You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would recommend putting “I'm a lesbian -- like it or lump it” in script at the top of your resume. However, the right way to out yourself to a potential employer is up for debate.
Some of us have gained significant work and volunteer experience from obviously gay/lesbian-oriented organizations. Others might struggle with how forthcoming they should be in their resume or job application's Other Interests section. Knowing how much to say when the recipient is an unknown quantity can be troublesome.
Now or Later?
“I can't imagine any job that is so great it's worth hiding who you are or selling yourself short by leaving out all those organizations you volunteered time with, just so no questions would be asked,” says Gay Men, Straight Jobs author and Monster Contributing Writer Dan Woog.
When interviewing men for his book, Woog discovered two schools of thought on the matter. “There are those who believe as I do,” he says. “Why work for a company that doesn't want gay people? Then there are those who believe it's more important to get the job first, and then come out after people get to know you. I'm here. I'm queer. I'm in the next cubicle!”
Woog also found some people on a middle path. “They list their GLBT activities on their resumes but don't draw attention to it,” he says. For instance, the job seeker might mention The Rainbow Alliance or NLGJA, without spelling out the acronym or going into additional information, such as “vice president of gay campus group.” The rest, says Woog, is left to the interviewer. If she says, “The Rainbow Alliance –- tell me more about that,” it's an opportunity to expand on it and judge her reaction.
Liz Winfield, coauthor of Straight Talk About Gays in the Workplace, is adamant: “I think it is as inappropriate to come out on one's resume as it is to mark down one's religious or political affiliations. Chances are, these things, while being very important to the construct and character of the individual, have nothing to do with the task at hand.”
However, Winfield says a resume should be comprehensive and honest. “So if a person has done work with Lambda or the HRC for instance –- and the reader even knows what these things are –- certain presumptions can be made or not,” she says. “It's the same as if someone puts down that he is a deacon in the church or a Hebrew school teacher on the weekends.”
Do Your Homework
No matter how you decide to proceed, you should do your homework first. Know what legal protections you do or don't have depending on where you live. Laws against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation exist in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Everywhere else, it is perfectly legal for potential employers to ask if you're gay, and then hire or fire you based on your answer.
Fortunately, it is now quite common for businesses to be light-years ahead of state and federal governments when it comes to nondiscrimination policies.