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My Ally & Me: Jennifer and Mali.

Jen Polzin and Mali Čačković from JTI share their Queer Allyship success stories; showing us how an intersectional, empathetic approach leads to stronger connections.

This image has a blue background textured with flowing teal lines.Jen has pale skin, shoulder length blonde hair and wears a black t-shirt. Mali has pale skin, long brown hair and wears a mustard jumper and glasses. There are illustrated sparkles around them.

Jennifer's Allyship story...

Mali always listens and never judges. This is such an important skill when trying to accept everyone’s true authentic self. Mali became a close friend before we even started the queer journey at JTI. When we met as students, I immediately felt safe with Mali and knew that she is a person that takes one as they are. We share a sense for social justice and advocated for social causes and went to rallies long before we became LGBTQIA+ activist – and we still are. As we know what it means to be discriminated intersectionally, we are both passionate allies for all marginalised people.

Whenever I have an unpleasant experience at work, for example whenever I undergo a microaggression, I know that Mali is there for me to comfort me, to build me up again and to give me new strength to continue educating colleagues. Mali always reminds me how important it is to do this repetitive and many times frustrating work of explaining, patiently teaching, and transforming unconscious biases into conscious inclusion – or at least into consciousness.

I realised that Mali is a true ally when she applied for the role of PRIDE Germany’s Co-Chair. Leading the local chapter of our global LGBTQIA+ employee resource group (ERG) as a straight ally, she made it very clear that she wanted to support marginalized groups not only by talking, but with real woman power and practical help. Taking over the responsibility to organise campaigns and events immediately took off some heavy pressure from the German LGBTQIA+ community at JTI.

Mali’s light shines bright into the company. With her taking up the co-chair role, she’s made her boss and close team understand what it means to be an active ally supporting the LGBTQIA+ community without identifying as a community member. She explains the concept of allyship by action every time she is performing within her team and the greater JTI realm. She is a walking demonstration for straight employees at JTI of why it is important to have allies outside the LGBTQIA+ community. She creates awareness with her presence.

Mali’s allyship goes beyond the workplace. She understands what it means to be a true active ally and always supports the people around her. She has helped family members, friends, colleagues, and people that crossed her path equally providing a safe space to share and to discover their own identity. I hope she knows what important space she is holding, allowing people to understand and explore themselves with a friendly soul accompanying them on their journey. As many know, it is absolutely challenging to do that work alone.


Mali's Allyship story...

To me the key to being a good ally is listening and understanding. When I got to know Jen, I already thought of myself as an ally. But Jen showed me how much more there is to it. I learned a lot from them, and I still do.

I really want to say that there is no such thing as a “bad ally”, but sometimes even well-intended actions can lead to a lot more discomfort.

When I witness disrespectful behaviour towards a friend or colleague, I always let them take the lead to respond to this. I don’t want to speak for other people, I want them to feel that I am at their side and that I’m ready to act.

How can you be your true authentic self, when you are constantly worrying about other people’s reaction or perception? Only when you feel comfortable and accepted in every way, can you reach your full potential.

With founding the local PRIDE Chapter in Germany, Jen showed how passionate they are about educating others about LGBTIQ+ topics. In return, this helped me to find the courage to take an active role, also outside of the working context. With their great leadership skills Jen taught me what allyship truly means. With an open mind and a joyful spirit, they helped me to become a better ally and a better person as well.

As a woman from a migrant background, unfortunately I have faced discriminatory behaviour in my life. Even though these were unpleasant experiences, they have helped me to understand what it means to be discriminated against. Through that I realised, how important it is, to have allies by your side and how difficult it is not to have them.

When I joined PRIDE Germany, with Jen as the Co-Chair, I quickly learned how much fun it is to not only to learn more, but to educate others. After I took over Jen’s role of PRIDE Germany’s Co-Chair, I realised that through my support in this, Jen was able to spread their wings even further and pursue the goal to become a global Pride Co-Chair (in which they succeed magnificently, I might add). They really are thriving in what they do. This fills me with joy and motivation, not only as an ally but as a friend.

There are countless situations in daily life, where people who don’t fit in the hetero-normative society face troubles, unseen by those who fit in this construct. What helped me to not forget this, is to constantly ask myself: How would Jen feel in this situation or about this comment?

I believe you have to be aware of your own (unconscious) biases – because every single person has them. We tend to judge other people and even ourselves because of these biases.

The learning never stops.


Jennifer Polzin (she/they/Jen)

Jen is the genderfluid and pansexual Co-Chair of the global LGBTQIA+ Inclusion Employee Resource Group (ERG), PRIDE at JTI. Their main objectives are bringing together queer employees, raising awareness for the LGBTQIA+ community and building allyship to maintain the global safe space – always acknowledging intersectionality. Based in Germany, Jen has launched and co-chaired the local ERG before moving into the global role. She loves to dance, sing, and teach.

Malina Čačković (she/her)

Mali is a heterosexual, cis-gender woman, who has always considered herself as an ally. When a family member came out to her, she could feel the weight being lifted off their shoulders. To transport this into her working environment, she joined the LGBTIQ+ Inclusion Employee Resource Group (ERG) PRIDE in Germany. Apart from being a proud ally, she also is a passionate gamer.


About the 'My Ally and Me' story-telling series:

At We Create Space we always aim to lift and amplify the voices of our global queer collective of change-makers. However with this story-telling series we wanted to give LGBTQ+ leaders the opportunity to bring an ally into the conversation and explain how their valued support has shaped their personal and professional journey.


While you're here...

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