Do you remember in high school when there were all different “cliques,” and if you wanted to “fit in” with the popular kids you had to conform your personality or viewpoints to match theirs, otherwise they wouldn’t like you? Well, this is essentially what companies are doing with their workplace policies, not taking into account who these policies exclude and not recognizing that these policies are organized around sexuality. The research explains how people within the workplace conform to the sexual norms present thereby causing the push and pull process of co-sexuality in the workplace. The push and pull process of co-sexuality means that employees will either push towards conforming to whatever their company believes or pulling away from these norms even if they are detrimental. There are many who believe that pulling away from the heteronormative views in the workplace may either cause them problems or cost them their jobs, so instead they stay silent. This may not seem like a problem to those who fit into the heteronormative view because heteronormativity isn’t regulated, whereas “non-normative” sexuality views are often regulated or silenced in the workplace. It is a privilege to be able to openly speak about your sexuality regardless of sexual orientation, however generally only straight people have this privilege.
It’s important to recognize that people of different sexualities want to have open conversations in the workplace about their identity without having to fear discrimination or losing their job. Take a look at the policies and norms set in place at your own workplace and recognize the type of example you are setting for your employees. After taking a minute to self-reflect would you feel comfortable enough to pull against the policies and norms that you don’t agree with? Or would you stay silent?
As a straight person do you take for granted the ability to speak freely about your friends, family, and personal life, but imagine if you are a part of the LGBTQ community would you feel as open? I don’t think it is fair to limit what some people can say and what others can’t, if there are going to be policies in place against co-sexuality then they should be blanket for all sexualities. It’s also important to bring up how heterosexuality is implicitly privileged within some workplaces. The goal is to move away from this mindset into a more inclusive one. I have personally experienced what it feels like to be looked upon as different or “wrong” for having a different viewpoint. I wouldn’t want to experience that every day at my job and I definitely wouldn’t be able to justify making someone else feel that way. There is no reason why people should be denied the opportunity to succeed because of their sexuality. It’s time to respectfully start facilitating open conversations about the negative impacts of heteronormativity in workplace policies and how we can start to reframe our mindset.
Technical communicators play a large role in the clear communication of company policies and guidelines, and it’s important to acknowledge the fact that society is shifting its closed mindset into a more inclusive one. We can collectively help grow and shape our companies so that your friend from the second floor doesn’t have to stay silent about how his date went last week with his new boyfriend.
Organizing Sexuality: Silencing and the Push-Pull Process of Co-Sexuality in the Workplace, by Cristin A. Compton & Debbie S. Dougherty
Viewpoint Written by Rachel M. Spradling, Texas State University