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How To Make Your Workspace Inclusive For LGBTQ+ Individuals

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Is your workplace a safe space?

A close friend and I were catching up on call — after you hit the mark of a certain age, marriage and career become two important topics of discussion — inevitably, we must’ve been discussing something about the latter when she asked me, my colleague prefers the They/Them pronouns, what does that mean?

I tried to answer this the best I could, then redirected her to Richa’s Instagram account. Richa Vashisht is a mental health professional with a rich work-experience with the LGBTQ+ community. An IGTV discussion by her on workplaces as safe-spaces was in-fact an eye-opener for me; it made me question, “Am I not settling for less? Aren’t we all?”

Please watch this if you want to understand and make a change:

Few things I noticed about my previous workplaces that shriek ‘not a safe-space!’.

  • First and the most alarming one, when one (closeted) Queer individual shames another in the same organisation (for being queer).
    This signifies FEAR on many levels of the person’s psyche; but one thing’s for sure, the office is not a safe-space because people are able to do this.
  • Second, straight colleagues trying to out someone.
    I may be ambiguous about my sexuality in my communication because I may not be out yet (a very personal decision). The work-place needs to make sure that every employee knows that no-one will be forced to come out. In fact, the person who tries to do that will be penalised and not the Queer individual who becomes the target of it.
  • Voyeurism.
    Would you, as a colleague, be sexually excited by listening to me mention about my husband? No, right? Then why should me mentioning my same-sex partner become erotic, or a sexual fantasy?

Changes I’d like to see instead, to slowly make workplaces ