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It’s Pride Month – and that means it’s time once again to celebrate the beauty and courage of the LGBTQ+ community.

In an article about work and money, several pride flags, including the rainbow flag and the trans pride flag, are seen in front of a building.In an article about work and money, several pride flags, including the rainbow flag and the trans pride flag, are seen in front of a building.

If you work in corporate America, this may also be the time when your company replaces its social media profile picture with the corporate logo in rainbow colors and pats itself on the back for showing so much “allyship.”

Erremmo / Getty Images

Even though the acceptance of queer people in our lifetime has made great strides, we are also currently experiencing a time of growing backlash.

On the political front, Republican lawmakers in several states have banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth and targeted drag performances and Pride events. On the business front, companies like Target, which once had major Pride displays in their stores, have scaled back their offerings due to conservative protests.

If your company encourages you to “bring your whole self to work,” how do you reconcile that with signals from the broader culture that it might be dangerous to be authentically yourself if you happen to be queer? This year’s Out at Work Guide from LinkedIn and Impact Media offers insights into how queer professionals are navigating this difficult situation.

LinkedIn data shows that while 66% of LGBTQ+ professionals surveyed feel like they have an ally at work, 75% still feel pressured to code switch.

“Code-switching” refers to changing the way you speak and act depending on who you are with. Members of minority groups in particular tend to engage in code-switching in order to better fit into the dominant culture. This Key and Peele The “Obama Meet and Greet” sketch is a great illustration of code-switching in action.

According to LinkedIn data, there are several reasons why LGBTQ+ people choose to code-switch in the workplace. In their survey, 74% said they do it to avoid negative stereotypes.

57% said they were uncomfortable revealing their identity at work, 44% feared being treated differently, 40% hoped code-switching would help them advance, and 36% did it out of fear of hostility from management and/or coworkers.

LinkedIn’s report also includes insights from 24-year-old Tim Chau, CEO and founder of Gen-Z media company Impact Media.

To learn more about their story, I contacted Chau via email. They told BuzzFeed that their first work experiences were incredibly stressful due to the pressure of constantly hiding their identity.

Chau explained: “Growing up, I worked in my family’s restaurant and some of the employees there were quite homophobic. I was harassed and bullied at work for many years and just had to put up with it. I was not – and could not – be out at work because that would have meant coming out to my family. I had to constantly switch between different roles. At the end of the workday, I was extremely exhausted, not only from the physical exertion but also from the mental exhaustion of playing a different role.”

They went on to share how working for a startup with a more accepting culture contrasted with their early experiences where they didn’t feel safe to express themselves. “In some ways, queer culture is the opposite of work culture. The corporate world rewards masculinity and normativity, but being queer means breaking out of those hierarchies and conventions. When I had my first startup job, I was really lucky to have a CEO who created a safe space.”

“He wanted everyone to exist as they were, and that was the first time I felt like I didn’t have to hide behind a ‘work self.’ I didn’t have to worry about the pitch of my speaking voice, and I could dress freely and without prejudice in a way that deviated from gender norms. It was liberating. These two very different experiences shaped the kind of work environment I wanted to create for my own company.”

As CEO, Chau says inclusivity is at the heart of how her company operates. “In many professional fields, it’s assumed that straight and cisgender people are the default, and so queer people can feel like they’re making a huge statement by simply expressing themselves. But it shouldn’t be that way. At Impact, we make sure our work culture is inclusive of queer culture. I like to think we ‘queerize’ the business norms.”

Chau says having queer leadership in a company signals to every employee that it is a safe place to be authentic. “One key factor that has enabled Impact to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ people is simply having LGBTQ+ leadership. This may sound straightforward, but it’s pretty rare in the corporate world.”

“As an openly queer CEO, I set a tone that conveys to the entire company that they don’t have to hide who they are.”

Finally, Chau shared how other business leaders can make their companies truly inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community. “A company can’t be a queer-friendly workplace without intentionally finding ways to make queer professionals feel safe and seen. What does your company do to support queer people year-round? How many members of your leadership are LGBTQ+ and talk about it publicly? How does your team integrate the use of pronouns? These factors encourage more LGBTQ+ people to apply and get excited about your company.”

“This generation is queerer than ever before and we need to make sure we center those identities rather than marginalize them.”

If you’re an LGBTQ+ professional, do you feel like you have to code-switch at work? What signals to you that a workplace is truly safe and inclusive? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Looking for more LGBTQ+ or Pride content? Check out all of BuzzFeed’s posts celebrating Pride 2024.

"Graphic for Pride Month 2024 showing three different faces, divided into black and white and color. The bold text reads "Graphic for Pride Month 2024 showing three different faces, divided into black and white and color. The bold text reads

Zachary Ares/BuzzFeed

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