes possible to create significant change.  We’ve been seeing it happen in professional sports. But there are exceptions. Soccer is a good example of a culture that is resisting inclusion. FIFA holding the World Cup in Qatar shows how far soccer has to go in dealing with systemic homophobia.

A Passion that Doesn’t Fit

I hope that you find a way to follow your dream and contribute passionately to the field you choose. But, if you feel that your options would be limited by being out, then you have a serious choice to make. You could remain closeted at work. But, if you’re considering it, think about the future. Do you really want to hide your life from everyone you work with? A better approach is to find other ways to engage with your passion. How can what you love be used in a completely different way?

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and given access to opportunities on the job. Your sexuality, or gender identity, should have no impact on that. Find a career where you can be proudly you, then forge a path forward so that the next generation will have an easier time finding their way in a field you’re passionate about.

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