Christopher Kent, Patent Examiner, Intellectual Property Office
Normally the month of June is spent gathering allies and rallying to events to support the LGBT+ community. Even during this pandemic, the Intellectual Property Office and Civil Service have stepped up with articles and networked events such as the IP inclusive breakfast, Pride Inside, and PrideON.
The IPO LGBT+ network, iPride, has been running since 2016. The network is office wide and brings together patent examiners like me (a physicist working on computing inventions) w ith those scientists/engineers who work on patents in every other area of technology as well as our trademark and design examiners, IT staff, admin, HR…. well, everyone. This creates a diverse atmosphere with people from different backgrounds, both local to south Wales and those who have moved here for the job. Through the network I’ve got to meet and talk to people at the IPO I’d never have the chance to as part of my everyday work. The network began this year with a focus on allies and what it means to be a visible ally. At the start of the year I thought I knew what this meant, but as the year has progressed, I’ve reevaluated what it means to be an ally with privilege. It’s more than just being respectful of others and realising that each of us lives a different life, it’s knowing that the things I take for granted are not there for others and those differences can have, in some cases, fatal consequences.
The recent events and stories I have heard from America and the black lives matter movement reminded me of the time I was pulled over by the police, in the early hours of a New Year’s Day, on a quiet road in Somerset. I had only been driving for a few months and was taking my sister and some of her friends back from a party; the officer had seen a small hatchback full of youths (most of whom were drunk), with an inexperienced driver, and decided to check us out. I was terrified, to the point where when I was asked if I had been drinking anything I blurted out “Only Earl Grey officer!”. Everyone present found that hilarious, bar me; I was terrified of getting a slap on the wrist, maybe some firm words, but I never feared for my life.
I’m a white, able-bodied, male. I’m also dyslexic and gay, but unless the officer planned on asking how my dating life was going or issuing a spelling bee at the side of the road they would never have known.
Being a good ally then might be best summed up in my eyes as being aware that as well as the ‘known unknowns’ of my privilege there are also great depths of ‘unknown unknowns’, that others must face every single day.
June is usually reserved as pride month, but this year I’m proud to focus myself as an ally for our BAME brethren, both those who are LGBT+ and those who are not. I’ve been asked if I agree with the protests and riots that sweep across the USA, my best response is with a question: If the Stonewall riots and subsequent protests hadn’t happened, could I be open today? Could I hold the hand of someone I love without fear of arrest or persecution? Would I have that privilege?
If you would like to know more about iPride or what the GSE is doing at the IPO, please email us at GSE@ipo.gov.uk
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