Most LGBT Working Canadians Experience Tolerance But Some Discrimination Persists

Most members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered community (LGBT) believe that the Canadian workplace has become a more tolerant place, although some instances of discrimination are still being reported, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion survey has found.

The online survey of 983 gay, lesbian and bisexual Canadian adults who are employed—conducted in partnership with the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce—sought to review specific workplace issues that may arise because of a person’s sexual identity or orientation.


The survey found that intolerant attitudes towards LGBT people in the workplace are still being reported, although by a small minority.

Approximately one-in-ten respondents described their employer (7%) or their co-workers (11%) as intolerant towards LGBT people. However, almost three-in-four respondents (72%) feel the attitudes in their workplace towards LGBT people have improved over the past five years. In fact, only two per cent of respondents who are “out” at work say that their colleagues had a negative attitude towards that aspect of their lives.


One third of gays (34%) and two-in-five lesbians (40%) have experienced some form of discrimination throughout the course of their professional lives. Social exclusion (43%) and ridicule (42%) are the most likely forms of discrimination. The likeliest reaction to these incidents is saying nothing (69% for social exclusion, 43% for ridicule).

Coming “Out”

The respondents who have come “out” tend to be more open about their sexuality with their peers (59%) than with immediate supervisors (50%), management (48%), the human resources department (44%) and subordinates (43%). In addition, a large proportion of gays (44%) and lesbians (54%) who have not come “out” claim that their co-workers already assume they are gay or lesbian.

Respondents who have not come “out” say that their private life is private (61%) and feel no need to do so (50%), but almost three-in-ten (28%) are worried about negative consequences. While almost half of these respondents (47%) think there would probably be no consequences if they decided to come “out”, three-in-ten fear social exclusion (29%) and one-in-five are concerned about being ridiculed (23%), harassed (21%) or negatively affect their chances for advancement (21%).


The study outlines an attitudinal divide between two groups. Overall, the responses from gays and lesbians varied largely in some instances from the responses of bisexual men and women. While large majorities of gays and lesbians who are “out” at work say this is an important issue for them (61% and 73% respectively), the proportion dwindles among bisexual men and bisexual women (25% and 32% respectively). Bisexual respondents are also less likely to have experienced discrimination at their current workplace (18% for both men and women) than lesbians (31%) and gays (32%).


The survey shows that the average Canadian workplace has become kinder for LGBT people, with most employers and co-workers being regarded as tolerant towards the LGBT community, respondents acknowledging that attitudes have greatly improved over the past five years, and only 20 per cent of respondents saying they sometimes feel like their peers treat them differently because of their sexual orientation.

Bisexual men and women are more likely than gays and lesbians to regard their private life as private, and even those who have come “out” do not see this as an important aspect. In fact, while more than three-in-five gays and lesbians feel comfortable talking about their personal life with their colleagues, the proportion is slightly lower for bisexual women (55%) and decidedly lower for bisexual men (38%).

However, it is important to note that at least two-in-five gays and lesbians have experienced workplace discrimination at some point in their lives. Also, while some respondents have come “out” with specific people around the office, it seems that acceptance is not universal. Almost three-in-ten respondents have not come “out” because they fear negative consequences

Less than half of respondents who have not come out believe that, if they chose to do so, there would be no negative consequences. A sizeable proportion of LGBT people who are not “out” in the workplace are concerned about social exclusion, ridicule, harassment and being passed over for a promotion—all factors that could negatively affect both an employee’s sense of belonging and productivity.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From August 25 to August 30, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 983 Angus Reid Forum panellists who are employed and identify themselves as being a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered community (LGBT). Results from the survey not weighed. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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