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So, over at Chronicle of Higher Ed, there’s a column on career building about the if and the when of disclosing one’s non-heterosexual status.
I respect the expertise of the author of this article in the area of career counseling. I am not a career counselor and I do not survey the field of higher ed hiring to the depth that she does.
However, I do have a very different opinion on this topic.
As a LBGT/Q person, I find that disclosure is critical in a job search, especially when it gets to the campus interview stage. I would not recommend anyone to not disclose their LBGT status at that point.
Consider the implication: if you choose not to disclose because you fear that you might not get the job, will you actually succeed at that institution? If you are reasonably certain that your disclosure will cost you the hiring, how will you fare after you invest 6 years of time to reach the tenure review? More importantly, what will this job cost you in your emotional well-being? Jobs are important, because they pay rent and shit, but jobs are not the end-all of everything. If a potential workplace is hostile enough to not hire you because you’re not straight and/or cis-gender, then your sense of self is going to take a beating if you actually do work there.
For LBGT/Q people, we spent a lot of energy and heartache to come to a positive acceptance of our identity. Sacrificing that for a job is not a decision to make slightly, when the job in question is supposed to be a long-term career. Taking an academic job is a form of commitment because you will be starting your most productive years as a scholar. Imagine doing your research, whether it’s history, economics, science, or literature, while feeling beset by negation of your identity, or under siege constantly with negative comments about LBGT people, or callous comments on LBGT people, or suffer adverse reactions from your community work. It’d wear anyone down and sap their creative energy needed to excel in their discipline, in my opinion.
We are whole people, with both intellectual and personal needs. The balance between the two needs is an individual choice, without a doubt, but it’s far from certain that it’s a wise choice to down-play one for the other.
So, I contend that if an institution were going to not hire me because I am LBGT/Q, then they’d be doing me a favor. It’s like dating – if we’re not compatible, let’s find out sooner rather than later. Tell me know, instead of killing me from ten thousand smaller cuts later on.
Furthermore, if an institution is that uncomfortable with LBGTQ and that unenlightened, then they do not deserve my contribution. I would rather bring my expertise to an institution who is more appreciative of diversity. If they do not want me to work for them because I am gay, then good riddance – I don’t want to work for them, either. I remember in a class during my PhD years the topic came up, and I said that I’d rather flip burgers at a McDonald’s than work for a school who would only hire me if they thought I were straight.
And that’s still true. There are always other jobs, but there’s only one self-identity.
Yes, economic pressure can be immense and we do take jobs because we need the income. I recognize that. But as a career advice in the path of seeking a job, I really cannot get behind the article’s advice.