Factors Associated with Sexual Identity Disclosure in the Workplace by Gay Men and Lesbians: A Couples Study

By Bouzianis, Bill; Malcolm, James P. et al. | Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, July 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Factors Associated with Sexual Identity Disclosure in the Workplace by Gay Men and Lesbians: A Couples Study


Bouzianis, Bill, Malcolm, James P., Hallab, Lisa, Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review


Abstract

Associations between internalised homophobia, workplace non-discrimination policies and sexual identity disclosure at work in gay men and lesbians at an individual and dyad level have been previously identified (Rostosky & Riggle, 2002). The current study was concerned with the further investigation of these relationships as well as examination of associations between gender, relationship duration, and work disclosure. Participants were 86 individuals, comprising 22 male and 21 female same-gender couples recruited through snowball sampling. All predictor variables were significantly correlated with disclosure. A multiple regression analysis indicated that internalised homophobia and workplace non-discrimination policies both make a significant unique contribution to work disclosure, with internalised homophobia making the strongest contribution. Multilevel analysis found no significant partner effects. Therefore, strategies aimed at reducing internalised homophobia and increasing workplace non-discrimination policies at the individual level may facilitate sexual identity disclosure in the workplace.

Introduction

Disclosing one's sexual identity has significant implications for an individual's social and psychological well-being. Greater disclosure of sexual identity in the workplace by gay and lesbian employees has been associated with improved social and interpersonal factors (Miller & Higgins, 2006; Rostosky & Riggle, 2002).

Work Disclosure

Heterosexual norms create an assumption of heterosexuality as the default sexual identity of employees within most workplaces (Miller & Higgins, 2006). Consequently, the experience of sexual identity disclosure in the workplace may be challenging for gay men and lesbians who must make a conscious decision to either disclose or conceal their sexual identity in most workplace settings. The current study is concerned with an investigation of factors that influence that decision.

Avoidance of potential discrimination is one reason why gay and lesbian employees do not freely disclose their sexual identity in the workplace, as those who choose to disclose generally experience higher levels of discrimination (Badgett, 2001). This discrimination seems to manifest in two ways: formal, which is experienced at an institutional level; and informal, which is related to one's social work environment (Croteau, 1996). For this reason, gay and lesbian employees who choose to hide their sexual identities often report pervasive feelings of fear and anticipation associated with the potential discrimination (Omoto & Kurtzman, 2006).

Although concealing an individual's sexual identity may be an effective means of protection against discrimination (Croteau, 1996), it may also be associated with various individual disadvantages such as reduced productivity, or a detriment to career development (Boatwright, Gilbert, Forrest, & Ketzenberger, 1996). Furthermore, nondisclosure may influence identification and affiliation with the gay community (Herek, Cogan, Gillis, & Glunt, 1997), a phenomenon which reportedly has a positive impact on an individual's self-esteem (Meyer, 2003). The disclosure and integration of sexual identity into all social roles is thought to be a key part of identity development for gay men and lesbians. Some studies have also suggested that disclosure may have an influence on psychological well-being, as those who choose to disclose tend to be more well-adjusted and have greater life satisfaction (Ellis & Riggle, 1996; Malcolm, 2008; Rostosky &. Riggle, 2002). Furthermore, disclosure in the workplace has been associated with enhanced job satisfaction, productivity and loyalty (Miller & Higgins, 2006; Powers, 1996). Despite these important findings, the research in this area has been limited, primarily because of methodological issues such as difficulty with random or representative sampling because of sensitivity to sexual identity disclosure (Badgett, 1996). …

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