The inclusion of LGBTQ + in the workforce goes beyond the demonstration of rainbow logos in June and public relations statements on the Month of Honor – it begins with persistent efforts at the grassroots that promote empathy and compassion for the working world. The oppression of queer people in American history dates back to the pre-colonial era and continues today. The efforts of outspoken activists have brought about changes in legislation and greater cultural shifts over the decades, but significant progress has yielded tangible results only in the last two decades. Sodomy was federally decriminalized in 2003and became queer discrimination in the workplace federally illegal only in 2020.
And even a few more civil rights issues continue to stand in the way of equality. Colored queers – especially queers and transgender people – continue to face discrimination in employment, harassment in the workplace and an increase in violence. LGBTQ + people are also more likely to live below the poverty line, dealing with depressed wages along with the fear of being persecuted or convicted for being in the workplace.
To better contextualize the history and efforts taken to promote – and many times regress – the inclusion of LGBTQ + workers in the American workforce, Kazu analyzed moments in history where workers’ rights and queer intersected. In addition to relying on information from National Parks Service series about LGBTQ + America and many other online resources, we consulted with three books: Liz Winfeld “Direct talk about gays in the workplace” (1995); Sharon Silverstein and Annette Friscope “Direct work, fun life” (1996); and Sachi Barreira “Your rights in the workplace” (2018).
Although this collection is exhaustive, it is not exhaustive. Data and other information on the rights of LGBTQ + workers have for decades excluded bisexuals, non-binary and transgender people, focusing primarily on white, wealthy, cisgender gays and lesbians. Although steps have been taken over the years to prohibit discrimination, workers in America remain hired unless contracted. That is the employer technically can fire a worker for fuss despite a Supreme Court ruling of 2020, until homophobic motivations of employers are revealed openly. Only union contracts can protect employees from dismissal for no reason.
The landscape for LGBTQ + workers continues to change amid the efforts of activists and better understanding across the country. Following the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage in 2015, there has been a clear stagnation of achievements made on behalf of LGBTQ + workers and workers in general in the United States. The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, and the amount of workers protected by trade unions continues to decline.
But one topic remains clear to LGBTQ + workers: overcoming fear and condemnation is their greatest tool in combating discrimination.
As stated in “Direct Work, Gay Life”: “We have found that fear is the main enemy of gay professionals. Those who have the courage to face discrimination have emerged with virginity and pride and their careers. So we believe it is never too late to leave. Even after a discriminatory incident occurs, camping can be a better protection for gay professionals. ”