Every day I get pitched dozens of story ideas by public relations professionals. On the rare occasion, I’ll use the idea for the column. But the vast majority of the pitches are completely off base. No matter how off-topic the pitch is, I always try to respond just so I can be a decent person. Most of the time, when they hear that I only write about LGBT-specific parenting issues, they thank me and move on. But a certain percentage always responds in the same way, “But this is great for every family!” Whereas I appreciate their Old College Try, and while it may be true about their product, realistically LGBT families are not like every other family. We face challenges straight families never will.
Last summer I was on a business trip with my boss. We had dinner with a corporate partner of ours. During the course of conversation, the man asked me if my wife worked outside of the home. I’m embarrassed to say that I froze for a millisecond before finally telling him that I actually have a husband, who stays at home. As we walked back to our hotel, I confessed to my boss that I am never sure how I should respond to questions like that in a business setting where I’m representing our company. She told me I responded exactly how she wanted me to and that I shouldn’t even consider answering in any other way.
I’m lucky; I work at a company that is accepting and supportive. Not all gay people are as privileged.
According to the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, gay people can be fired for their sexuality in 28 states. Additionally, 25 percent of LGBT people have faced work-place discrimination, and nearly one in ten has left a job because of an unwelcoming workplace environment.
Sadly, but probably not surprisingly, the chances of experiencing discrimination if you’re trans is even greater. Again from Out & Equal, nearly half of trans people reported they were fired, not hired or didn’t receive a promotion because of their gender identity. An astonishing 90 percent have experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job.
This kind of unique discrimination can have an unhealthy impact on kids raised by LGBT parents. According to research conducted by the Williams Institute think tank at the UCLA School of Law, married/partnered gay parents are twice as likely to report income levels near the poverty level than single/married straight parents, and single gay parents are three times more likely. The research also showed that the median household income was nearly $11,000 less for gay parents than for straight parents.
But there is hope: for the past 21 years Out & Equal has worked with executives, human resources departments, and employee resource groups within corporate America and governmental agencies to create workplaces free of discrimination. They work to help companies develop hiring policies and training programs, as well as design professional development opportunities for LGBT employees. Their success is rather impressive: their corporate partners list reads like a Who’s Who of Fortune 1000 companies.
And there are advantages for employers too. Providing a supportive workplace results in greater job commitment, better employee retention, better workplace relationships, greater job satisfaction and improved health outcomes for gay employees — cutting health care costs for the employer.
We have a long way to go before LGBT families are just like every other family, but thanks to organizations like Out & Equal, important strides are being made. After all, we all deserve to be secure and supported in the workplace — it’s just good business!
You can learn more about Out & Equal at their website, outandequal.org.