Dealing with Homophobia in the Workplace
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Despite LGBTQ+ people and allies' best efforts, homophobia is still happening far too often in the workplace. It may be as obvious as harassment, but it can also be as subtle as uncomfortable jokes being thrown around here and there. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme court ruled that, according to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, gay and transgender workers should be protected from workplace discrimination. This is a fantastic start to protecting those dealing with discrimination, but it is only the beginning of a very long journey to equality.
LGBTQ+ people continue to face discrimination, harassment, and discomfort within their workplace, despite many corporation’s claims to make the workplace more inclusive. So, what is one to do when facing homophobia in their own place of work?
How You Can Confront Homophobic Harassment in the Workplace
Homophobia can rear its ugly head in many different ways in the workplace. Maybe a manager is making stereotypical jokes that make you uncomfortable. Maybe a coworker has sent you a vulgar e-mail to hurt you because of your sexual orientation. Or, maybe a sign hung in the office hallway feels belittling to the LGBTQ+ community. It doesn’t matter what the homophobia looks like, if the issue is creating a hostile work life for you, it needs to be handled as quickly as possible.
When you experience homophobic harassment in the workplace, it can be incredibly frustrating and hurtful. You may feel unsure about what you should do. If the person harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable is in a higher position than you, you may feel nervous doing anything to confront the issue. However, know that you do have options. You do not have to continue to work in a hostile environment.
To begin, you can tell the person who is making you feel uncomfortable to stop what they are doing. However, if you believe that this will only escalate the situation or if they do not stop harassing you, there are other options. Many employers have anti-harassment policies that give their employees information on the steps they should take to report a case of harassment. These policies can often be found on your employer’s website, your employee handbook, or through asking a supervisor or Human Resources employee. If your employer has a anti-harassment policy in place, you can report accordingly.
Now, if your employer does not have an anti-harassment policy in place, you can report the harassment to a supervisor that you feel comfortable talking to, whether it be your supervisor, the harasser’s supervisor, or another supervisor in the company.
Remember, in the U.S., there are laws in place to protect employees from retaliation when they complain about harassment. If the other options do not work for you, you can report the harassment to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Caring for Your Mental Health When Dealing with Homophobia
Homophobia creates a hostile work environment that can begin to take its toll on your mental health. You likely spend a large amount of time in your workplace, so working in an uncomfortable environment, where you feel judged or looked down on for being who you truly are is not an option that will bode well for your health and wellbeing. There are a few tips that have been shown to help employees cope with toxic workplaces. You can try these tips to get you through the time it takes for the homophobic issues to resolve.
· Leaving work at work. Studies have found that those who form a psychological detachment from their work are able to better enjoy their time at home and show improvements in their sleep. It can be difficult to keep your issues at work out of your home life. However, working to occupy your mind with other thoughts may help improve your overall mental health! You can try out a new hobby, make new friends, meet up with old friends, or start a new special night routine with your significant other. Anything that occupies your mind should work to keep it off of work.
· Prioritize a work-life balance. This step goes hand in hand with leaving work at work. It is crucial to your mental health and wellbeing to prioritize making time to step away from your world at work. Give your mind a chance to recuperate after dealing with tough times at work.
· Take care of yourself, first and foremost. Take a break when you need one. Schedule time in your day for a little bit of self-care, whatever that looks like for you. Take care of your physical health. Seek therapy if the situation at work is beginning to impact your overall quality of life. These things may feel like they aren’t directly related to your experiences at work, but they could make all the difference in your resiliency when dealing with homophobic situations.
· Stand up for yourself. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a confrontation. As mentioned above, you can stand up for yourself by following the steps in your company’s anti-harassment policy, or if they don’t have one, speaking to a supervisor that you trust.
While many countries are working to make laws and create safer work environments for their LGBTQ+ communities, there is still a very long way to go. LGBTQ+ employees still face inappropriate remarks, discrimination, and harassment in their workplace. Due to these issues, some LGBTQ+ employees still fear being themselves in their places of work.
You spend a large chunk of your time throughout the weeks at work. Dealing with fears and discomfort due to homophobic coworkers, supervisors, or customers can really begin to take its toll on your mental health. Directly confronting the person who is making you feel uncomfortable doesn’t have to be your only option.
When dealing with homophobic situations at work, you may find yourself struggling to leave the issues at work. Take care of your mental health, work to separate your work life and home life, and prioritize a healthy work-life balance.