As the clock strikes midnight and we amble into June of every year, you can almost hear the sounds of disgruntled designers and social media managers who have to create and upload the rainbow coloured version of company’s logos for Pride Month.
Finding its origins in commemorating the Stonewall riots, June started being recognised as Pride Month in the ‘90s in the United States. The crux of the celebration remains to recognize the impact that queer and gender non-conforming people have had on the world. As of 2022, several countries such as the UK, Finland and Canada are part of those who celebrate it as well, sometimes in other months.
As a queer person it is the time of year I get the most requests to feature in content. “Hey, would you be willing to talk about how you realized you were bisexual,” read one of the messages I received last year from a well-meaning producer for an online publication. The issue is not being courted for such productions, but the manner in which it is managed. What many cishet people may not realize is that a large part of the queer community that you see who may be ‘out, loud and proud’ online may not have “come out of their closets” to their conservative families. Besides, when you browse through the content put out by such publications, you realize that they have no coverage of LGBTQIA+ issues through the rest of the year. But SEO reigns supreme and they must get the #PrideMonth #QueerJoy clicks.
A one-dimensional portrayal of queer folks
A significant challenge that comes to the forefront during this month is the lack of intersectionality in the kinds of queer and trans folk that are given the mic during this month. More often than not, the people who have been heralded as the spokespeople of the community are able-bodied and upper caste who have the privilege to be open about their identities. This mirrors the larger discourse about how white cisgendered monosexual people have taken precedence when it comes to benefitting from inclusivity measures while those who are trans, disabled, people of colour or asexual have been given the cold shoulder.
Furthermore, people across the spectrum have spoken up about how the actions of private and public organizations are but tokenistic performances that make little to no difference in the lives of actual queer and trans people. There’s no use of putting out a ‘Love is Love’ post when your employee and customer forms still have only male and female boxes to choose from. There is no real point in putting out a post with an ‘Equal symbol’ in rainbow colours when the company insurance is not extended to queer partners.
In September 2021, Axis Bank announced a ‘Come As You Are’ campaign intended to be inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community by way of extending banking services. However, in a few short months, a WLW couple wrote about their experience of being denied a joint account at the bank with the employees citing that they were unaware of any such provisions.
Bhima Jewellers, a prominent jewellery company received much adoration online for featuring a trans woman in their advertisement. However, several trans people sought to understand whether the company actually employed any trans women or helped the community in any remarkable manner.
This is only amplified during Pride Month where posts and panels by companies who are nowhere near inclusive are staged. These feel like empty gestures that have little to no impact on the community. It sometimes feels like that cishet people feel like they want a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum and even then they fail. This becomes the most apparent when there is radio silence from organizations every time a trans person is killed or when the community is looking for support for causes like marriage equality. It is simply easier for companies to put on the rainbow colours during Pride Month but fail to take a stand when it matters.
‘Diversity and Inclusion’ are now buzzwords that everyone from new-age startups to legacy companies love to use. But again, your D&I initiatives cannot begin and end with having two cis-women in your senior leadership. If companies are serious about being equal opportunity employers with a truly diverse workforce, the changes need to start from within.
Something as simple as encouraging team members to have their pronouns in their email signature can signal to employees of all genders that they are coming into a welcoming environment. Sexual harassment guidelines are often framed with just women in mind, completely forgoing people of other genders. Each aspect of the company’s policies and procedures need to be examined to ensure that they are equitable and accommodating of queerness.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there are 2.5 million Indians who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and possibly millions more who will come into the fore in the coming years. It costs very little to ensure that folks like us feel like we are wanted and cared for in the workplace.