A quick shameless self promotion before we begin. I wrote a book titled “But You Don’t Look Gay…” which is available on Amazon. I also wrote a follow up book “No Wait, You Do Look Gay…” You can find both of them on Amazon here.
Coming out at work can be tough. In January 2013 when Jodie Foster chose to come out publicly (at the Golden Globes while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement), she proved just how tough it can be. There are many takeaways from her coming out in business. You can read my blog post about it here.
When someone gets the nerve to finally come out to you at work the last thing they want to hear is “but you don’t look gay.” This is a terrible reaction you should rethink, if you are guilty of saying it. When you say this you are implying that in order to be gay you must fall into one of the LGBT stereotypes. Sure, for every group that is stereotyped there are a certain percentage of people who fall into that stereotype but there are many others who do not. Just because I am a lesbian doesn’t mean I can’t have long hair, like the color pink, wear lipstick or own dresses. But there are many stereotypes out there that suggest lesbians don’t like these things. It’s just plain frustrating.
If you are truly trying to market yourself and your business to the LGBT community you must kick all preconceived notions of what the LGBT community is to the curb. They are not going to do you any good. If someone comes out to you and your response is “but you don’t look gay” you are immediately diminishing what the person may have originally thought about you.
Remember that LGBT people come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of interests just like any other person. People are people and shouldn’t be judged based on a percentage of stereotypes that exist. This goes for all marginalized groups. A quick Google search for “but you don’t look gay” yields many personal stories of people being told this. Many people who have heard this associate them back to bad coming out experiences with their parents or family. I would hope you don’t want anything to do with these negative associations.
If you want to do business with the LGBT community be mindful of the things that you are saying and doing. This may be another one of those phrases that you didn’t know the type of impact or connotation it has. But now you know and you can change accordingly.
In the words of G.I. Joe, the Real American Hero – knowing is half the battle.