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I've had quite a heated argument with a friend of mine recently. This argument concerned the fact that my friend is gay, and is planning on coming out at his workplace.

From my POV doing so is both dangerous, and inappropriate.

It's dangerous, since people in his workplace might be homophobics, which could lead to tensions (or worse) within his team, and could even harm his career short term.

It's inappropriate, since his sexuality and his work are unrelated, and should be kept separate. Unless he was in a situation where his sexuality could affect his work, they should not be mixed.

When I explained my reasoning to him, he considered my thought process to be homophobic. Which lead me to ask myself if he was right.

So my question is :

In general is it advisable to come out at your workplace, or is it something you should avoid ?

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    May also depend on the local culture and background of other employees. Please consider adding a country tag. – Nimesh Neema Aug 5 '19 at 7:13
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    What Nimesh says. There's a world of difference between doing this at a trendy tech startup in San Francisco and a construction company in Brunei. – Philip Kendall Aug 5 '19 at 7:14
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    Well. I understand your point of view, since I have never disclosed to my co-workers that I'm a heterosexual and I think that's the right thing to do – David Aug 5 '19 at 7:16
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    I wouldn't say you are homophobic, but you should find out why your friend wants to come out in the first place to their colleagues. Sometimes, its just for internal closure. Sometimes it could be attention. Sometimes colleagues might assume you are hetro and the conversations make you uncomfortable and you want to address this issue. – Shadowzee Aug 5 '19 at 7:18
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    I will give the benefit of the doubt, but your reasoning did irked me a little, since you are indeed using one of the most cliché homophobic phrases ("his sexuality and his work are unrelated, and should be kept separate" while not wrong, can easily be read "what you do in your bedroom is your own business and no reason to flaunt it"). Please note that if you wouldn't think about saying the same thing (your personal life has nothing to do with work) to a heterosexual colleague that wants to announce their engagement or something like that, there is a bias there – Juliana Karasawa Souza Aug 5 '19 at 7:27
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It IS appropriate to discuss in the workplace (in certain contexts).

We are not machines at work. People discuss or mention their private lives at certain times at work. Something as fundamental as someones gender preferences shouldn't be a taboo topic. That being said, there are appropriate and inappropriate times to discuss such matters.

There are legitimate reasons why he may consider not "coming out", but "sexuality and his work are unrelated" is not one of them. Other things that are unrelated to work MAY include:

  • What you did on the weekend
  • The weather
  • The latest episode of Game of Thrones
  • Those new pair of shoes you're wearing

Your friend is probably best placed to determine how their coworkers will react, and in addition, your friend is best placed to understand how important it is to them to get this out in the open.

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Personal note: I'm a bi person who didn't come out because I think it's no one business (but my own).

First I would talk about reasons to come out. Is it to be done because he want everyone to know, maybe he come out to himself recently and would like to destroy assumption of him being heterosexual. OR he's doing that because some situation at work make it "work related"? OR there is some other reason.

Ask your friend if anyone in his workplace come out as heterosexual. Is his work is ok with other sexualities but social norm and assumptions make everyone think everyone is hetero?

What kind of coming out he had in mind? There is a skit be Key & Peele "Office Homophobe" that show two types of how you could show your preferred sexuality.

In general coming out is totally dependant on the person. It's much better to hurt your career than to stick to a place that make you feel bad. If your workplace is sexually indifferent then might be no need for a coming out as no one cares.

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my friend is gay, and is planning on coming out at his workplace.

It is important to understand what is causing your friend to do so?

It is highly dependant on the location as well as the kind of workplace your friend works in. It may not get frowned upon in a startups with most employees being young and progressive thinkers, whereas the same could be lethal in a traditional organisation with mid to old age employees.

Again, it has nothing to do with the age of employees, but in general, with the growing awareness, younger generation tends to be more welcoming.

I'd advise your friend not to do so, unless they have a strong reason to (Knowing the reasoning may require to expand/edit this answer).

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