(CBS Charlotte) — Like everyone, gay individuals want equality, acceptance, and the same privileges that everyone else has. However, in many states throughout the country, equality is a distant dream and the farthest thing from reality.
While gay marriage gets a lot of attention, other issues that affect gay individuals lurk in the background. Some of these issues affect every aspect of their lives.
For instance, in 29 states across the country a person who is gay can be fired just for being gay. What’s more alarming perhaps, is that in these 29 states, a person can also be fired if their employer perceives them as gay.
According to a study published in 2011, 40 percent of gay people surveyed believe that they have been the victims of discrimination at work.
It is this discrimination that forces some gay people to hide their sexual orientation, for fear that they too will be discriminated against, or possibly even fired — just for being gay.
For gay individuals who choose to hide their sexual orientation, the fear of “being found out” follows them around like a dark cloud. Their life becomes a secret, and they may even find themselves “pretending to be straight,” in order to keep their secret from getting out.
The fear of people finding out about their sexual orientation can lead to overwhelming stress, which can not only cause health problems but it can also cause issues in their relationship. When a relationship has to be kept a secret, the relationship tends to lack balance — and just like their sexual orientation, the partner remains hidden.
“If You’re Gay, Do Not Apply”
Not only can a person be fired for being gay, or perceived as being gay, in 29 states in our country, it is perfectly legal for an employer to reject LGBT people from applying for a position. Locally, while North Carolina and South Carolina are both among the 29 states where employers can legally discriminate against LGBT people, many companies in each state have their own policies in place that prohibit such discrimination.
Additionally, laws devised by individual cities can protect the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. In recent years, the LGBT community has made great strides towards equal rights in some states, but until a national law is passed, many gay individuals will continue to hide their sexual orientation from their employer — out of fear of being fired.
-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte