Initial Learnings /Experiences:
I was a wonder-kid in more than one way. As a young and impressionable girl of 15 years, I started posting pictures of wildlife on Facebook - as photography was and still is my passion. And guess what, people liked it so much that I started getting paid photography assignments. I liked the independence and confidence it brought and thought earning money was fun. We started with just 100 likes and within two years we had 3-4 Lakh likes on those pages, which later was sold for a good profit. I stayed in a Government quarter at that time and my computer was my window to the world.
However, as they say, man proposes and God disposes of. My fancy plans went for a toss and I went into depression when I came face-to-face with my sexuality. Belonging to a conservative place, being a queer & surviving was a challenge itself. I needed a big platform to be heard and then the idea germinated to go for Roadies audition. Competed with 14,000 people, until the time I became one of the only 8 people who auditioned before the judges. It was there that I came out and told them about my journey, all the bullying and my determination not to give up.
The Obstacles Faced By The LGBTQI Community In The Country And Strategies To Address These Challenges:
I think that the first challenge is survival, achievement comes later. Many individuals go through this ordeal of self-doubt, depression and suicidal thoughts. I feel part of the reason is that our education system, our families, society and peers nothing educates us properly and realistically about the orientation of an individual. So, you end up fighting yourself every moment. We also have a stark absence of role-models while some corporate leaders and some celebrities have started to come out, we need more role-models to inspire the young and give them a sense of self-worth. The third key point is getting equal opportunities in education and work-place. We have to be vocal and uncompromising to achieve that.
Businesses’ Help In Supporting LGBT Employees:
For us, in the LGBT community, things are definitely on an upswing after the revocation of Article 377 by the honourable Supreme Court. However, at the risk of sounding clich, I would say that a lot still needs to be done. Individuals are still scared to come out thinking what will happen in the workplace? Sure, HR teams are sensitive, especially in big organisations but it is not easy to change the mindset of people, your colleagues. The good part is that there are Pride groups within almost all large companies, where the LGBT employees can discuss their challenges, connect with each other for emotional support. The other positive change is the various sensitization workshops that are being organised where the employees are told about the LGBT community and this creates positive behaviour change. This, I think, is both a strategy and a positive development that is taking place and just needs to be replicated in a big way across companies and geographies in the country.
Words Of Wisdom:
The people that you see, interact with family, friends, colleagues even partners are just temporary liaisons and not your entire life. I had my share of heartbreaks because my partner was not able to come out because of family pressure. I am a fighter, have been throughout my life. I have not allowed any loss to put me down for long. And I have learned that you have to fight your own battles, no one is going to come and fight it for you. No matter how bad a few days are, life rebounds and takes a turn for the better - provided you have the courage to make things happen. You do not wait for life to happen for you but you MAKE life happen with your positive outlook and the trust in yourself and in tomorrow.