I was my own worst ally

My journey was not a fast one. It took me 30 years to feel safe and be (more) comfortable showing up as my full self.

The journey started when I was 17 years old. That was when I first met the woman who is now my wife. We dated briefly (and tragically) and parted ways. Thanks to her tenacity, we remained friends, writing letters across multiple years, countries and partners. When we finally got back together, I vowed that I would never again let fear get in the way of love.

Allyship equals action

I also had another realisation. I had been my own worst ally. I always thought of myself as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community until I became part of it. My wife, a longtime advocate for my fellow community members, immediately called me on it.

Being an ally is more than just saying “it’s OK” or “I have lots of gay friends.” Allyship is not about turning the other way or taking a “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude. Being an ally is about taking ACTION and advocating for others. But I still wasn’t ready.

By the time I started working with Roche about a decade ago, I’d embraced my identity with my family and friends, but I was still reluctant to share much at the office. I was certainly not advocating. In fact, if I am honest I was still avoiding it. I honed my ability to do the pronoun dance and tried to stick my head in the sand. I was busy – new job, new city. Growing our family. #twins  

Ironically, in my time at Roche, I’ve spent a significant amount of time working with our leaders on building a more inclusive culture. I helped develop diversity and inclusion strategies, capabilities and employee resource groups at a global level. But only in the last few years have I embraced my role as an ally for my own community.

Be true to yourself

I remember it well. I was sitting outside a boardroom waiting to present a project update. I’d been travelling considerably for several years. I took a moment to do the math and realised I’d missed 50% of my young twins’ lives. Not 50% of that month; half of their entire lives! I vowed then and there that if I was going to keep doing even a fraction of this work, it had to be more meaningful. And for me that meant being true to who I was – and encouraging others to do the same.

Fast forward to today. In my role, I have the ear of large communities across our organisation. And I challenge myself daily. Every message where I mention her is a love letter to my wife. Every time I talk about my family on a global webcast, it is my legacy to my children. And every time I stand up and advocate for a more inclusive culture, it is a giant thank you for all my amazing LGBTQ+ colleagues around the Roche world.

A better way

Allies are especially on my mind due to the increased global focus around race relations, racism and racial injustice. While we still have a ways to go, my own sparkly LGBTQ+ community has made HUGE progress. My hope is that this overdue recognition of racial inequality acts as a spark for meaningful progress.

My challenge to all of us is to be an ally, speak up and take action anywhere there is inequity. Lead it.

*this blog was updated May 2021

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