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Bisexual workers experience less discrimination, but more likely to conceal identity

Bisexual workers are less likely than gay or lesbian people to experience workplace discrimination tied to their sexual orientation. However, bisexual workers are still far less likely to report being open about their identity with their coworkers or supervisors.

Photo by Tyler Franta from Unsplash.com

Bisexual workers are less likely than gay or lesbian people to experience workplace discrimination tied to their sexual orientation. This is according to think-tank Williams Institute that similarly found that – interestingly – bisexual workers are still far less likely to report being open about their identity with their coworkers or supervisors.

“The higher rates of concealing their sexual minority identity among bisexual employees may mask the extent to which they experience unfair treatment based on their sexual orientation,” Christy Mallory, legal director at the Williams Institute and the report’s lead author, stated in a news release.

Key findings from Williams Institute included:

  • While 74.6% of gay men and lesbians reported being out to their supervisors, only 36.0% of bisexual employees were out to their supervisors. Meanwhile, 19% bisexual employees reported being out to all of their coworkers, compared to 50 of lesbians and gay men.
  • About 60% of gay men and lesbian employees and bisexual employees reported that they avoided social events or avoided talking about their lives at work. This is to avoid discrimination and harassment.
  • Bisexual men and women were more likely than gay and lesbian employees to report that they changed their appearance at work to cover their sexual orientation (26.4% v. 17.9%). Gay and bisexual men were more likely than bisexual women, in particular, to engage in covering behaviors.
  • 33.8% of gay and lesbian employees reported that they had experienced at least one form of employment discrimination because of their LGB status at some point in their lives, compared to 24.4% of bisexual employees.
  • 33.1% of out bisexual employees, and out lesbian and gay employees (36.7%) reported experiencing at least one form of discrimination.
  • 46.4% of bisexual men and 42.7% of gay men reported having been fired or not being hired at some point in their careers because of their LGB status. In contrast, only 25% of lesbians and 27.2% of bisexual women reported such experiences.
  • 11.2% of cisgender gay and lesbian employees, and 6.6% of cisgender bisexual employees reported that they were fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year. 19.5% of out gay men and 12.7% of out bisexual men reported these experiences in the past year, as compared to 3.7% of out bisexual women and 10.9% of out lesbians.
  • 41.8% of gay and lesbian employees reported experiencing at least one type of harassment (verbal, physical, or sexual) in the workplace at some point in their lives, compared to 34.1% of bisexual employees. Among cisgender LGB people who were out in the workplace, bisexual men (60.3%) were significantly more likely to experience at least one form of harassment than out bisexual women (38.3%) and out lesbians (32.9%). Here, bisexual men reported a higher rate of harassment compared to out gay men (48.4%).
  • 57.7% of out bisexual men reported experiencing verbal harassment at work at some point in their lives compared to 26.8% of out bisexual women and 29.5% of out lesbians. Out bisexual men were slightly more likely to report verbal harassment than gay men (41.6%).
  • Out bisexual men were twice as likely to experience physical harassment at work compared to out lesbian employees (33.3% compared to 16.7%). Out bisexual men were also more likely to report physical harassment than gay men (23.7%).
  • 17.4% f lesbian employees were the least likely to report sexual harassment at work. By comparison, 29.2% of out bisexual women, 33.6% of out gay men, and 34.8% of out bisexual men reported experiencing sexual harassment at work.
  • Among LGB employees who were out in the workplace and had been treated unfairly, over 60% of bisexual men (64.5%) and gay men (60.9%) reported that the unfair treatment was motivated by the religious beliefs of their supervisor or coworkers.
  • 57.5% of out bisexual men and 50.0% of out gay men said they had left a job because of unfair treatment compared to 34.8% of out lesbians and 29.0% of out bisexual women.

For the Williams Institute, the findings suggest that LGB employees should not be treated as a monolithic group when researching, understanding, and addressing their workplace experiences. “They vary in the degrees to which they are out in the workplace and engage in strategies to downplay their sexual orientation. These findings suggest that they also face different types and patterns of workplace discrimination and harassment. More specifically, these findings suggest that gay and bisexual men may face unique and intersecting forms of stigma associated with their gender and sexual orientation and additional pressure to conceal their LGB identity at work.”

And so “it is vital that policymakers, employers, and researchers take a nuanced approach to understanding and addressing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace to meet the unique needs of these communities,” Mallory ended.

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