A new study suggests most Americans don’t have an issue working alongside LGBT coworkers.
It was a national survey commissioned by San Francisco’s Bospar PR, and it found that 54% of respondents had no preference in whom they worked with in regards to sexual orientation or gender expression.
“For a majority of Americans not to care if their coworkers are gay or trans, it’s groundbreaking,” Curtis Sparrer, principal at Buspar, tells Hornet. “I come from that Gen-X negativity: That being LGBT was a huge problem to overcome and that you had to live in New York or San Francisco to even begin to be treated fairly. This gives me hope.”
And he has reason to be optimistic: Nearly half of young Republicans said they have no preference about with whom they work. And the most accepting demographic was those 75 and up, the group usually considered the most retrograde on LGBT rights. “Considering how much age discrimination people in that bracket face,” Sparrer postulates, “they really don’t care who they work alongside as long as they get a chance to contribute.”
Another statistical surprise: Latinos were most likely not to have a preference (63%), compared to 54.9% of whites and 48.1% of African-Americans. “I’m unsure as to how to explain that,” Sparrer admits of his LGBT coworkers research. “A lot of Latinos are Catholic, and there has certainly been a change of tone in the Catholic church.”
The current political climate might be a factor, too: “As Trump continues to be a white-hot mess, a lot of us are looking to be each other’s keeper.”
But these are just theories. If he could do a follow-up Sparrer says he’d ask respondents why they answered the way they did. “The other thing I’d want to know, and that I’m not sure you ever really can know, is if people were being be honest or just saying what they thought they should.”
His interest in the study, Sparrer admits, is personal.
“I ‘ping’ pretty clearly, and when I was getting my first jobs people reacted strongly,” Sparrer, now 44, recalls of his early days in Texas. “People threatened to resign when I was promoted.”
Even in Silicon Valley, Sparrer was the first gay person a lot of his coworkers ever met. “That made them kind of reconsider their stereotypes.”
Seventy percent of Americans favor LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination laws, but Sparrer’s survey, of 1,100 Americans ages 18 and up, is really the first to explore personal preferences — the kind of thing that can’t just be legislated.
“When it comes to actual acceptance [of LGBT coworkers] in the workplace, there’s no law that can engender camaraderie,” he insists. “The only thing that can change people’s minds is meeting and working alongside openly LGBT people.”
But according to a 2014 HRC study, 53% of LGBT Americans are still closeted at work.
“The number of people who try to hide their sexuality is stunning. It’s the biggest way to change how LGBT people are perceived,” Sparrer says. “Not just the Tim Cooks of the world, but managers, people in factories, in retail. We need to be clear and honest about who we are if we want to be respected at work.”