Workplaces get rainbow stripes

Many MNCs have opened their doors to employees from the LGBT community. This is their way of helping them assimilate better with the mainstream society

Tasvi is a transwoman, who joined  the ANZ Bank as an analyst, four months ago. DH PHOTOS BY PUSHKAR V

Workforce in private companies, including MNCs and banks, is getting a dash of rainbow hues, thanks to their managements throwing open their doors to those from the LGBT community. This, the employers believe, is a step towards being more inclusive.

Metrolife interacted with members of the LGBT community employed in corporate jobs, to understand how their lives have changed.  

Here’s what they had to say: 

Job gives me dignity 

Twenty-eight-year-old Tasvi was born a male but discovered that he was drawn towards dolls and had feminine emotions when he was only four or five years old.

“I always imagined myself to be this little girl who loved her toys and enjoyed singing and dancing. It was hard to decipher what was happening to me. I was a victim of bullying and discrimination in school. I grew up feeling like a misfit. I left home for good when I was 18 years old because I realised that my parents were ashamed of me. I also had a younger sister and I was afraid of ruining her prospects of a good life,” Tasvi tells Metrolife.

She feels moving out did her a world of good. “When I met people of my community, the first thing that I experienced was a sense of acceptance. I realised that I was not alone. They said that transwomen traditionally earned their livelihood by either begging or doing sex work. I didn’t want to do either. I resisted it with all my might. I wished something better for myself,” says Tasvi. 

After changing different jobs, Tasvi joined the ANZ Bank as an analyst four months ago. “I work in the area of channel registration. It has been four months and I am thoroughly enjoying my work,” she says.

What is her equation with her colleagues? “They are not sympathetic towards me, and I like it that they treat me like one of their own. I couldn’t have asked for a better place,” she says.

A second pre-university dropout, Tasvi is currently pursuing a correspondence course in BA in History. What changes is she looking forward to? “I wish people would stop categorising those from the sexual minorities and start treating them as normal individuals,” she adds. 

Nithyananda discovered his sexual orientation
when he was 10 years old but came out of the closet
only three years ago.

Better policy on inclusivity needed   

Nithyananda identifies himself as gay. Armed with a masters degree in multimedia, Nithyananda is passionate about everything that has to do with visual arts. He

discovered his sexual orientation when he was 10 years old but came out of the closet only three years ago. “I am 33 years old but I gathered the courage to talk about my sexuality to my mother only three years ago. Even now, my father is still in the dark about it. I had to tell my mother when the topic of marriage cropped up. I told her that I couldn’t marry a girl because I had very feminine feelings. I told her that I would like to marry a man,” Nithyananda tells Metrolife. 

He was surprised when his mother understood what he was going through. “She told me that she had read about men who were attracted to other men and didn’t find anything wrong with it. A big burden was off me when I heard her say that,” he says.

The journey hasn’t been easy. “As a child, I couldn’t explain what was going on within me. I was attracted to both the sexes. I didn’t know what to call it. I battled trauma, depression and even attempted suicide because I couldn’t comprehend the changes within me and understand why I couldn’t be as normal as anybody else,” he says.

Nithyananda is working at a life insurance company as a sales manager.

What kind of problems does he face at work? “People don’t know enough about sexual minorities. They miss no opportunity to mock and look down on us. There isn’t enough awareness about this. More needs to be done to bring inclusivity,” he says.

“When society still shies away from openly talking about menstruation, loneliness and depression, how can we expect them to be open and accommodative about those from the LGBT?” he asks. 

Ayaan has still not come out as he fears a backlash
from the members of his extended family.

I am scared to declare my sexual identity  

Ayaan learnt about his sexual orientation as a teenager. The only son of an estate owner, Ayaan lost his father a while ago. He still has not come out because he fears a backlash from the members of his extended family. “We are orthodox Muslims and I don’t think my sexual orientation will ever be accepted. My friends and members of the community know that I am gay but I still haven’t told my mother because she always tells me that she is waiting to see me married and wishes to take care of my children,” says Ayaan.

Ayaan says that he thought his life was over when his partner of seven years cheated on him a while ago. “I was doing my MBA when I got a call from my family telling me that my cousin’s wedding was fixed with my friend (I didn’t know it was my partner till I flew down for the wedding). When I learnt that it was my partner, I was too distraught to handle things and I attempted suicide. This was the first and last time I ever had a partner. I am now wary of getting into relationships,” says Ayaan. 

He says that his family has been pressuring him to get married. “I wish to tell my mother soon and I am hopeful that she will accept it,” he adds.

His family stays in Chikkamagaluru but he chose to live in Bengaluru. “There’s more acceptance here and I get to talk with people of my community. I always wonder why God created us like this, as neither male or female. This is the cruelest thing that can happen to anybody,” feels Ayaan.

Layers of challenges 

Prashant Y, a project manager with a firm that works with the LGBT community, helps with placements. He says the major hindrance for members of the community on landing in a job is that they may not have formal education, for various reasons. “Many would have studied till class 10 and some others may have completed pre-university or graduation. Many aren’t fluent in English. Matching the skill set and qualification required of companies is a challenge,” he says.

Hindrances to getting a job 

Legal documentation is difficult for trans people whose identity may not match the gender and name in their documents.

  • Policies of sexual harassment not covering trans people.
  • Benefits are only for married couples so same sex couples lose out on these benefits. 
  • Mismatched salaries
  • Communication problems

Deep-seated prejudice still exists 

Shubha Chacko, executive director, Solidarity Foundation, who has been working with the LGBT community for the last two decades, thinks that there are a combination of factors that have prompted employers to finally open up their policies to accommodate those from the sexual minorities.

“The positive Supreme Court judgements with regard to transgender people and decriminalising homosexuality have helped. The movement too has grown over the years and that has led to many changes. For many MNCs, there was pressure from the headquarters as well.  It is a historic juncture,” observes Shubha.  

She feels such a move will help the members of the community assimilate better with mainstream society.

“We have seen more people from the community openly declaring their identity and we have also seen many of them storming bastions — there are trans people in software firms and in civil services. This allows more people to aspire to these jobs,” she adds.

Having said that, Shubha feels that there is still a long way to go as mindsets need to change. “Members of the community are still not understood and accepted. There are still myths about them and deep-seated prejudice,” she adds.

Give them respectful jobs

Dr Meera Baindur, faculty of Philosophy, Bangalore Central University, welcomes the move by companies to hire members of the LGBT community, but asserts that the jobs given to them must be on par with the rest of the employees.

“Would any company offer a front desk job to a member from the LGBT community? If they do so, then you can call it a positive step towards inclusivity. Giving them a job where they are required to stay underground and work is also a kind of discrimination based on gender affiliation,” says Meera. She points out that the members of the community must also make sure that they work hard to rise up to the standards required by the industry. The companies, she says, must take additional pains to train the members of the LGBT community.


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