Sexual identity in the workplace: Reasons for (not) coming out


  • Mónica Gonçalves
  • Regina Leite University of Minho
  • Emília Fernandes



Sexual identity, workplace discrimination, disclosure/non-disclosure, heteronormativity, Portugal


Extant research on non-normative sexual identity and non-heterosexual people exposes the various forms of discrimination and oppressive practices and behaviors from peers, supervisors and subordinates, clients and organizations in general. This situation creates a dilemma to those workers regarding the self-disclosure of their sexual identity. Most studies shows that the majority usually prefer not to reveal their sexual orientation and or sexual identity in their organizational settings. In the Portuguese context, investigation in this area of research is still scarce. The present paper aims to contribute to this debate by extending knowledge on the reasons underlying the decision to share with others the sexual orientation and/or gender identity at work. To examine the reasons non-heterosexual workers and with non-normative sexual identity offer for disclosing or not to those with whom they interact at work, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 participants with different socio-professional profiles and geographical locations. Women and man were recruited from the personal network of one of the researchers using a convenience and snowball sampling approach. The study findings provide insight into the main reasons why the interviewees choose to disclose or not to disclose. Participants reported as main reasons for disclosure: friendship relationships in the workplace and an inclusive working environment. On the other hand, the decision for non-disclosure results from the anticipated sexual discrimination, the perception of a hostile environment and the lack of friendship relationships. The main results are in line with other studies conducted in international contexts. The study highlights the heteronormativity of Portuguese work settings and the persistence of sexual discrimination of workers with non-normative sexual identity despite the development of Portuguese legislation regarding sexual equality.