During lockdown, while I was browsing social media, I came across an Instagram account of a trans woman my age. I saw a beautiful girl who looks like me.
She’s a doctor, with a feminist outlook…and she was everything that the generic image of a trans person in India isn’t. I was baffled to find out that she was transgender because the image of trans people in India is one of beggars on trains and on the streets who have no civil rights, being called names I cannot allow myself to write here. And that’s where my journey as an ally began: Realizing that I had been a part of this negative narrative, and surprised to see a trans people prosper. Suddenly I was able to relate to them in some way.
Still on lockdown and scrolling through Instagram, I found another amazing person: Sushant Divgikar who goes by the drag name Rani KoHEnur (pronouns - he/she/they). Their name is a nod to a very different past of trans people in Indian mythology, to Ardhnarishwar, the half male and half female avatar of the revered Lord Shiva. Historically, in India trans people were highly respected counselors and military generals of kings because living as both male and female they had a unique 360 degree view and understanding of life through both lenses. Today they have been reduced to begging . This breaks my heart and motivates me to fight for their rights as an ally.
I grew up in Nigeria in a diverse, international environment, so I’ve always had a mindset of inclusivity, of accepting different cultures and people. I believe that if you’re not a stakeholder in a particular community and it doesn’t affect you, you have no right to object to anyone else’s happiness, be it the queer community or any other community.
Amdocs is my ground zero. From here, I aim to change the perspective of all Indians. While everyone wants to be politically correct, there are still unconscious biases and things we say that may be offensive to the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, automatically asking a woman if she has a husband or a boyfriend instead of saying spouse or partner.
We are well on our way at Amdocs. We have four sessions planned in June for Pride Month. They will increase awareness and shine a brighter light on the LGBTQIA+ culture, so everyone can learn to cherish each and every life irrespective of how they choose to identify or who they choose to love. Spreading a positive message about the community will also stress the importance of allyship.
The social culture of a country seeps into the corporate culture. India is still a conservative society. Being a female professional is a struggle; being trans or queer is even more of a struggle. We’re ready to change. Now we need to start genuine dialog, educate people to elevate the “not a stakeholder” mindset. It starts with educating everyone, even if only for the sake of being politically correct. A small first step toward sensitivity is eliminating negative words to create an environment where you’re not hurting people, and avoiding initiating or participating in derogatory remarks or jokes.
It starts with small steps from the bottom up.
Mehak Kapil (she/her), Software Developer, Ensemble, Amdocs Gurugram