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LGBTQ Ohio State students debate pros, cons of publicly posting gender identity

The biggest worry some Ohio State students have over what potential employers will find on their Facebook pages isn’t necessarily about foul language or underage drinking, but about something core to their identity: their sexual orientation. Others, though, said being upfront about that orientation can be beneficial in the long run.

In February, Facebook added more than 50 gender options, including “transgender,” “cisgender” and “intersex.”While many applaud the social media giant for its step, some at OSU have concerns about employers seeing the changes on applicants’ Facebook profiles.

Ashton Kimbler, a second-year in German who recognizes himself as pansexual – attracted to all genders – said he likes Facebook’s new options but is still cautious when he puts information online.

“Many people, like myself, keep those sections hidden on our profile if we are friends with family or friends who do not know our sexual or gender identities,” Kimbler said.

Amy Thaci, director of Engineering Career Services in the OSU College of Engineering, said career services is happy to help all students, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, with employment questions.

“We are an extremely supportive office of any student who is dealing with these issues,” Thaci said in an email. “Since these issues are becoming more ‘front and center,’ we want to make sure we are posed to provide the best resources and information available.”

Thaci said there is progress to be made with eliminating discrimination in Ohio.

“Ohio is considered a weak state due to the state protections,” Thaci said. “Only state employees are a protected class so students need to be aware of this.”

According to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services website, discrimination against people based on sex or sexual orientation is prohibited, but complaints of discrimination have to include a state of Ohio employee or someone claiming discrimination against a state agency.

Jenna Haaser, a fourth-year in speech and hearing sciences and psychology who works with the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival, an LGBTQ rights festival held in the summer, said in her experience, some employers won’t hire people because of their sexual orientation.

“Employers may discriminate depending on one’s gender identity,” Haaser said. “But I think neglecting to hire someone on a basis of their gender is frankly rather stupid. A sense of one’s self which exists within one’s mind is no one else’s business and has absolutely no reflection on one’s ability to work.”

For some LGBTQ students, though, disclosing their gender or personal information isn’t all that frightening.

Matt Korey, president of Engineering Allies, an LGBTQ support club at OSU, and a third-year in biomedical engineering, said he isn’t worried about potential employers finding out that he’s involved with LGBTQ groups.

“Any company that would refuse to hire me based on my support for the LGBT community would not be a company I would like to work for,” Korey said. “If they refuse to hire you based on that information, then that company may not be the right place for you.”

Korey said it’s good for companies to know about potential employees’ gender information before they’re hired.

“If you do identify as one of the 50 new gender options (on Facebook), (and) if a company doesn’t know this information about you before hiring you, this may be a serious problem,” Korey said. “For example, if you interview as ‘James,’ and you show up to work on the first day as ‘Jamie,’ you may spark a response that may make you uncomfortable. I believe if you are seriously looking for a long-time position within a company, that company deserves the right to know that information about you.”

Korey said clubs like Engineering Allies can help LGBTQ students become more confident by making gender identity not a “big deal.”

“The fact of the matter is that there are so many things that make every single person on this earth who they are,” Korey said. “My sexuality, your sexuality, anyone’s sexuality is just one small part of all of the things that make us incredible people.”

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