In The Age Of Coming Out – IIM Bangalore’s QUEst For The LGBTQ+ Community

Imagine you are on a roller-coaster. Sometimes, you feel your heart beating faster with pure joy before it is plunged into inexplicable sorrow the next second. Because everything you do makes you feel like you’re letting your family down. It makes you ashamed of your status as an ‘outlaw’ not entitled to the pure emotion of love. “The fundamental right to privacy, life with human dignity, equality, freedom and the pursuit of happiness; weren’t those meant to be in the American constitution and all those western liberalist agendas? We don’t tolerate such immorality in our culture, please.”

Every word, every action and every friendly banter must be watched for not giving away too many details. You watch close friends discuss their love interests while you overcompensate with lies. The brightest in engineering and MBA schools in India, unfortunately, don’t escape decades of narrow social conditioning.

 

Minding your own business? Sorry, what’s that?

Insta DM’s with “why are there so many gay colours in your story, are you a chakka?”, Whatsapp group chats on gossip on who is ‘definitely gay’ and the flood of shaadi photoshoots on Facebook that make your parents question what you are even doing with your life and MBA degree. “Oh, these gay prides are so loud and obnoxious. Why do they have to overdo everything?” *Then calmly goes back to the big, fat Indian wedding with a display of baraati music, alcohol and destination wedding sets that cost nothing south of a few crore rupees.

 

It’s all in your head

You are anxious and depressed but keep getting told to ‘get over it’ because you don’t have a ‘real problem’. “Look around the world and stop being so selfish. There’s the plastic ban. Look at the take-away culture in metro cities and how it’s a big polluter. With your network and education, why don’t you try solving education, sanitation and poverty?”

The thing with this argument is that, there is no comparison between “my suffering is greater than your suffering”. Even if one life can be saved, one person’s mindset can be made more accommodating and even if one company’s policy is made to make everyone feel like they’re on an equal basis, that would be a victory. And this is an issue that doesn’t only affect the 10% minority in the world, it affects their close-knit circle, employers, partners, family, and friends, which makes the number of people it impacts much higher!

 

Why it matters in an MBA school

When Rohit John Philip and Abhishek Ghosh started QUEst at IIM Bangalore, the aim was to break the biggest taboo of them all— mental health. Since we are in a business school, let’s talk numbers. The World Bank calculated the cost of LGBTQ discrimination to the Indian economy at $32 billion per year [1] due to productivity inefficiencies and lost output due to employment discrimination and health disparities due to depression, suicidality, and HIVAn OHCHR New York report suggested that the suicide attempts are as much as 4x more likely amongst gays and lesbians[2] and 10x amongst trans youth[3]. Just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a toll.

 What is in it for the larger student community you ask? Well, let’s break it down in the form of a case, shall we? *Takes out the Victor Cheng manual and a bright-pink felt tip markers because not all stereotypes are wholly untrue!

 

  • All students
  • Future: As employers, in charge of recruiting, we must ensure fair and equal recruiting practices and a safe culture for the full expression of the identities of all stakeholders. This begins with the education of the individual, especially through Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources courses at reputed B-schools such as the IIM’s. Several MNC and Indian firms have mandates for inclusive hiring, healthcare benefits extended to same-sex partners and surrogate/adopted children and policies against discrimination at the workplace. However, most firms have just evolved into being gender-sensitive and are still not cognisant of other sources of diversity. A Deloitte Insights report (2017) also suggests 69% of executives rate diversity and inclusion as an important workplace issue, a steep increase from the 59% in 2014
  • Present: Diversity, not only of academic backgrounds but of identities, helps an MBA school improve classroom discussions and better its reputation on universally recognised rankings. The signalling of a student’s initiative on campus to be inclusive would embolden candidates of a wider spectrum to give the CAT
  • Within the community
  • Health: Sexuality, gender-specific harassment issues and health concerns such as HIV and STD‘s are still taboo subjects for which there are is a need to help students reach out to professional organisations outside the institute. The club would be a conduit to collaborate with NGO’s and counselling centres that ensure confidentiality and professionalism in dealing with such cases.
  • Networking: The club also acts as an informal networking and support group where like-minded individuals can share freely without fear of prejudice
  • Professional Instances: Diversity is increasingly a corporate priority. The Tata Group wanting 25% of its employees to be women and aiming to achieve a 5% representation from the LGBT community[4]; awareness campaigns on social media by reputed consulting firms; American Express‘ India Health Insurance Plan for same-sex partners and surrogate children, Godrej’s commitment to extending Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) commitments to even remote factories in the North-East[5] are just but a few instances. There is a burgeoning demand for firms such as Interweave Consulting works on fair hiring practices and equal opportunity recruitment policies

