Contributed By: Malti Gupta
Edited By: Chandrasekhar Muramalla
Stereotypes and discrimination towards LGBTQIA is very prevalent in Indian society but we hope that the current generation of the elite can bring a change with their greater social consciousness. It’s important for these future business managers and leaders to engage in such discussions to prevent the biases in recruitment, boardroom decisions, framing policies while creating an inclusive culture at their workplace. Taking this into consideration, IIM Bangalore observed Pride Month this year through its Diversity and Inclusion club – QUEst IIMB – with much gusto and it ended on a great note with an informal discussion on Queer identities on 30th June 2018.
As the clock struck half past midnight on an intriguing Sunday night, members of the student community gathered to show their solidarity with the cause. Chandrashekar initiated the discussion by narrating an experience of a gay student who was shamed in his engineering college despite having great credentials and a ‘stud’ personality. Divya and Harshit explained the reason of such shaming as difficulty in accepting perceived ‘non-normal’ identities and ‘fear of unknown’ in the world of so-called ‘normal’ people. Aashritha, with a different view, questioned the need of community members to come out and seek social acceptance. She argues that they can just live normally and we only have to ensure facilities like washrooms and support system for them. While we can be oblivious of the sexuality of people and think that it won’t impact their performance at work, our behaviour is not as ‘rational’ as economics assumes. People are able to perform their best only when they feel comfortable and confident about their identities and can freely talk about it. We know that social acceptance forms the third layer in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
It was not so surprising to know that the students were not very sure of the difference between gender and sexuality and the definition of terms in LGBTQIA. This has roots in the education system in India, (may be other countries as well) where we are taught about gender in binary form instilling biases subconsciously. While the students claimed to be very conscious, they also accepted that the biases reflect in the usage of bad connotations and slangs related to LGBTQ. Movies and media also play an important role in feeding these prejudices by portraying characters as comic relief through regressive stereotypes. The recent joke culture also dilutes the seriousness of issues and people laugh away the real problems of real people.
It’s almost impossible to forget about Section 377 in the light of the topic. The law has deep roots in British rule and criminalises carnal intercourse as against the ‘order of nature’. The problem may not be the conviction through this law but the basic rationale which promotes the atrocities against homosexuals. What is more important – bringing the law down or changing the mind-set of society? Or both? The discussion on law and morality went in loop with no conclusion on the direction of change.
But the discussion was enlightening. The students dived into what can we be done as an institution? Awareness and sensitisation seems to be a common solution to develop a greater social consciousness in IIMB community and society at large. We can partner with companies like Goldman Sachs and IBM to organise workshops for students, ask students to communicate in gender neutral lingo in class discussions and presentations and collaborate with professors to lay emphasis on these issues while teaching courses in Organisation Behaviour and Marketing. One great suggestion came from Swapnil to pitch for construction of gender inclusive washrooms in the new IIMB campus.
What we thought of as a 30 minutes discussion took more than an hour and it was satisfying to see such an engagement from these busy students even on a tiring Sunday night. Sorry Tanmay that your ‘Moong dal Masala’ got soggy. Thanks Farhan for transcribing the discussion and Malti and Rishi for being the Devil’s advocates. But it is not until people like us start the dialogue that we can aspire to make a bigger change in the world.
For the readers: We hope to continue these informal discussions and leave the floor open for your suggestions in comments. We encourage you to work towards removing casual sexism, discrimination and biases while at B-school and beyond.