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Things You Should Never Say to an LGBTQ Coworker

Updated: Feb 22, 2021

Leading the diversity council at my organization has been a great learning experience for me. Recently, I have been thinking about inclusion and sensitivity for the LGBTQ community in the workplace. There is a lot of work to do regarding sensitivity and making everyone feel welcomed and comfortable at work regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Studies show that almost half (46%) of LGBTQ workers in the United States are closeted in the workplace. Fear literally prevents them from being their authentic selves are work. It must be difficult to mask who you really are to protect your job.

I was pleased to hear that on June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that workers across the U.S. cannot be fired for being LGBT. Check out more research here.

Here are just a few things you should NEVER say to an LGBTQ coworker, courtesy of Business Insider. Click here for more.

1. Who's the man in the relationship? This question is incredibly invasive, and it implies that you're asking about a coworker's sex life.

2. I never would have thought you were gay. This comment suggests that a gay person looks or acts a certain way. It can come off as insensitive and out of touch.

3. You're really just gay/straight, right? Saying this to a bisexual coworker implies that you don't believe their sexuality exists.

4. Have you had the surgery yet? Another incredibly invasive question that could be viewed as sexual harassment.

5. Using the term "homosexual." This term is a no-no due to its homophobic connotations. "It is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered," according to GLAAD.

Insensitive comments and questions like these have led many LGBTQ people to hide their sexuality from the employers and coworkers. They may never talk about their spouse or the beautiful child they adopted together, and that just breaks my heart! We all need to identify our own insensitivities and biases toward LGBTQ people and try to combat them. No one should have to hide who they are to be treated with respect in the workplace.

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