How To Navigate Your First Job As LGBTQ+: 3 Young Professionals Share Their Stories

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Landing your first job is an exciting milestone for any recent grad. However, if you’re LGBTQ+, that moment may also come with some anxiety.

To help you calm those nerves, we asked three LGBTQ+ young professionals to share their experiences entering the workforce. They offered some great insights on how they navigated the process successfully.

Jessica

Jessica works in the healthcare industry as a Scheduling Coordinator. She was initially hesitant to reveal her sexual orientation to her coworkers. It took about six months before Jessica felt comfortable mentioning the fact that she had a girlfriend. When she did, she was surprised to find out that one of the women she had been working closely with was also gay and living with her girlfriend.

“I think I expected more people to have an opinion and I was sort of blown away by how neutral everybody was,” says Jessica.

Jessica’s advice:

  • “You’re not alone”: If you do encounter gender and/or sexuality-based discrimination, your company’s Human Resources department can help you resolve the situation.

Melanie

Melanie is currently pursuing their Master’s degree in Toronto. Melanie is also non-binary, which is an identity that falls outside of conventional masculinity and femininity. As a part of their identity, Melanie prefers to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns like they, them, and their. They have previously worked in retail and as a receptionist for a small healthcare company.

At first, Melanie had some apprehension about exploring their gender expression at work because they were unsure of how it would be taken.

“As a receptionist, you’re kind of the face of the business,” says Melanie. “I was worried that if I suddenly started dressing more masculine, clients would react to me in a negative way.”

Instead, the experience was quite the opposite. Melanie was ready for some awkward conversations, but found that people were actually very accepting.

“I was very pleasantly surprised at how much of a non-issue it was,” says Melanie. “They either said nothing or they complimented my tie!”

Melanie’s advice:

  • Don’t feel pressured: You don’t need to come out to your coworkers if you don’t want to, but you don’t need to hide your identity either. Do what feels right for you.
  • Test the waters: If you’re unsure of how your coworkers might react to your sexuality or gender identity, try engaging them in casual conversation about LGBTQ+ issues. If you get a positive response, it could be an indicator that your coworkers are more open-minded and accepting than you first thought.

Here’s a quick how-to guide for gender-neutral pronouns!

Traditional Masculine Traditional Feminine Gender Neutral (Singular They) Gender Neutral (Ze)
He laughed She laughed They laughed Ze laughed (pronounced: “zee as in the letter ‘z’)
I called him I called her I called them I called hir (pronounced: “here”)
His eyes gleam Her eyes gleam Their eyes gleam Hir eyes gleam (pronounced: “here”)
That is his That is hers That is theirs That is hirs (pronounced: “here’s”)
He likes himself She likes herself They like themself Ze likes hirself (pronounced: “here-self”)

Kyle

Kyle is bisexual and works in publishing as a Marketing Coordinator. When he first started with the company, he didn’t mention his sexuality because he didn’t feel it was relevant to his work.

“At first I didn’t think it was anyone’s business,” says Kyle. “My hesitation was just how much of my personal life should I divulge in general, not just my sexuality.”

But as time went on, he felt more comfortable. When he finally mentioned at a company party that he was going on vacation with his boyfriend, he says his initial expectations were “blown out of the water.”

“The thing about working in marketing is that people are usually very open and aware of what’s acceptable and what is not,” says Kyle. “It was very positive, it wasn’t at all negative, so that was a nice surprise.”

Kyle’s advice:

  • Respect the workplace etiquette: Remember that there is a time and a place for everything. Talking about your latest hook-up is inappropriate and can seem unprofessional, regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Be enthusiastic: “Do everything and do it with a smile,” says Kyle. Your employers will recognize your hard work and it will leave them with a great first impression.

Starting a new position can always be a little nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember you got the job for a reason. Work hard, be yourself and you’ll do just fine!

Glossary Of LGBTQ+ Terms

TERMS DEFINITION
Straight A heterosexual person; someone having a sexual orientation to persons of the opposite sex.
Cisgender An individual whose experience of their own gender is in agreement with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transgender An individual whose experience of their own gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.
LGBTQ+ An acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and others. It refers to a population of people united by having gender identities or sexual orientations that differ from the heterosexual and cisgender majority.
Queer An umbrella term for non-traditional sexualities, gender identities and expressions. It includes anyone who wants to identify as queer and feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender or sexuality.
Gender-Neutral Suitable for, applicable to, or common to all genders.

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