We’ll be shifting gears for the month of December completing our exploration of work and careers with a look at typical LGBTQ jobs. Of course, the most important thing to remember is that queer people can be, and are, successful in every field of endeavor.
Why the Stereotypes Aren’t Helpful
While based somewhat in fact stereotypes are limiting and don’t present a full picture of the possibilities available to us as queer people. Yes, perhaps because we’re outsiders, we tend to thrive in more creative communities like the arts. I’m sure we’ve also all known our fair share of gay men who are hair stylists, flight attendants, and servers. Queer women in sports, construction and other traditionally “masculine” careers are also common. Some of that may arise out of our natures, but much of it is simply that these are fields in which we felt we could find safety and opportunity.
While we’re present in every imaginable field, being able to be ourselves in some professions is an entirely different story. Until recent years there were a significant number of closeted business executives, doctors, and of course athletes, but times are changing.
Brave people in almost every profession have chosen to come out publicly creating visibility that has opened up the possibilities for the young people that are coming up after them. But, despite all this, are there fields that are essentially more attractive to queer people?
Where we see Queer People Now
While it may not always be so, queer people do tend to cluster around certain professions. Many of these career choices are challenging old stereotypes. Queer men and women are powerfully represented in psychology, law, social work, and university-level teaching. Fields that in previous generations would not have welcomed open queer people. The question is why?
One theory posits that we are more attracted to professions where there is a great deal of autonomy. Our ability to work independently allows us the freedom to be ourselves without limiting our advancement.
A second hypothesis is that queer people, as a group, are more socially aware. As children, our need to find safety in threatening environments makes us very sensitive to social queues from others. So, we’re more likely to excel in careers where those skills are essential.
Both these hypotheses seem to play out in the data available. One interesting question that’s been raised is whether social acceptance will decrease our social awareness and therefore start to shift the jobs we excel at.
Awareness of a Likely Work Environment is Key
All of the statistics and stereotypes aside, it is still important for you to make a career choice with your eyes open. This is equally true if you’re just starting out, or you’re shifting careers. There are professions that are more inherently homophobic. Professional sports and engineering may be the most obvious. While there is greater acceptance of queer people in general these traditionally male-dominated, “boys club” professions can still remain unwelcoming in practice.
That’s not meant to discourage you from following your passion. An individual corporation’s culture will have more to do with your experience on the job than anything else. If you do your homework you’ll be able to find a welcoming environment in almost any field.
There are queer people who are out and successful in pretty much any job you can imagine. Follow your passion, understand the likely reality of any job you might be walking into, and find a place where your talents, abilities, and identity will be celebrated and bring you success.