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The Walk-In Closet: Between “Gay-Friendly” and “Post-Closeted” Work

Research in the Sociology of Work

ISBN: 978-1-78635-406-8, eISBN: 978-1-78635-405-1

Publication date: 19 August 2016


Since the 1950s, the closet has been the chief metaphor for conceptualizing the experience of sexual minorities. Social change over the last four decades has begun to dismantle some of the social structures that historically policed heteronormativity and forced queer people to manage information about their sexuality in everyday life. Although scholars argue that these changes make it possible for some sexual minorities to live “beyond the closet” (Seidman, 2002), evidence shows the dynamics of the closet persist in organizations. Drawing on a case study of theme park entertainment workers, whose jobs exist at the nexus of structural conditions that research anticipates would end heterosexual domination, I find that what initially appears to be a post-closeted workplace is, in fact, a new iteration: the walk-in closet. More expansive than the corporate or gay-friendly closets, the walk-in closet provides some sexual minorities with a space to disclose their identities, seemingly without cost. Yet the fundamental dynamics of the closet – the subordination of homosexuality to heterosexuality and the continued need for LGB workers to manage information about their sexuality at work – persist through a set of boundaries that contain gayness to organizationally desired places.




I would like to thank Laura Mora, Desiree Naseath, Madina Salahi, Vanessa Solis, and Andrew Vieira for their research assistance, as well as Vicki Smith, Courtney Caviness, members of the Power & Inequalities Workshop, Laura Grindstaff, Christine Williams, Steve Vallas, and the reviewers for their feedback and guidance.


Orzechowicz, D. (2016), "The Walk-In Closet: Between “Gay-Friendly” and “Post-Closeted” Work", Research in the Sociology of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 187-213.



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