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Written by Richard Cotterill, sr. creative designer, Cadence.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not just words but values that are exemplified through our culture at Cadence. In the DEI@Cadence blog series, you’ll find a community where employees share their perspectives and experiences. By providing a glimpse of their personal stories, we celebrate our One Cadence—One Team culture and the importance of sustaining it as we learn from diverse perspectives.
With June being internationally recognized as Pride month, I was asked for my thoughts on why I am an ally. I thought the answer was simple. I’m an ally for two reasons: I care about my daughter—who is pan—and my wife—who is bisexual. However, after thinking about the question in a little more detail, I concluded that being an ally stretches far beyond my circle and personal relationships. There’s way more to it than that.
Before meeting my wife, I would have said I was quietly accepting and tolerant of anyone’s choices, but a far cry from an ally. I grew up in a British working-class family where I was taught to be fearful of anyone that didn’t look or act like me or my family. I started to notice the issue with this as a teen whilst I embraced my long-haired goth phase in the ‘90s (a phase that has so far lasted for 30 years). My family struggled with my visual identity, and I started to appreciate how ridiculous it was to fear (or scorn) someone due to their looks, music taste, or the partner they chose. But even then, I still wouldn’t have called myself an ally, just a little bit more enlightened than my parents.
My true awakening of allyship came from not just meeting my wife, but also from a group of friends found in an unlikely space! I love comics; they formed a way for me to escape from the realities of life. My wife is also a comic collector, and she introduced me to comic cons and cosplay. It was here that we met some of the best friends anyone could wish for, and I soon discovered that most of them are part of the LGBTQ+ community. I started to hear their stories and experiences, good and bad, from those affected by their LGBTQ+ status. I began to become a lot more vocal about acceptance, parity, equity, and fairness. I wanted my friends, my partner, and anyone else to be free and accepted as themselves. This was when I became an ally.
I have seen first-hand through people’s interactions with my wife who, when telling people that she is bi, are openly dismissive because she has married a man. “You can’t be bi, you have a husband,” “Oh, you mean you kissed a girl once, cute, I did that in college, too,” or the more threatening “If you’re bi, kiss your mate in front of us.” Shelving for a moment the subject of bi-erasure (that’s a blog on its own), people within the LGBTQ+ community have spent years, decades in fact, justifying their existence and their right to live in peace and with the same rights as those who identify as heterosexual and cisgender.
It’s timely to remind people that the first Pride march was on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. That’s right—Pride was created after a riot. Years of oppression and violence towards the LGBTQ+ community culminated in an uprising after the New York Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, on June 28, 1969. Pride was born as—and still is—a protest; a colourful, fun party, but a protest all the same.
Here in the UK, it has been used to highlight the disgust and the eventual repealing of ‘Section 28’ and the continued lobby for the right to marry. Over the past few years, it has shined a light on the Gender Recognition Act and how mentally harmful that process can be as well as trying to combat that term I used earlier: bi-erasure.
I was lucky enough to march in the London Pride Parade in 2019. It was an amazing experience and something I would love to do again. At that time, I was an ally and a volunteer for Bi Pride UK—a charity organisation that advocates for anyone within the bisexual umbrella (Pan, Demi, Asexual, Bi, and others). I became linked with this charity to be the voice for my wife, who, at this point, had not come out to the wider world or, more importantly, to our children. Like a lot of the community, she feared what they would say and how they would treat her. I decided that until she was ready to tell people who she was—and I was expecting that time to never arrive—I would help where I can and use my voice to bring the change that is needed. It changed my life!
I have the privilege of being a white, straight male in the UK. It is a privilege that many like me may not recognize or accept. I have never been turned away, attacked, assaulted, or discriminated against for how I look or who I love. I have had opportunities afforded to me that others have been denied, purely for existing. I expected to be told that my voice and actions were not needed and that the people more directly affected by the discrimination and violence should be the ones to stand up and change things. But, in fact, I heard something very different: I was reminded that without allies, and without support from those outside of the community, how are they meant to get people to listen?
By being an ally, I allow people like my parents to hear from a voice and a person they do not fear. I’m glad to say they have become considerably more tolerant and accepting over the years as they themselves have seen how damaging fear and hate can be.
It’s the end of this fear that drives me to carry on as an ally, both the fear held by the intolerant that their way of life is somehow threatened by people different from themselves existing, but also—and more importantly—the fear that your life, your career, and/or your family is in danger because you do not conform to the historical, societal norms. It is one of the many injustices that we should all, as a society and a species, be over and done with by now.
So, when asked why I am an ally, my answer is to allow my voice to echo and amplify those that live with the fear of being hated for being themselves. I hope, if you are not already, that you become an ally, joining me and the many others that stand beside our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans colleagues and friends to put an end to fear and hate. Pride is a protest, and what better way to show that protest than with love and acceptance?
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