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The fear and freedom of coming out while freelancing

As a freelancer, I sometimes peruse job listings, amusing myself at the thought of full-time employment.

The free lunches, monthly team hangouts and gym membership perks are tempting, but there’s a hook that only recently caught my attention. 

“We’re LGBTQ+ inclusive…” 

For most people, this tells you that this company is ethical and diverse. But to the LGBT community, it’s representation. It tells me, “I see you, I hear you, I respect you.” It could be the difference between applying or not.

But for freelancers, it’s a different story. 

I left corporate because I couldn’t see myself being happy with the constructs we must abide by — the 9–5, the office politics, monetizing creativity, and having little or no say about how and when I work. 

LGBT inclusivity isn’t a focal point for gig worker jobs. We operate without the emotional cushion of corporate governance. It’s great to discover companies who make a genuine effort towards inclusivity – but an overarching desire for nation-wide blanket protection. 

In June 2020, the United States ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, workers can’t be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. 

LGBT banner lot

But the bias protection doesn’t extend to independent contractors. As we’re not covered in this ruling, we’re forced to wonder where it’s uncomfortable to come out — maybe even risky, with the fear of missing work. This cuts us off from using our personal experiences to tell stories that can help position the LGBT community as role models and leaders. 

In June 2020, the United States ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, workers can’t be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. 

While this was a win for the community, it came as a surprise that we weren’t covered here before this, like many of the other countries that prohibit discrimination — including Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the United Kingdom. We still have work to do. 

Freelancers march to the beats of our own drums.

And where do freelancers sit? It’s on us to educate our clients and reduce bias. Fortunately, we’re at a crossroads in human history, where being “different” is often leveraged in marketing. We only need to look at the brands who jumped on board during Pride month to see the change. 

As freelancers and entrepreneurs, our businesses are a testament to going out on our own and following our personal truths. Entrepreneurship, in its own way, is “coming out.” We decide to make a living in a way that’s right for us, just like leaving societal expectations behind to love who we want to love.

Maybe, we’re one of the few sub-communities of LGBT that can lead the way, because leadership and pioneering cultural change is what we already do. Maybe, we don’t need to wait for the “LGBTQ+ inclusive” hook to validate our reason for coming out to our clients. 

woman holding white mug while standing

In the end, it’s not about them. It’s for us. 

People choose to work with me because of my words, personality and philosophy. I’ve come to learn the more I reveal about myself, the closer I become with clients. In the end, business is about relationships. And would I want to hide such an important part of myself from the people in my life? No, I wouldn’t. Clients should be no different. 

As freelancers, we work directly with our clients. The foundation already exists and it’s just a matter of when and how you tell them. Plus, it’s difficult to disassociate ourselves with our businesses as freelancers. We are our business. 

I have a different level of closeness with each client. I work with a group of awesome ladies who, while professional, adopt a certain casualness in the office. On our Zoom calls, they often ask me how life is, if I live alone or with a partner, what I did on the weekend, and all that good relationship-building stuff that fuses the emotional connection — the freelancer’s goldmine. 

I simply said: “Yep, I have a partner… and she’s awesome!” Of course, they wanted to know all the details. And while it doesn’t always go as smoothly as this, I’ve found that clients, just like friends, feel honored to know this. 

Tell one client at a time, when it feels right. The beauty of being freelancers is that we get to make the rules. With honesty, independence, variety, and diversity all being important values in my business, I owe it to my clients to be an example of that. I can’t think of anything that better represents these values than by sharing the deepest truth about myself. 

Being “out” has also opened me up to new opportunities, writing for and about the LGBTQ+ community. If anything, to help make coming out not even a question. 

It might be the most important project that I’ll ever accept.