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BLACK ENTERPRISE Examines How a Growing Number of African American LGBT Professionals Are Coming Out and Breaking Through Isolation and Fear in the Workplace
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27 Jul, 2011, 10:56 ET
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NEW YORK, July 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — BLACK ENTERPRISE leads its seventh annual report on the Best Companies for Diversity with July’s cover feature, “Black & Gay in Corporate America.” Written by Editor-at-Large Carolyn M. Brown, the editorial takes an unflinching look at the cultural and professional obstacles facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) African American professionals and how a growing number are coming out and breaking through isolation and fear within their companies.
“We’re not going to pretend this was an easy topic for BLACK ENTERPRISE to consider. The LGBT community is one that our society still whispers about, mocks, ignores, and in extreme cases, vehemently rejects,” says Careers/Lifestyle Editorial Director Sonia Alleyne. “For black members of this community, the emotional backlash can be even more intense. Due to the topic’s controversial nature, we had some difficulty finding subjects. Even some of those who participated felt trepidation about how revealing their sexual orientation would affect relationships with family, friends, and associates.”
The story also delves into the fear factor concerning coming out to employers. Racial discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by a number of federal and state laws, but gay rights activists say anxiety around denied promotions, dismissal, discrimination, and harassment for being gay is all too real since there’s no federal law that protects LGBT individuals on the job except in the federal workplace.
“Being a double minority, you choose what you present. I could hide being gay, I definitely couldn’t hide being black,” says cover subject Sabin D. Blake, a dealer organizational manager for General Motors Corp. (GM). Blake, 34, kept his sexual orientation hidden for years while navigating the professional obstacles of being African American and gay. Once keeping the secret became too disheartening, he made the decision to gradually reveal his sexual orientation to fellow GM employees and business associates. Each time he told someone he was gay it became easier. “It allowed me to be more productive, more creative, and more innovative at work,” he says. Blake attributes his level of comfort to GM’s workplace and the high visibility of gay senior-level executives and straight allies.
“Many professionals are out in their community but private in the world. They don’t desire to open themselves up to public scrutiny,” says Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. “There’s a healthy black, educated, LGBT professional class in this country but there’s no recognition of their existence. There’s no protection for their rights—for silent or overt discrimination. Black people in general treat the existence of gay, lesbian and transgender people in the African American community like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the former U.S. policy governing homosexuality in the military.”
“That code of silence is the reason why BLACK ENTERPRISE singled out those companies within our ’40 Best,’ according to the Human Rights Campaign, that have implemented policy to ensure that LGBT professionals are protected from additional discrimination and gain access to opportunities for advancement,” continued Editorial Director Sonia Alleyne. “It signifies that these firms believe in the power of full inclusion.”
The July issue of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine is on newsstands now through Sunday, August 14. In addition, visit www.blackenterprise.com/blacklgbt for expanded editorial highlighting the struggles and successes of the black LGBT community in the workplace and beyond, including Black and LGBT in the Black Church; Being Black & Transgendered; Gay Rights vs. Civil Rights; Homophobia in Sports: The Other Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; Gender Identity & Sexuality Discrimination in the Office; 49 Milestones in LGBT History; LGBT Trailblazers – Still Black & Proud; and Black LGBT Entertainers: Out & Proud
BLACK ENTERPRISE, your ultimate source for wealth creation, is the premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans. Since 1970, BE has provided essential business information and advice to professionals, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and decision makers. Every month, BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine provides four million readers with information on entrepreneurship, careers, and financial management. As multimedia company, BE produces television programming, business and lifestyle events, Web content and digital media. BLACK ENTERPRISE is the definitive source of information for and about African American business markets and leaders, and the authority on black business news and trends.
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