Inclusivity and psychological safety in the workplace helped OMD’s Charles Xu to embrace who he truly is. This is the first in a series of articles celebrating Pride Month, curated by the MFA DE&I Advisory Council.
I am queer and Asian, and I spent my 20s hiding my sexuality. It’s hard to put into words my complex feelings towards Pride Month because for a long time, I wasn’t proud of my identity as a gay Asian man.
When I began my career in the media industry, there was hardly anyone who looked or acted like me that I could identify with. I felt the need to act straight and distance myself from other migrants to ‘fit in’.
In my head, I believed that to succeed I needed to be more ‘mainstream’ and more like all the leaders I was seeing around me. Looking back, I now see that my experience was shaped by forms of internalised homophobia and internalised racism. I lost sight of who I really was and pushed away my intersectional identity – the part of me that makes me unique and valuable.
Since joining OMD, I have felt a strong sense of psychological safety and comfort cultivated by the executive team. I have spoken about my intersectional identity across multiple forums at at the agency, and have been met with nothing but overwhelmingly positive encouragement. I have also been invited to executive meetings beyond my pay grade to provide a diverse voice.
Sometimes it can be tiring for people from marginalised communities to shout and scream to be heard and seen. With a supportive leadership team, I feel a big weight lifted – not only am I accepted for who I am, I have also been given a platform to speak louder than ever.
So here I am today, Pride Month 2022, eager to highlight the importance of intersectionality in the LGBTQIA+ community.
To me, the sense of pride doesn’t only represent being proud of the diverse sexual orientations and gender identities within our community, but truly embracing who we are as humans, respecting others’ lived experiences and being able to bring our authentic selves to work.
As an industry, we have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go to truly embrace DE&I. We need to keep asking the difficult questions about our biases, having challenging discussions and making real changes.
In a true RuPaul’s Drag Race Q&A fashion, if I had the chance to go back in time, I would tell my younger self: “Embrace and express your identity. Be gay, be queer and be Asian. Because it sends out a powerful message.”
Now I ask the question to my peers who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community or identify as allies: “What can you do to make our industry more inclusive?”
Charles Xu is OMD Diverse Director at OMD Australia.