Consider this: Ramesh was being given a farewell when he was transferred to another location. It was quite sentimental as the group was close, and as everybody gave speeches, Ramesh was moved to tears. Noticing that, Shahana, trying to console him, said in an attempt at light humour, “Arre! You are crying! Be a man! Gay ho kya (are you gay)?” Most of the team, including Ramesh, burst out laughing but the one gay person in the team, Aditya had to try hard to laugh and look as if nothing hurtful was being said, though he cringed and wondered if there would ever be a time when he could be himself? As it was, he was already struggling with family acceptance and now being laughed at in the workplace. All he could do was pretend.
This little vignette is representative of the struggles and the dilemma which, if statistics are to be believed, approximately 10% of our workplace employees who belong to the LGBTIQ community go through, and in a larger sense, so do people with other diversity factors. (You can refer to personal stories and Satyamev Jayate episode to know journeys of LGBTIQ+ individuals)
Like in the story above, it does not take intentional hostility towards any gender or sexuality to make a workplace oppressive. We do tend to carry our biases, apprehensions, misinformed sense of humour etc. into the workplace, especially in the small and everyday details – like making fun of a movie star’s gender non-conformance, or saying “That’s so gay!” for something we find silly that unfortunately belittles both queer people and sexual assault. Needless to say, if this continues, it may lead to people like Aditya leaving the organization for no other reason, except the feeling of being excluded if not targeted. While this more than outlines the need for building an LGBTIQ+ inclusive workplace, there are specific needs which are outlined below.
LGBTIQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (‘+’ tells us there are many more). These are some of the prominent identities out of the many terms used by individuals having a different sexual orientation or gender identity from the mainstream.
Work place exclusion/discrimination of Queer (LGBTIQ+) individuals typically happen based on the key concepts of Gender (when someone identifies differently from their biological sex), Gender expression (when someone’s mannerisms differ from the societal norms) and Sexuality (when someone’s sexual attraction is different) . So it is important for everyone to understand these terms and sub definitions when framing policies and guidelines for work-space inclusion