Coming out is good for you, but almost half of college-educated gays aren’t out at work

First, the good news from University of Rochester:

Coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual increases emotional well-being even more than earlier research has indicated. But the psychological benefits of revealing one’s sexual identity — less anger, less depression, and higher self-esteem – are limited to supportive settings, shows a study published June 20 in Social Psychology and Personality Science.

The findings underscore the importance of creating workplaces and other social settings that are accepting of all people, but especially gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals, says coauthor Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

“In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing,” says Ryan. “Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity.” By contrast, research has confirmed that being closeted poses serious psychological risks, including more troubled romantic relationships, more distress, and even increased suicidal tendencies, adds Ryan.

Despite the costs of staying in the closet and the benefits of coming out, earlier studies uncovered only slightly improved mental health from revealing a minority sexual identity. The problem, says Ryan, was that these studies lumped everyone together – people who came out in supportive settings as well as those who faced stigma and discrimination.

Then, this, from the Center for Work-Life Policy:

A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy think tank has found that 48 percent of college-educated lesbian and gay Americans hide their sexual orientation at work. About a third of them are leading “double lives,” the report says–staying in the closet at the office while being “out” in their personal lives.

Gay and lesbians who are not out at work are more likely to report job-related stress and isolation than their peers, and are also more likely to say they want to leave their current jobs. When coworkers chat about their husbands or wives and their weekend plans, closeted co-workers fall silent. This result is an isolated feeling that they can’t bring their “whole selves” to work, the authors say, which affects productivity and job satisfaction.


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