By S.E. Fleenor | The Muse
Kaiba Lithicum sits across from me, smiling as he talks, clearly at ease in his workplace. But that hasn’t always been the case. He’s often struggled with how he’s been treated at work as a trans person of color. “Being misgendered and deadnamed several times in a shift became emotionally really, really hard,” he says of one job that left him exhausted at the end of each day. “I was just so tense.”
Lithicum, a social work student at Metropolitan State University of Denver, now works at the LGBTQ Student Resource Center, where he can bring his whole self. “It feels more authentic. I feel like I can work better. I don’t need to show up and pretend to be someone I’m not,” Lithicum says.
Unfortunately, he’s not alone in his experiences with prior employers. 9% of LGBTQ employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). In a Harvard survey of LGBTQ folks, 20% of respondents reported experiencing discrimination when applying for positions.
LGBTQ workplace discrimination is a real problem that must be addressed, but it’s largely out of your hands as an everyday job seeker. The question then becomes, how do you find an affirming employer?
We’ve gathered wisdom from queer folks and employment advocates to help you navigate your job search and find a workplace that’ll be truly inclusive.
Research a Company’s Attitude Toward LGBTQ Employees Ahead of Time
Before you start applying, take the time to research the field and companies you’re considering. Kyla Hines, assistant director of the LGBTQ Student Resource Center at the Auraria Campus in Denver, recommends starting by reviewing local LGBTQ chamber of commerce websites to see which companies in your area have chosen to align themselves with LGBTQ communities and employees.