You watch Queer Eye, you’ve been to a Pride parade and you celebrated the riddance of Section 377… But here’s how you can be an ally beyond the #hashtags. Not just in June, but all year long.
The dark clouds of the monsoon have descended upon us but so has the colourful rainbow of Pride month. And with the Madras High Court’s recent landmark decision, we’re definitely feeling a renewed sense of hope for LGBTQ+ Indians moving forward. While it’s important to celebrate the little wins and bear in mind how we got here, at MyMuse we realise there’s still a long way to go. So in order to continue celebrating diversity in all its beautiful shapes and forms, we set out to understand how we could be better allies... not just in June but all year round.
Tired of seeing companies slapping rainbow branding onto their logos and products, 27-year-old Bengaluru based youth worker, Poornima Kumar (who identifies as queer), spoke to MyMuse about how she believes allies can support and amplify the queer lived experience. We’ve summarised some key takeaways from our interview with her below:
Begin with Sensitivity, Support and Empathy
“What I seek in an ally is sensitivity, support and empathy.” Sensitivity means “[how you act] when somebody comes out to you or when somebody is going through something that is uniquely related to their sexual identity. Be aware of what you're saying to them, how you're saying it and what your reactions and responses are.”
“When I say support, I don't mean going only to pride parades, but being conscious of the very lifestyle of disadvantages that queer people go through in terms of their experiences in the workplace, with their families, housing, health care… all of these are things that queer people struggle with on a day-to-day basis. I would expect allies to be supportive in whatever way they can in all these realms.
"And of course, empathy comes with sensitivity. Just because you have not experienced what we are going through doesn't mean that you can't put yourself in others’ shoes.”"
“Another important thing is to [actively look for] information. Don't expect us to give you all the information you need– read up! Look for responsible articles that are factually correct.”
Extend Support Beyond Your Social Circles
“On the personal front, my workplace actually hasn't been that bad. While the rest of the organisation may not be very familiar with queer terminology or have minimal interaction with queer people, they were definitely trying. [Through] our work we talk about queer identities, especially in our gender, sexuality, marriage, and relationship workshops."
"Having said that, we need to move beyond the trend of expecting just LGBTQ people [to take on] the responsibility of talking about these issues."
"Especially in the NGO sector, I find it [problematic] when queer sexualities are perceived as separate from the idea of sexuality itself. LGBTQ+ cannot be boxed separately. We have to look at sexuality as a spectrum, and not categorise it based on convenience.”
Say No to Performative/ Optical Allyship
“Within the larger landscape of the corporate field, I find that in the month of pride, people suddenly wake up and start highlighting diversity and inclusion as a part of their workspace culture. Honestly, I feel it is pink-washing. They’re trying to get brownie points from the community by showing how supportive they are.”
“To hold [organizations] accountable, some key questions need to be asked: What are you doing the rest of the year? What have you done to promote the rights of LGBTQ folks? How is your workplace culture, during the rest of the year? What kind of benefits do LGBTQ+ people get within your workplace?”
Be an Ally to Friends Coming Out
“Coming out has different layers and aspects to it. It is completely dependent on the person when they want to come out, who they want to come out to, or how they want to come out. Sometimes there may be people who may not come out at all, to anyone, and that’s fine as well. You can be an ally to them too.”
“You may be friends with someone who hasn't come out to you, but somehow you have come to know they may be queer. I would suggest respecting their space if they haven't said anything– that means they may not trust you enough to say it. And that's absolutely fine. By respecting their space you would be building trust.”
Be an Enabler of Inclusion
“I would urge people who consider themselves allies to reflect on their daily interactions with queer people. Even if you don't have queer people in your circles, become an enabler of inclusion in any way possible.”
“For example, if you're renting your house out, give preference to trans people. If you have a friend who needs to access a healthcare system, or a doctor, or a gynaecologist, go with them. Try and help them navigate that difficult structure– As a cis-gendered heterosexual person, it's easier for you than a trans or a queer person. If you are in a position where you are hiring people, then give preference to queer and trans folks. If you’re in a position where you can change policies within your organisation, then definitely begin having conversations around inclusion."
"Think consciously and please don't limit yourself to pride parades.”
** This article was written by one of our talented contibutors, Nazma Kazani, in conversation with Poornima Kumar, a guest interviewee. If you have a perspective you'd like to share, get in touch with us on email@example.com
Cover Art by Boomerrang Studio for MyMuse.in - All Rights Reserved.
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