Did More Taiwanese Come Out at Work Since Same-Sex Marriage Legalization?

Did More Taiwanese Come Out at Work Since Same-Sex Marriage Legalization?
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

A recent survey by the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association shows lingering discrimination against gay people at Taiwanese workplaces.

One year after Taiwan’s same-sex marriage legalization, many in the LGBT community still feel uncomfortable revealing their sexual orientation at work. 

A new survey released by the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association showed that there has been no significant progress in terms of how comfortable people feel about coming out in their workplace since 2016. Only 55 percent of the respondents have revealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to “a small number of colleagues,” a result that has mostly remained the same as four years ago. 

Nearly 40 percent of respondents feared losing promotion opportunities by coming out, while 35 percent were worried that it would lead to bullying or workplace harassment. 

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According to the new survey, about 11 percent more respondents said there were employees at their workplace who were “openly out.” 

Some industries appear more friendly to LGBT people than others. The food services industry, for example, appears to be particularly open, the survey noted.

Mia Tang, 33, who works in a department store restaurant, told The News Lens he first came out as gay to colleagues around 10 years ago. “I just wanted to be myself. There is no difference between us and straight people so I felt no reason to hide. My colleagues were all very understanding and informed on the issue,” he said. 

Tang said that his coming out had no negative effect on his career, but he hoped that his work would organize more Pride activities to help others feel more comfortable in their identity — especially those who are not out.

Workers in the manufacturing and civil service industries were least likely to come out to colleagues, the new survey suggested. 

For Rachel, who identifies as a gay woman and previously worked at an international manufacturing company, neither her colleagues nor the HR department provided the security she felt she needed. 

“I was afraid of being discriminated against, and part of it was because I learned from a work gathering that most of my co-workers were against same-sex marriage-related law referendums,” she told The News Lens. “Before I left, I was called to the HR department to discuss what I thought the company could improve on. I suggested training to create a more LGBT friendly environment, but they remarked that everyone has their own beliefs on the issue.”

台灣同志遊行登場 主軸同志好厝邊
Photo Credit: CNA

The Tongzhi Hotline Association also cited the tech industry as a difficult environment for LGBT people. Kurtis, a gay man who works in a small games development business, said he felt his company was too small to institute specific anti-discriminatory policies or guidelines. He suggested that he would feel much more comfortable if the company encouraged employees to show kindness and respect to each other regardless of their gender, sexuality or background.

While some companies still overlook or obscure the diversity that exists within them, many have begun to embrace it and reap the benefits of an open and welcoming work environment. 

Taipei-based consultancy firm Backer-Founder told The News Lens that workers are in their most positive headspace when they feel welcomed, accepted, and happy to be at work. To reinforce diversity, the company began a fundraiser campaign with Equal Love Taiwan in 2018 for equal marriage rights. This year, Backer-Founder is cooperating with another fundraiser named “SEA You Soon” to ensure Taiwanese citizens gain the right to marry anyone of the same sex, regardless of their nationality. Taiwan currently requires the non-Taiwanese party in cross-national marriages to be from a country where same-sex marriage is already legal.

同志面對職場關心感情壓力  調查:明顯變少
Photo Credit: CNA
Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association press conference for the release of the Workplace Equality Survey in Taiwan, May 5, 2020. 

In a news bulletin posted by The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, it states that while the passage of same-sex marriage law may have generally increased awareness of LGBT issues, progress in the work environment remains limited. 

Discriminatory practices still exist as both direct harassment or implicit pressure to conceal one’s identity, according to Assistant Professor at National Chiao Tung University Fan-yu Chiu (邱羽凡). Chiu said at a press conference that although the majority of survey respondents were aware that Taiwanese law prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender and sexuality, they did not feel these laws were being implemented in practice.

Chief Coordinator of the association, Jennifer Lu, said she hopes both central and local governments can incorporate more diversity education into labor training courses. Lu added that the government should also make more resources available to assist small businesses with the matter. 

“As an LGBT civil servant, I found coming out much more difficult than those who work in other job sectors,” Lu said. “We hope the government can do more to acknowledge the contributions made by LGBT individuals, and adapt itself to become the best example of an LGBT-friendly working environment.”

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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