Growing up I had only one wish in my heart: to wake up male. Unfortunately, my prayers were always left unheard. Puberty was the hardest thing that happened to me. Rajkot, a small town in Gujarat where I grew up, only understood two genders. My cis-male friends turned their faces at me and I couldn’t get along with my cis-female friends. I found it hard to fit in and I started locking myself in a room and became friends with books instead.
Gradually, I learned that my gender identity was different from my sex assigned at birth. While I had accepted that fact, and made a friend in the trans community, I still felt that I was trapped in the wrong body and had a strong urge to change my physique. Eventually, I learned that there are surgeries that one can go through, however they are very costly.
While I had these thoughts in my mind, I also knew that my family was financially dependent on me and I was struggling to reconcile both of these factors. I faced a lot of rejection during my job interviews because I used masculine gender expressions; I felt hopeless and spiraled into depression. Often I would get irritated when someone mis-gendered me. I had very low self esteem and I started to compare myself with cis-male individuals, who I saw as privileged. Continuous failure and rejection only made my depression worse and one day I broke down. I couldn’t take the pain anymore and I decided to put an end to it all. I decided to end my life. I felt that death would be easier than to continue living. But somehow, I could not gather the courage to end my life.
The next day, my friend and I decided to celebrate my failure and give life another chance. It certainly wasn’t like it is in the movies; I struggled for the next couple of years to improve my mental health and emerge from depression and suicidal tendencies. I fought negative thoughts every single day. I attended a ton of self-help seminars: some worked, some didn’t. I think my mental health finally started to improve when I accepted my gender identity and decided to come out to my family and close friends. Their acceptance gave me immense strength and a sense of support.
Life after the transition has been much better, but I still face issues today. I still get irritated, depressed, and react to triggers, but that is part of life; it’s like an annoying neighbour that I have to live with. However, now I’m better equipped to handle triggers. I have more control over my thoughts and not the other way around. Now, I feel more empowered.
My journey of empowering others started when I decided to support Trans people in India by providing them with resources and educating their parents/partners about their transition from a medical, social, and legal perspective. As a board member of the TWEET Foundation (Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust), I continue to empower the community by providing them with career guidance.
In 2018, I learned about ThoughtWorks’ Interning with Pride (IWP) program and the awesome work they were doing in the LGBTQ+ space from many D&I professionals. In fact, I promoted IWP within the community via the many chat groups I was a member of. Eventually, I joined ThoughtWorks myself in 2019 as a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Specialist.
For the first time in my career, I felt like I could bring my whole self to work without being judged or facing bias. The environment here gives me room to express my strength, resilience, and vulnerability. I can talk about my life as a trans man without fear of being discriminated against because of my gender identity. Coming from a non-English speaking background, I sometimes struggle to express my thoughts, yet ThoughtWorkers have been empathetic and have accepted me the way I am. I strongly feel that I belong here, more than I do at home. I feel safe at my workplace.
In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue my passion of working in the D&I space and creating a more inclusive and sustainable workplace. As part of the D&I team, I work on a number of programs such as:
- Helping to run the Mitra Collective, our LGBTQ+ and Allies affinity group
- Implementing our Gender Affirmation/Transition-at-the-Workplace policy
- Organizing Pride Month celebrations
- Implementing an inclusive background verification process for LGBTQ+ employees
- Creating D&I activities for our ThoughtWorks India Away Day 2019
- Supporing a job fair for Transgender people.
Like Aditya, many members of the LGBTQ+ community go through the harsh reality of rejection and pain.
We stand with them in solidarity and support. If you or someone you know needs support, we encourage you to use the resources below.
Families for Depression Awareness - Mental Health Resources for LGBTQIA+ People - USA
CDC - LGBT Youth Resources
Pink news UK - A guide to LGBT mental health resources
Each Mind Matters - LGBTQ Resources
LGBTQ+ Mental Health Risks and Resources
White Swan Foundation - LGBT Mental Health
Equality & Mind - UK - Being LGBTQ Person and Mental Health