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This Millennial's Post About How LGBTQ+ Rights Have Changed In Her Lifetime Also Has A Big Message For Gen Z

"When I was born, homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness."

Recently, I've been noticing a big shift in the way people are posting on LinkedIn. Suddenly I'm seeing a lot fewer "management parables from my vacation home" and way more posts about the real-life stuff that people are thinking about and feeling at work — and especially stories about LGBTQ+ people being out professionally.

And it's not just my feed. According a source at LinkedIn, searches on the platform about coming out at work have increased by a whopping 350% since 2020. But at the same time, a LinkedIn survey last month found that 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ professionals still don't feel safe enough to come out at work.

In the same survey, 75% of respondents said that it was important to them to find a job where they can bring their whole self to work, which absolutely makes sense. People shouldn't have to hide who they are and who they love for 40+ hours a week. It's 2022, not 1987.

In June, 31-year-old Londoner Emma Searle wrote a moving post on LinkedIn about LGBTQ+ rights, and it really shows how much things have already changed in our lifetimes. Emma wrote, "When my parents were born, homosexuality was illegal. When I was born, homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness in the ICD [International Classification of Diseases]."

Emma and her wife at their wedding

Her post went viral on LinkedIn, and the comments were overwhelmingly positive — lots of love, support, and people sharing their stories in response.

Please know that allies like myself with stand firm for LGBTQ rights my son came out in high school and I will make sure he is never considered a second class citizen

Emma told BuzzFeed that her personal experiences with being out at work have been mostly positive or neutral. "Day to day, I don’t think it really comes into play. I’m just Emma and I do my job the same as everyone else."

"I’ve never experienced any direct homophobia whilst at work but particularly when I was younger and in more junior positions, trying to build my career, I felt a pressure to conform to a cis-het appearance and 'tone down' my 'queer' appearance.  

Things like feeling as though I needed to grow my hair out when I first started applying for jobs, feeling the need to wear more feminine clothes when going to important client meetings, etc."

"What I’ve found though is that the more I’ve embraced myself and been open at work, the more confident I’ve felt and it’s allowed me to become a role model for others. My first experience of this was writing an article for Pride month at a previous job, and having people I didn’t know were also queer contact me afterwards to thank me for being open and visible."

office workers holding rainbow flags

And she says she loves seeing how many Gen Z'ers are embracing their queerness at work. "I think it’s amazing how confident and open so many young queer people are now (though we must be clear that it’s still mostly white, middle class young people that have this confidence. Working class, Black, Asian, and other queer people still often face heightened discrimination and prejudice when coming out)."

"I can look back and think, Damn, why weren’t things like that when I was growing up? But then, I grew up in a far more progressive time than the generation before me and I feel very lucky that they fought for me to live in a time that was more accepting."

She also urges LGBTQ+ people and allies to remember that the fight is not over. "Things have positively changed a lot for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi people, but in the UK right now the government is not doing enough to protect and give equal rights to Trans and Genderqueer people."

protestors with trans flags and a sign that says never stop fighting

Finally, Emma says, "Enjoy your freedoms and your privileges where you can — you absolutely deserve to — but make sure you also fight for those that still need your support where you can, and help pave the way for the next generation behind you as well."

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