“ Ghut Ghut kar jeene se achha hai sex change kara lena (It is better to change your sex than live a claustrophobic life)”, says ‘Garry’ Kashyap, an LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Intersex) person who is facing harassment and humiliation at home and at the workplace. “I am getting into depression too often because of unacceptance by my own family and harassment at the workplace.” Kashyap was at a job fair organised in Delhi recently for LGBTI persons.
Kashyap has already undergone a few sittings with a doctor for the sex change process that will make her a male. A black belt in martial arts and a gym enthusiast, Kashyap is pursuing a post-graduation in political science and currently works in a billing job. She wants to join the police force after a change in sex, but is worried that she may not fulfil the age limit by the time the process is completed. Also, the parents of the girl she wants to marry are willing to accept the relationship but only after her transition.
The search for employment has brought Kashyap and many others to the fair organised by the Pride Circle’s RISE (Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity) project. She feels there would be less scope for workplace harassment if she finds employment through the project in a reputed company. At the job fair, over 20 corporate sector entities are offering jobs to the LGBTI community. RISE had screened 400 applicants who applied from cities as well as small and mid-sized towns. The idea is to connect the LGBTI talent pool with organisations that believe in developing an inclusive work culture and have opened their recruitment to all LGBTI persons, educated and uneducated, skilled and unskilled.
Pride Circle is a diversity and inclusion consultancy with a mission to promote social equity by affirmative action for the LGBTI community in India. It works with 150 domestic and multinational companies. The first such job fair in Bengaluru last year resulted in 39 applicants getting jobs in the corporate sector; this time 11 candidates have been offered jobs so far.
One of them is Harsha, who has landed a good job with a Hyderabad-based investment company. A BTech in computer science from Vellore, Harsha has been offered a substantial pay packet and perks. He has also been told that the staff has been sensitised and there will be no harassment at the workplace. However, like Kashyap, Harsha too feels that it is better to undergo a sex change (male to female) than slip into depression. “I have been able to open up about my LGBTI status only with my mother,” he says.
However, there are others who are lucky. Dharmendra from Bhajanpura has a supportive family. A graduate with an added certificate in make-up and hair styling, he wants to get into the beauty industry. “In the bigger saloons the chances of harassment and discrimination are less as they look for talented, experienced candidates. Smaller saloons have issues with my transgender status.”
Sometimes the issues around acceptance become a problem. Anamika, a transgender, had to move out of her home for just this reason and is looking for a permanent job. Currently she is a peer educator for the District Legal Service Authority, but is paid only for the days she is engaged. “People are not so open-minded,” she says.
It is not just the socially and economically backward LGBTI persons, but even those from affluent backgrounds face difficulties. Nilabh is one such example. According to his sister, even though the family is supportive, people are very judgemental.
Nilabh is a fashion designer from NIFT and has created his own clothesline. He feels that fashion designing is the right kind of profession for LGBTI people to succeed in. “I wanted my brand to be inclusive and not exclusive,” he says, and is attending a workshop at the job fair. He has also set up a stall of his creations. So has Kanwar Arora, who is accomplished in crystal art. His works are well known and cost anywhere between ₹2,000 and ₹25,000. Those working with the LGBTI community see the fair as a welcome initiative. Says Piya, project coordinator with a voluntary organisation working with LGBTIs for the past decade: “I want our community to at least start getting accepted and I am happy that the private sector is opening up jobs.”
The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi