“We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their [LGBTQ] son or daughter.” That’s the message Pope Francis had for parents of LGBTQ children in an interview with a leading conservative paper in Argentina in 2014.
Cut to 2018, Arnab Nandy posted on Facebook about how his parents celebrated the section 377 verdict. Initially, when Arnab shared the reality with his parents, their reaction was not negative. They had doubts about “biological problems” like impotence or erectile dysfunction, but Arnab was lucky to have their support unlike others who are terrified about what their family and friends would say.
Being gay is as healthy as being straight. Rio Olympics 2016, saw a huge increase in gay athletes, it went up to 41 from 23 that participated in London 2012. Some athletes chose not to come out as gay before the Olympics due to the fear that the extra attention might distract their performance or could impact their scores in competitions where judges award points.
I am sure one day LGBT athletes will be considered as “one more athlete” rather than being labelled.
On another note, son of an Indian immigrant and an Irish mother, Leo Varadkar became the youngest gay prime minister of Ireland in 2017. This dominated the news in India too. As a nation, we have been proactive in claiming pride of Indians who have been successful abroad, this time we chose not to celebrate his accomplishment as it was a risky proposition given the moral policing of sexuality in our daily lives. It shows how much Ireland has moved on.
While progress has been made with the Supreme Court’s verdict, people still worry that revealing their sexuality at work will have negative consequences. “There’s only one openly gay CEO in Fortune 500, and that’s Tim Cook of Apple. There has to be more”, said Lord Browne, LetterOne Executive Chairman and former CEO of oil company BP who resigned in disgrace over a scandal regarding his homosexuality in 2007.
However, the technology sector has been receptive towards them. Microsoft is one of the first companies to prohibit discrimination of employees based on sexual orientation. Google, Twitter, Airbnb followed the same path by introducing policies like covering the surgical costs for transgender employees to transition from male to female or vice versa.
While many multinationals already have a structured LGBT policy as they are keen on creating a workplace of equal opportunity, corporate India needs to be more mature. Corporate giants like Hindustan Unilever, Infosys and Godrej welcomed the lifting of Section 377. However, companies need to make their hiring practices inclusive, create policies, which will encourage them to bring their authentic selves to work, conduct sensitisation workshops and awareness campaigns both internally and externally. We also have to wait and watch, if the government, which is the largest employer, promotes inclusivity.
Let us jointly encourage the LGBTQ community by working on strategies to bring them into our workforce. And if you have friends and family members who want to “come out”, then don’t let them feel they need your acceptance and approval.
Let us pledge to bridge the gap between reality and a truly inclusive society.