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.
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
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.
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.