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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Davis

‘Coming out’ and Disclosing Queer Identity

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

What is disclosure for queer people?

LGBTQIA+ identities are not necessarily evident without deliberate disclosure of 'coming out,' even though revelation and expression of queer identity is a continuous process. Free expression of queer identities is generally understood to be affirming and liberating but choosing to come out also remains a decision with differing consequences, particularly in professional settings.

Yet, decisions about when or if to disclose your sexual identity is an important decision sexual minorities face. Sexual identity disclosure is considered to be an important part of identity development and self-authenticity. Additionally, sexual identity disclosure is related to a variety of mental and physical health benefits.

When there is a need for disclosure at work and personally

Whether employees disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation is optional and voluntary and any reporting or direct access to the data is designed to ensure confidentiality of employee information. At the same time, nondisclosure of queer identities in any context has been shown to be a source of stress and distraction for non-disclosing individuals, and nondisclosure in the workplace reduces job satisfaction, social integration with colleagues, and identification with employers. Proponents of anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identities have therefore argued that ensuring the freedom to express queer identities openly can promote employee productivity and enhance interpersonal relationships.

Laws to protect queer people in the workplace and personally from discrimination

The Equality Act became law in 2010. It covers everyone in Britain and protects people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The Equality Act protects people against discrimination because of the protected characteristics that we all have. The Equality Act also requires public bodies (like local councils, hospitals, and publicly-funded service providers) to consider how their decisions and policies affect people with different protected characteristics.

Under the Equality Act, there are nine protected characteristics:

  • age

  • disability

  • gender reassignment

  • marriage and civil partnership

  • pregnancy and maternity

  • race

  • religion or belief

  • sex

  • sexual orientation

Under the Equality Act you are protected from discrimination:

  • when you are in the workplace

  • when you use public services like healthcare (for example, visiting your doctor or local hospital) or education (for example, at your school or college)

  • when you use businesses and other organisations that provide services and goods (like shops, restaurants, and cinemas)

  • when you use transport

  • when you join a club or association (for example, your local tennis club)

  • when you have contact with public bodies like your local council or government departments

There are four main types of discrimination that the Equality Act identifies:

  • Direct discrimination: This means treating one person worse than another person because of a protected characteristic.

  • Indirect discrimination: This can happen when an organisation puts a rule or a policy or a way of doing things in place which has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one.

  • Harassment: This means people cannot treat you in a way that violates your dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

  • Victimisation: This means people cannot treat you unfairly if you are taking action under the Equality Act (like making a complaint of discrimination), or if you are supporting someone else who is doing so.

It's important to remember that 'coming out' is a personal choice for queer folks and and a process that can be authentic and liberating. If you are seeking mental health support, therapy or coaching to explore your sexuality, gender identity or coming out, please contact me to arrange a consultation. I provide counselling, psychotherapy and coaching online and face to face in South London.

Check out my blog on Understanding Power, Privilege, and Intersectionality as Queer People to gain a deeper understanding of how these factors impact the experiences of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.

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