Most societies around the world have a negative attitude towards lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT). Within the society, the LGBT community is unwelcome, with the larger society against the LGBT sexual identity. Moreover, within most cultures, the LGBT community goes against the customs and norms of such cultures, compounding the negative attitude and rejection of the existence of the community within the said cultures. Both religion and governments are against the existence of the LGBT community, where most governments around the world fail to recognize the rights of this community, a fact that increases the propensity of members of the LGBT community to face discrimination and social injustices. Regardless of all these, it is evident that the LGBT community exists, and society has to live with this. Today, many social rights movements, civil rights societies and activities have come out as strong advocates championing the rights of the LGBT community. These movements have been vocal, with some in countries such as the US pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriages. From these activities, many LGBT members have come out declaring their sexual orientation. While conservatives continue to oppose such a move, it is apparent that by coming out, many of these LGBT live happier and more fulfilling lives than their counterparts who remain hidden.
Among the most vocal against the LGBT community has been religious organizations particularly Christians. According to Christian teaching, same-sex marriages and sexual relations are against the will of God and the natural order of things and should therefore not be allowed. Moreover, Christians view same-sex marriages and legalization of the same, as has recently been declared in the US, as a direct attack on the institution of marriage and by extension the family and the society at large. For Christians (and most religions) marriage is a union between man and woman; a union that creates a family, which then produces members of the society set within the natural order of human existence. Same sex marriages according to religious conservatives therefore trumples upon this natural order of things, and should hence be outlawed.
Religious conservative receive support from most traditional cultures, which also equate marriage to a union between a man and a woman. The purpose of the union according to most traditional views is procreation; an exercise in futility in same-sex marriages. Most of these traditional cultures therefore view same-sex marriages and relations as immoral and against the very cultural foundations of the institution of marriage and belief. Such sentiments are very strong among cultural conservatives, some of who seek out the LGBT community for cultural “cleansing” and “treatment,” as they view the community as either sick or possessed.
Important, however, is that even with religion and conservative cultural rejection of same-sex marriage and the LGBT community, the Constitution gives citizens the right to marry and advocates for equal rights of all citizens, with the inclusion of the LGBT community. More is that there are laws within the Constitution that advocate for the equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The right to equal treatment is specifically unalienable, providing for legal grounds of equal treatment of the LGBT community.
Far from the legality and equal treatment of the LGBT community, perhaps the most important factor for them is social and moral support, particularly from close family members and friends. According to Hewlett and Sumberg (2011), most LGBTs do not reveal their sexual orientation for fear of the reaction from family members and friends. Given the openly negative attitude of the society against the LGBT community, many members of this community expect rejection from family members and friends. For this reason, many members of the LGBT community remain hidden suffering in silence over their sexual orientation.
Amidst the fear of rejection and admonition from family members, friends and the society, research indicates that members of the LGBT community who openly come out become happier than their counterparts who remain hidden. Most importantly, members who come out to their family members and find financial, social and emotional support from their parents and close family members lead happier lives. They also build stronger relationships with their partners given the support they receive from their immediate families. Part of the advantage of coming out to family members and friends is that it provides a buffer against discrimination and builds a support system, especially when these close family members and friends accept and embrace the LGBT community. The Human Rights Campaign augments this view indicating higher levels of happiness, optimism, support, and acceptance from LGBT members who have revealed their sexual orientation to their immediate family or at their institutions of learning (States News Service, 2012).
Focusing on the youth, the report by the Human Rights Campaign dubbed “National Coming Out Day” reported higher percentage of the revelation of sexual orientation by the LGBT community to close friends than immediate family members. In its findings, the report indicated that young members of the LGBT community who hide their identity face more stressors and do not get access to important forms of support from family members and the wider community (States News Service, 2012). Problem with this is that it increases self-stigma, self loathing and breeds a sense of worthlessness, while robbing them the sense of belonging within the society.
Perhaps one of the areas that the LGBT community feel the sense of not belonging is the workplace, a factor that not only diminishes their prospects for personal development, but professional development and promotion as well. Regardless of the protective policies put in place by many companies, societal rejection and attitude towards the LGBT community still impacts on their work and productivity. According to Hewlett and Sumberg (2011), a survey conducted on LGBT indicated that most of the members found their sexual orientation as a limitation in their work, with a huge percentage of the LGBT members (48 percent) remaining in the shadows. While societal attitude towards the LGBT pushes them to remain in the closet, it is apparent that members who have revealed their sexual orientations stand a better chance at promotion.
Remaining “hidden” perhaps has the largest impact on the productivity of the LGBT members. Hewlett and Sumberg (2011) contend that LGBT members who are not open about their sexual orientation remain anxious over the judgement of the management and their colleagues. By doing so, most of these consume a lot of energy on trying to hide, leaving little energy for work and therefore negatively affecting productivity. Such dismal performance at work also translate to slimmer chances of promotion or pitching of great ideas, regardless of how many the members may have, spiraling to stress, job dissatisfaction and career stagnation.
Far from causing job stagnation reducing productivity, hiding locks LGBTs out of social activities and the society at large. Within the work environment, hiding LBGT members are less likely to participate in out-of-work related activities for fear of revelation by colleagues. Hewlett and Sumberg (2011) argue that such activities are important in forging workplace bonds. It is nowonder that 42 percent of hiding LBGTs feel isolated at work in comparison with only 24 percent of open LBGT members (Hewlett &Sumberg, 2011). Similarly, about 52 percent of hiding LGBT members feel they have stalled in their careers, a stark difference with only 32 percent of the open LGBT members. Accepting the LGBT within the business environment is even more important in the business world, where apart from tapping into a $700 billion buyer power market, employers have the opportunity to score big in talent from the community. Besides, who is better of selling to the LGBT community than a member of the same community?
While sexual orientation remains a contentious issue, it is important to remember that the LGBT community has equal rights and privileges as stipulated in the constitution. The community stands to benefit more when the members reveal their sexual orientation to society. It is imperative therefore that the society gives these members an equal hearing and standing as members of the community. Although many cultures and religions may be opposed to the community’s sexual orientation, LGBT members should come out to their parents and members of their immediate families instead of keeping silent and running scared in their closets.
Hewlett, S., A. &Sumberg, K. (2011). For LGBT workers, being “out” brings advantages. Harvard Business Review
States News Service (2012). New hrc report on experiences of lgbt youth links being out to happiness, other positive life factor. States News Service