Historically, the Indian culture accepted the LGBTQ community. Historians deem modern societal homophobia as a hangover from the European era, which introduced Section 377. The Supreme Court’s landmark judgement in 2018, which decriminalized gay sex, provided an opportunity for the society to become more inclusive. As per a recent report, more diverse organizations report higher profitability and outperform their compe­titors by 25–30%. Beyond laws, there is the bias and prejudice built into us from lifetimes of brainwashing. The truth, as ever, is gray. When I first met her in a bank in the US, I felt she was different. My colleagues told me later that she had been a man. But the more we spoke and discussed work, I realized that she was a professional — someone who was good at her job, and took pride in it. As my bias melted away, I found myself enjoying the discussions; the experience was an eye-opener. The 90 million LGBTQ community holds the key to an immensely talented and diverse workforce, which is ruling the $1 trillion pink economy. Economically and socially, it makes immense sense for the corporate sector to tap into this diversity-rich pool.

However, the situation on the ground is still not conducive to its extensive participation. It faces discrimination and harassment. A recent UNESCO report provides details about students being beaten and berated for being “effeminate”. The masked faces in the now-famous ‘Pride Parades’ are representative of the need to hide in a society that doesn’t accept the community as “normal” human beings. The issues around inclusion centre around ignorance, fear or apprehension. In our experiences, we found organizations that were willing to talk about gender diversity, but were averse being sexually diverse. Senior managers cited several issues such as the lack of requisite infrastructure, insensitive co-workers, workplace bullying and name-calling, and discrimination at workplaces.

Organizations need to recognize that this community is a formidable force. One of the first things, the former need to do is to consider the latter as an employable resource. If they can push for gender balance, they need to initiate steps to induct LGBTQs. Workplace harassment needs to be addressed. Including sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment policy is an important step. Gender neutral washrooms give LGBTQs the liberty to be who they are without conform to the binary gender classification. HR managers need to go beyond the regular. Homophobia is not desirable — not for individuals, organizations or society. We need to shun our disregard for those who are different. The first step is accepting the existence of LGBTQs. Make the effort to know them better, and treat them as “normal”. Value their professional competence. As SC Justice Chandrachud said, “It is difficult to right a wrong by history. But we can set the course for the future. It is about people wanting to live with dignity.”

~ Sneh is Founder & CEO, Vividhta Consulting

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