Welcome to our series celebrating PRIDE month! For PRIDE month, we’re supporting our LGBTQIA+ employees by sharing their stories. (In case this is the first post you’ve seen, check out our first in the series, where we interviewed Riley Noonan.)
This week, we talked with Cat Bennewise (She/Her), a recruitment consultant at WilsonHCG, and one of the founding members of our PRIDE employee belonging group (EBG). Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What made you realize you identified as LGBTQIA+?
A: I was in denial for the longest time about going on a date with a woman. I had a friend encourage me for a while to try – when I finally did, I was so glad! I was so nervous with butterflies, and, for anyone who knows me, that doesn't usually happen for me. For me, that’s how I knew it's who I was. Living in a very conservative area in Arkansas at the time, if I was going to truly embrace who I was, I'd need to move – and that’s exactly what I did.
Q: Tell us about some of your struggles around being your authentic self.
A: Reflecting back on previous workplaces, people never really knew who I was or who I loved. Unfortunately, I used to hide it. When referring to a partner, I’d always use they/them pronouns; it was never an open conversation in the workplace. Some of my peers figured it out, while others didn’t. The worst part was it felt like a hidden conversation. Being in a corporate environment, I constantly worried I wouldn’t be accepted because of who I loved. Now, at WilsonHCG, I don’t have to worry about that, and can be my authentic self.
Q: How would you describe WilsonHCG’s culture?
A: Before my interview at WilsonHCG, I made the conscious choice to mention I was engaged to a woman. At the time of the interview, I had nothing to lose – so I was determined to be my full, authentic self. To my relief, the woman who interviewed me was excited for me when I told her! To this day, everyone at WilsonHCG has played a role in the welcoming culture that accepts me for who I am. It’s amazing to live my true self and not hide who I am anymore. I’ve never been more satisfied or happy embracing who I am at work and in my personal life. It’s so refreshing to love what I do, as well as love the people I work with and the organization that supports me. At previous workplaces, I’d never had all three of these before.
Q: What’s your opinion on asking about pronoun usage?
A: Paying attention to how people wish to be addressed is important, so you start off on respectful footing. Although it’s not pronouns, I do not go by my first name; I go by Cat, which is clearly stated in my email signature. To me, it’s offensive when people blatantly ignore it and call me by my first name. Respect, above all else, is paramount here. Address people how they wish to be addressed – it's as simple as that.
Q: What advice do you have for someone at the beginning of their journey?
A: Explore who you are – you have support. There’s a community here to help you. You can be whomever you are; there’s no right or wrong self. Be true to who you are and the support will come.
Explore more LGBTQIA+ resources:
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
The Trevor Project Resources and Guides
UCDavis LGBTQIA+ Resource Center