 

Making it official

In trying to gain formal recognition for QUEst, IIMB with help from the student community, Student Union and faculty, we have the following objectives:

  • Ensure financial resources are available to organise talks, movie screenings, art exhibitions, music and dance events dedicated to promoting members of the marginalised community, international essay competitions, pride marches, awareness drives, access to health centres and much more
  • Ensure sustainability of the club through dedicated members across the batches

 

The Jaadu in your life

The journey doesn’t end with coming-out. But it is certainly a big start. For a gay man, a lesbian woman, a transitioning member of the trans community or just someone who hasn’t fully finished asking questions on their sexuality and lifestyle choices, finding someone from the community would be akin to feeling like Hrithik Roshan in Koi Mil Gaya. Don’t you want to play a part in bringing them closer to the Jaadu in their lives?

 

Coming-out every day— bit-by-bit

We have pushed the envelope in getting you real people with real-life experiences to share [keep tuned on this space for more on this] and hope that this normalises conversations and opens minds. For those privileged enough heterosexual couples who managed to fall in love in the right nationality, religion, language, caste, skin colour, dowry position, nakshatra match and age and height parameters, please lend a patient ear to the rest of us who aren’t as lucky. And It’s okay, members of the community won’t judge and will be more than welcoming of questions that are genuinely motivated because who doesn’t want a more caring society? The question is, “are you on board, or are you willing to risk being left behind?”

 

We understand that if it takes members in the community decades to accept themselves, their loved ones merit time to come around as well. But that just means we must remain committed to exposing what people in the community go through on a sustained basis till it stops being treated as a hypothetical problem!

 

Sources:

[1] M. V. Lee Badgett, “The Economic Cost of Stigma and Exclusion of LGBT People: A Case Study of India,” World Bank (October 2014)

[2] “Facts about Suicide,” The Trevor Project, accessed 9th July, 2018, URLhttps://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00004jn19cjfkf1ntv51uxey93pkj

[3] “Suicide attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults,” American Society for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, accessed on 9th July, 2018, URLhttp://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-Williams-Suicide-Report-Final.pdf

[4] “LGBT to get due representation at Tata Steel,” Financial Chronicle, accessed on 9th July, 2018, URLhttp://www.mydigitalfc.com/my-brands/lgbt-get-due-representation-tata-steel

[5] “Diversity In The Workplace,“ Homegrown, accessed on 9th July, 2018, URLhttps://homegrown.co.in/article/802154/diversity-in-the-workplace-5-indian-companies-with-inclusive-hiring-policies

Abhishek Ghosh

A fish-loving, book-hogging quintessential pseudo-Bengali (read probashi) brought up all over India (Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai). A graduate of the mystical institute in the deserts of Rajasthan (BITS, Pilani). Wanting to continue to procrastinate making life decisions, I hopped aboard the MBA bandwagon at IIM Bangalore. I love great conversations and am always open to explore (the city, cuisines, people and their stories, the works). Francophile, aspiring Egyptologist, swimmer, and adorer of coming-of-age-films and exotic music (often Middle Eastern, Baul or Western Classical). I’ve vacationed with family and spent exchange terms in 24 countries in Europe, 4 countries in Asia and backpacked across my absolute dreamland of Egypt for a month-and-a-half. Founder of QUEst, IIMB— to advocate for rights of minority groups such as LGBTQ, women and PwD.

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