How I Went From Not Knowing Anything About The LGBTQIA+ Community To A Staunch Ally

How does someone having consensual sex with a same sex partner affect me, in the same way as someone else's heterogenous sexual encounter does not impact me? It's their life, their choice.

When I read about this month’s theme – I was inclined to pass it over as I do not identify as a member of LGBTQA+ community.

However, there was an urge that I felt to write about my story of learning about the community, meeting the people and coming to appreciate that while our differences in gender, race, religion, sexual orientation make us unique in our own ways but at the bottom of it all we remain human beings with our own humaneness.

The age of the unknown phenomenon

I am a 70s kid – the Gen X. There was no talk about sexual orientation or for that matter about sex in those times despite having progressive parents. I can’t talk about my parents, but I had no idea about a concept of different sexual orientation.

Likewise, I remember in our school days, there were 2 girls in my class who seemed to be close in a different way than I would be to my other girlfriends. We would often talk about how it seemed abnormal to us. But now that I look back to it – I wonder if they had different orientation.

Then for a long – long time, there was no further talk or curiosity about this topic – not because I had any disdain, but because I just did not know about this. How would you come to know about the existence of something which is neither talked about, nor written about.

From unknown to seen

Then in 2010, I started working in US. That was when I first heard about being Gay – there was a Gay person who was letting out one room in his apartment – that was the first time I came to know what being Gay meant.

That time I was not so open-minded that I would have stayed in an apartment with a man, but I remember wondering – would this man actually not be a very safe man for women as he is not interested in them at all.

Then I remember another encounter when, for the first time in one of my projects – a stakeholder was gay. What I remember the most about him is his impeccable fashion style. Then again, in another project – another queer team member had impeccable dressing sense. But thus far all encounters were superficial, and mostly I observed the fashion sense.

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From seeing to knowing

Then, it was in 2017-18 that I started engaging with members of LGBTQA+ community at a deeper level. This time I saw more women from the community who openly talked about their partners. This was when I came from a superficial understanding to working with people without judging their personal traits. They were here to do a job and so was I – if we worked well, how does it matter to me what they do in their personal lives.

Then I went back to India in 2018 and the Supreme Court verdict decriminalizing Article 377 happened. I also remember around the same time watching a movie in Indian context which had 2-3 different stories, where 1 of the stories was about a Gay man who was forced to do a sexual act for a policeman to avoid being imprisoned for being Gay.

I remember watching that movie and feeling sorry for the protagonist – as a woman, I could feel that moment of helplessness as equal to a woman being raped.

Furthermore, I think my professional acceptance of people from the community turned to empathy and feeling the injustice the community faces. I felt that it was so wrong at so many levels to be penalized for loving someone – anyone. In US there were more and more people occupying public spaces from reporters, anchors to politicians.

From knowing to engaging

Come 2020 and I get into a project with a client where on Zoom meetings – people are openly talking about their same-sex partners. Some of them happened to be Directors/ Senior Directors. The difference that this reflected to me was a social acceptance which made people from the community also discuss their lives normally.

The fact that Leadership represented the community goes a long way in increasing confidence of the members of the community. That is what a really empowered work environment looks like. Soon enough, I started working closely with a member of the community. He had a kid, a partner – he would talk about them, and we got to be very good friends. This would be what I would say I finally arrived moment.

Engagement to acceptance

Then recently with the case in Supreme Court on same-sex marriage – I read an article by Justice Vivek Katju – father of Arundhati Katju, one of the Senior advocates in SC who  notable cases at the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court, including the Section 377 case,-  about his journey on acceptance of his daughter’s orientation and partner choice. That made me realize similarity of journeys of most of us of acceptance of the community.

And this is my take on how I started first seeing, then knowing, from their accepting, empathizing to finally befriending the people from community. The first step to acceptance is knowing – as long as I did not know, I considered it abnormal.

But knowing and not seeing makes it more like it happens to only few people – seeing made me see that people of the community look, talk, work pretty much the same as me – if anything they dress better.

Becoming a staunch ally

Finally, when I saw more and more people from the surrounding community talk about themselves, share things about their lives – I started normalizing it. The more I normalized, the more I saw the injustice of the situation for them being excluded based on their sexual orientation.

How does someone having consensual sex with a same sex partner affect me, in the same way as someone else’s heterogenous sexual encounter does not impact me? Then, why should I tell them to change their behaviour? It’s their personal life, and they have as much right to make their choices as I have to my personal choices.

Now, I see more and more Indian mainstream media talking about the people from the community, and with that comes greater acceptance. Therefore, this is what I have learnt – we always judge – but not because we have a moral high ground but because we do not know the other side – we do not interact with them.

This is not just true about LGBTQA+ community but even about North Indians vs. South Indians, Hindus vs. Muslims, Upper castes vs. Dalits. We all have a fear of the unknown but as we know, so do we learn and as we learn, so do we revise our understanding and as we understand, so do we accept and as we accept, so do we assimilate.

Therefore, let’s talk about the community – not just as community but as individuals, who all have their own stories – many of which will resonate with us, and we will realize that at the end of the day we are all same – Human Beings, and we all have a right to pursuit of Happiness.

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Do you have a work-place story as rainbow sheep? Let us know!

Image source: a still from the film Badhaai Do

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About the Author

Prerna Nanda

My career in IT gave me the perk of travelling the world and opening my mind to endless perspectives, giving me an opportunity to grow as a human being. I like sharing those experiences with read more...

12 Posts | 46,574 Views

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