During this Pride season, Allica’s Diversity & Belonging Group hosted a series of 'Colleague Conversations', in which Allica employees shared their personal stories about their LGTQIA+ experience.
We kicked off the sessions with an exploration of the sexuality and gender spectrum. Led by Tami Reichold and Mahesh Vekaria, the session celebrated LGBTQIA+ diversity and emphasised the significance of respecting individual identities.
Let's dive into what we learned from some of the team’s personal stories.
Gemma’s story - raising a non-binary child
Gemma Finlayson, operations manager at Allica, let us into her experience of raising a non-binary child.
In 2019, my child Tobi, who identified as a girl at the time, came out as bisexual. In the nicest way possible, it just wasn’t a big deal to me. I then got a text a few months later: “I’m not your daughter, I’m your son”. I think I responded with, “I don’t care as long as you’re happy”.
It came as a surprise, but I’m a relaxed person so my response was more ‘let’s see what we can do’ and trying to make them feel comfortable and happy – that’s my number one priority for my child. I researched charities that support young teens going through the same thing. I contacted ‘Mermaids’ and asked for advice, and encouraged Tobi to join their monitored forum so they’d have someone to talk to.
As for pronouns, it was important to honour this difference in any way I could. Changing their name on my phone was certainly a start. I definitely feel protective towards Tobi and it’s been a real eye-opener. While I correct people who get pronouns wrong, I understand how hard it is.
Our children’s happiness isn’t always going to be the same as what makes us happy because they’re their own people and if you don’t know enough - just find out. There’s so much support out there, ask questions and don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Steve's story - becoming parents through adoption
Steve Sisson, relationship manager at Allica, talked us through his journey into parenting through adoption with his husband.
If I had to describe my family in one word: chaotic. Raising a 12-month-old French Bulldog (Milo) and a 9-year-old boy certainly keeps things interesting.
Before meeting my husband, Sean, I lacked parental instinct. However, a year into our relationship, we knew we wanted children.
Our journey wasn't straightforward. Dealing with disorganised social workers and facing challenges as a same-sex couple made it even harder. After some bumps, background checks, and the help of a great social worker, we connected with our son, an 11-month-old boy.
The bond was instant. We fell in love with him the moment we met. Within minutes, we were playing on the floor, and he was giggling away.
It’s funny because I spend my whole life at work negotiating, and now I spend my whole time at home negotiating with a 9-year-old – you try and guess which is more difficult.
All I’d say is, love is love, whether through birth or adoption. Parenthood fills a void in my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, even if it means giving up designer clothes for now.
Steve and his dog, Milo.
Tigana and Mahesh's stories - balancing religious faith with sexuality/gender preferences
From a young age, I held a liberal view of religion, believing it wasn't meant for me. I always sensed there were aspects of myself that set me apart. Religion simply didn't resonate with my identity as a pansexual person, and when I distanced myself from it, my mother felt like she had lost a daughter.
However, after a significant passage of time, 2023 became the year when I started feeling drawn back to Islam. I had always kept my religion and sexuality separate, unaware that I could embrace both in my own unique way. It was during this period that I was introduced to a community called Inclusive Mosque Initiative (IMI). Instantly, I felt a sense of belonging. We celebrated Eid together, and prayed side by side, in contrast to the traditional norm of separate prayers.
Now, I am part of a study group dedicated to exploring the Quran within the queer context. It is a safe space where I can rediscover my relationship with Islam, free from the burdens I once felt when I was younger.
I grew up in a traditional Hindu household, where being a part of the temple community full of customs and expectations was instilled from a young age. This environment did not acknowledge anything about gender preference or sexuality and as a result, I found myself disconnected from it as I grew older through my teenage years. I found it hard to accept the inequalities and started to see more openness outside of the community I grew up in.
Over time, I realised Hinduism is diverse and profound, not just bound by the societal norms I saw growing up. I grew back closer to my faith naturally. Stepping away allowed me to see inequalities within my community, but it also deepened my connection with Hinduism and I was able to reconnect to it differently without the burdens of expectations.
Though I visit the temple less often now, Hinduism's principles bring me comfort. My faith is personal, nurturing my spirit without harming my well-being and now aligning with my values.