Posted by: outandequal | April 26, 2012

The Sometimes Invisible B in LGBT

Dani Siragusa

By Dani Siragusa | A few years ago, my employer was applying for a grant. They were compiling statistics about the staff, per the grant’s request, and one of the questions happened to be about sexual orientation. The completed grant application was shared with the staff, and the first thing I noticed is that everyone had been identified as lesbian, gay, or straight. This puzzled me, as I had come out as bisexual to my coworkers.

It was the perfect example of how being bisexual at the workplace is at times not validated or is overlooked.

When I approached the Human Resources department about the topic, the HR representative said, “I thought you were straight.” At this point I felt a big disconnect with the organization. For the next few years, I stopped talking about being bisexual, because I didn’t feel confident that I would be taken seriously.

Around this same time, in a meeting, a coworker of mine said, “I don’t believe in bisexuality. I don’t think it’s real.” I felt angry and annoyed. It was another instance where someone was speaking insensitively, and wasn’t aware of who was in the room. It cemented my decision to not be open about who I was at work.

Now, in my current position at Out & Equal, with continued support from the leadership team, I finally feel comfortable about being out about my sexuality. My coworkers and supervisors encourage me to share my story and to be involved in the Out & Equal Bisexual Advisory Committee. The Bisexual Committee comes together to discuss ways that Out & Equal can be more inclusive and educated about bisexuality, and helps make choices around workshops and trainings. The committee is a filter through which our organization facilitates our strategic planning process, and it is a great resource for cultural competency. I am not quite 100% comfortable with being bisexual at work but I am definitely getting there.

Self Identification
One way that companies can avoid this type of misinformation and insensitivity when it comes to acknowledging staff is by offering voluntary self-identification in satisfaction surveys and HR records noting sexual orientation and gender identity. Once a company has this data, it can be used to help shape trainings, contribute to scripts used by HR, and generally open discussions around LGBT employees. Leadership also needs to be educated and informed about diversity and inclusion.

Coming out as Bisexual in the Workplace
The most important thing about coming out in the workplace, whether as L, G, B or T, is to be confident and open. The more you stay in the closet, the more insecure you will feel, and the less people will take you seriously when you do come out.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to be comfortable (which, I know, sounds easier than it is), but it’s a decision you have to make every day, in every situation.

Bisexuality is the most misunderstood sexual orientation, but the most common. By coming out as bisexual, it’s hard to determine who will be accepting. Will the gay community be accepting? Will the straight community be accepting? You have to put these questions aside, and be true to yourself. There are a lot of myths surrounding bisexuality, but once someone meets a person who openly identifies as bisexual, these myths get debunked. By being open, proud, and confident, you will be putting your best foot forward, and your honesty and integrity will be contagious.

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