Knowing LGBTQIA+ and Encouraging Diversity & Inclusion

Kohl flaunting eyes that roll, a hand that twirls and a voice that borders on unnatural. These are some images that conjure up in the minds of the common people when they hear the words LGBTQIA. Last few years have brought the whole new world of alternate gender identity and its acceptance by the world, in our everyday conversation. It is concerning and largely discomforting that we still freely use the words “closet” and “coming out” when all it was, has been a natural phenomenon.

You need to meet someone with an alternate gender identity to understand how they battle two battles: one with themselves and one with the world, the latter many times begins from home and family which is more painful. Saying so I’m not trying to sound sympathetic but rather, being objective. If an individual has an alternate gender identity in his mind and recognizes as one of the two genders while he/she may not be born with it, then the world should ideally let him/her be comfortable with it. Why should it be anybody’s business to meddle in how someone else feels about their gender identity?

During my childhood, I remember seeing men dressed as women and how bad they were treated. I always wondered why. Even as I grew, I began to understand what this whole thing was all about. During early years of my career, a colleague of mine introduced me to a TV Show called as The L World during my college days. I was taken by surprise. No, not the nudity part. But the whole concept of it. I had never seen two women together, holding hands, let alone making out. I recall how shocked I was to see that for the first time but then soon realized that it was normal and that is just their being.

World over, humans are, at the ground level, same. We have the need to name things to identify things. In scientific world, it is called nomenclature. It is therefore not a surprise that we have also named sexual orientations. It is also an identity too. Unless you have been living under a rock, chances are that you are already aware of that LGBTQIA+ means. But just in case you weren’t sure, read on.

LGBTQIA+, an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestites, Queer, Intersexual and Asexual, has come to represent a set of people who have known their sexual orientation quite early but have hesitated to openly admit it for fear of being ridiculed. Why? One would ask. Because deviants are looked down upon in today’s world that lauds conformity. What is conformity, then? To be like everyone else. To be a part of the large majority and merge within its fold. Don’t stand out, for it threatens conformity. Then others will rebel and come out with their own deviations. If gender identity was in itself not a crisis, they had to face complexities about what they would be called. Then came the question of being absorbed in society as one of its own, which though slowly happening, still looks faraway to be normal.

LGBTQIA+ are sometimes also called as Rainbow Community. The whole terminology is continuously evolving, however what is important is that you use the terms that people prefer. If in doubt, ask, but respectfully.

LGBTQIA+ in the corporate world

If someone knows a friend or a relative who wants to identify as one of the above, we would be flabbergasted as to what our reaction ought to be. If it’s their life and their identity, why should we hesitate to acknowledge what they identify themselves as?

The corporate world has taken some considerable steps towards this direction. Although not a norm, many companies have incorporated inclusion of LGBTQIA+ members in their diversity portfolio. These initiatives are now called as Diversity and Inclusion.Especially in the United States, where over 206 companies openly supported the Supreme Court’s judgment protecting the LGBTQIA+ members against workplace discrimination. What is heartening is that when they find support at work, it becomes easy for them to tread the path in society. But that’s with large corporations. What about the smaller companies and the unorganized sector? The situation may still be bleak there with rampant ridicule, discrimination and harassment coming their way.

The media may have played a major role in smoothening the path towards acceptance for these members. Films like Brokeback Mountain paved the way. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, business leaders like Apple’s Tim Cook, several Heads of state (especially of the Nordic and European countries) have come out in the open and have been accepted irrespective of their gender identities, solely based on their acumen to perform the task at hand. When people see that they are as good as any other straight person, they are encouraged to keep the two separate.

Representation is the key

Every few decades, human beings have had to fight some form of discrimination. If earlier it was the lords and the slaves, it was apartheid later, for the longest time, it was the women who fought to be recognized as equal, with many countries, including the US, (democracies even) not granting them voting rights.

Racial discrimination, castes, religion, physical features, marital status and largely, gender based discrimination is rampant all over the world. From your own family, to the academic world, workplaces, high offices, media and the film world, have loved to stereotype and abhor any deviant behavior. Ridicule, hate, isolation, exclusion, blatant discrimination on all accounts is attributed to a person’s nonconformity. For decades now, the LGBTQIA+ members have gathered and formed small parallel communities and support groups, mainly to tide over this pressure and pain.

Need of the hour for LGBTQIA+

  • What do you think the LGBTQIA+ members expect from others? Plain acceptance of what they are. Now someone would ask why acceptance matters so much? Will acceptance change their orientation? No, but it will make life comfortable and less miserable for them. Other than their orientation, they have all the caliber in the world to succeed in life, in academics, in business, in leadership roles. Let them be what they feel like.
  • If you observe a kid showing deviant behavior, approach a counselor. Allow the kid to express, don’t curb. Kids know their gender identities much better themselves. All educational institutions must include counseling all kids about an inclusive environment and right to identify about own gender.
  • Families with a member who identifies as different from heterosexual, need not panic and attempt to change the tendency, which it won’t. The earlier you accept it, the better it is for everyone. Family support makes a huge difference to these members and helps them face the world strongly. Guilt, shame, hidden identities, sick, pain and suffering are not terms to be associated with a person’s life.
  • Pressure to conform, sexist jokes, ridicule, sexual harassment at workplace makes life miserable for some. As colleagues, we can spare them this trouble. If we can come to accept women and persons of color in the top echelons, what is our problem to accept these members? Connecting with them as equals allows them to blossom normally.

A person’s gender is something they are born with. Due to several reasons known and unknown, several mutations in genes and other reasons, a person may be born as a particular gender, but may identify as another. That does not give us any right to question this behavior. Inclusiveness is and should be absolute and not selective. When human beings are aiming to colonize Mars, we must feel ashamed that our own brethren need to fight for their gender identities and to be accepted as normal.

Did you notice any corrections to be made on this page? Submit your feedback here. We will take the necessary action.