QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

Is it true that people can be fired for being gay or lesbian or bisexual? I saw that commercial on Ellen's coming out show and just couldn't believe it. It can't be fair to fire people for who they are. Why should my boss care as long as I do a good job? I've just come out in the last year and this makes me want to go back in.

Answer

I'm afraid that it's true in far too many places. In May of 1997 Maine passed a law making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. That brings the number of states that provide similar protection to 10. The others are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. In addition some cities and counties in the other 40 states offer protection.

A similarly uneven picture exists worldwide. Some countries are far more restrictive than the U.S. while others are more open.

What's legal isn't always fair, which is the reason people often band together to press for changes in existing laws. Slavery certainly isn't fair, and it used to be legal in this country. Prohibiting women from voting isn't fair either, but it also was illegal for many years. Outlawing certain religions is unfair, but has been and sometimes still is illegal.

There's still far too much prejudice out there against people who are lesbian or gay or bisexual, and part of coming out is learning how that prejudice may affect your life. It's a sobering realization. What makes it bearable for many people is the recognition that being honest about who you are is a whole lot easier way to live than hiding in order to be accepted.

I hope you'll find the positive aspects of coming out make up for the downside.

3/14/98


Author and psychologist Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D. has a psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bernstein speaks and writes about gay, lesbian and bisexual people for both general and professional audiences, and is the author of the new audiotape, NOT HETEROSEXUAL: An Educational Program About Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People.

 

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