Every year June 1st marks the beginning of Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and their right to a dignified life. The present outlook of pride month is that of celebration: of life, of dignity, of choice, and love.
The Pride month is ongoing at this point in the year, and it is visibly out on all social media platforms. We can see the signature rainbow all around us in our feeds, various campaigns, even limited-edition merchandise rolled out by the big corporations. Social media is colored in rainbow colors. But here lies the question: If it stops at just a rainbow status update, are you truly an ally? Pride is not limited to rainbow-colored DPs and hashtags. The community has been sidelined or worse incarcerated for their mere existence. If Tokenism is what one has to offer, the community could do well without it.
Corporates have been eyeing this as an opportunity to profit. Pride and profit have been mixed and the result is Rainbow Capitalism. It allows big companies to profit off the queer experience, it has become less about inclusivity and more about the marketing opportunity. If they fail to stand against a discriminatory law, the symbolic gesture of slapping rainbow pictures is just a hollow practice. As Karen Tongson, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Southern California famously says,“ People are still going to suffer the same injustices. They'll just be able to drape themselves in rainbow gear while doing so."
It may be a way of representation but if it is reduced to just making money and the organizations fail to bring in the safety policies, hire people from across the spectrum, give them the visibility and be all ears of their issues, it will be just another campaign filling pockets.
The plight of the community is that a few years back the Indian Apex Court decriminalized homosexuality, so until they were given the status of criminal because of their identity. Article 377 of the constitution was decriminalized and what followed can be the beginning of a more inclusive India. In India, companies have become more open to LGBTQ employees since 2018. Since the change in law, "there are loads of companies that have gone on their inclusion journey," said Parmesh Shahani, author of Queeristan. These are the baby steps towards the journey of inclusion, there's still a long way ahead of us. Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 was passed by the apex court and it was expected to bring relief and provision for safety and acceptance of the transgender community in the society but it failed to address existing ground realities. Lack of proper legal measures results in the employment of less than 6% of transgender people in the formal sector and almost nil in government jobs.
What needs to be done is to bring the community into mainstream society, by providing them jobs and ensuring their safety. The path to inclusivity begins with companies changing their policies or creating new ones to provide a safe environment for LGBTQ employees and to extend them the same benefits as all other employees. Apart from the policies, the work environment needs to be all ears of the employees. Diversity and inclusion must not be hollow words but should be stitched in the essence of the organizations.
The Pride community needs to feel seen and heard. The acceptance and comfort that lies in a safer environment will help them get out into the public space and own the space denied to them, which is on us.