What does it mean to celebrate pride in an otherwise 'straight world'? How important is it to understand the dynamics of gender and sexuality in everyday lives? In a diverse world, where inclusivity is not just an opinion but actually the most pragmatic way to be, how can each one of us bridge the existing gaps?
The last six months of being in Thoughtworks has painted a very different picture of the otherwise unpopular corporate world. In June, Thoughtworks India celebrated the Pride month, when many in the organization got together to talk about gender identities and their challenges. A collective effort that displayed the willingness to go beyond the preset limitations and perceptions.
The urban, rural and Corporate India
Today's India speaks about gender identities more openly. The urban India, especially, has been very vocal about LGBTQA+ rights and challenges. This, however, represents a very small fraction of the problem. People from the trans community face a lot of discrimination, especially when it comes to finding a house in the city. It is difficult to even go about doing their usual work without getting unwanted attention. In a complex society like ours, where radical conversations are hushed under patriarchy and making a 'choice' is seen as a threat, the need for taking collective responsibility becomes of paramount importance.
The state of rural India though remains frightening. For a very large population of the country that lives in rural parts of India, an inter-caste marriage often leads to honor killings. One can only imagine the life of a homosexual. Societal norms make it difficult to come out, and if at all that happens, it mostly results in being ostracized or even death.
Corporate India has been making a slow but positive progress. Several companies have incorporated inclusion and diversity policies and under this wide spectrum have been taking deliberate and diligent efforts to create opportunities for the LGBTQA+ community. However, in smaller companies from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, the consequences of being discovered can be pathological. Sometimes in the larger companies too, coming out can be daunting. The corporate needs to look at the LGBTQA+ inclusion not just as the right thing to do, but also view it is a competitive advantage. To the external world, such organizations give out a message of safety. Plus it is a wonderful opportunity to work with an amazing pool of talent which brings with it a fresh approach, a wider and deeper perspective to look at things.
Culture of acceptance
We cannot empower historically marginalized communities if we do not have a culture of acceptance. For decades the LGBTQA+ community has fought for its basic rights to existence, freedom to love and a safe space to work. And unless there is a collective responsibility, and an honest intent to create inclusive spaces, change cannot come. A sentiment that I witnessed getting translated into action when we celebrated pride in Thoughtworks.
Awareness is an essential ingredient of social responsibility. Pride event celebration went beyond the usual textbook approach by incorporating a presentation on the history of LGBTQA+ community since the beginning of human civilization, a fun role-play activity designed to understand the dynamics of gender and sexuality in everyday lives, also allowing the participants to get a sneak peek into the psyche of 'the others' and see the world through their lens. The day then proceeded into a Q&A session and movie screenings on various aspects and issues of LGBTQA+ community.
The LGBTQA+ community members shared their stories, their life with the participants, thus creating an ecosystem of sharing. It is such a beautiful thing to discover the beauty of co-existence in spite of our differences, to create a community with a common purpose. The fact that we can be whoever we are, and yet have friendships that last a lifetime, or have a work environment where being 'straight' is not a privilege but just another gender identity, is truly remarkable.
A big shout out to all the volunteers in Chennai, Gurgaon, Pune, Coimbatore, and Bangalore office who organized the event and made it a celebration, in a true sense. For many it was their first time to be a part of any such interaction, thank you for your participation. The first step to any positive change is by acknowledging and being aware of the problem. Kudos to the relentless hearts who fight as an ally, a friend, may you forever find the courage to stand up for what's right! A big warm hug to Thoughtworkers from the LGBTQA+ community for being a continuous source of inspiration.
The night sky is dreaming,
And singing songs of your beating heart,
Rejoice, it is your time.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.