Covering is the act of hiding or downplaying aspects of one’s identity in order to try to match—or to avoid violating—the norms of a group. This often involves aspects of a person’s identity that they believe will be viewed negatively or result in mistreatment, such as those related to their culture, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality, among many others. The term is often used in the context of a person who is a member of a minority group doing this in the presence of a majority group, especially in the workplace. But it can happen in countless ways, settings, and situations. Here are just a few examples of actions that could be considered covering: A Black woman may avoid wearing natural hairstyles or “tone down” qualities of her personality that are associated with negative stereotypes, perhaps by being less assertive during meetings. A bisexual man may hide aspects his sexuality, such as by mentioning relationships with women but not men. A parent may avoid mentioning that an absence is related to childcare responsibilities, especially in an office environment with few other parents or where parenting issues are rarely discussed openly. The verb form cover (meaning to perform the act of covering) is sometimes used, but it’s less common. Example: Covering adds another layer of stress for workers who don’t feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work.
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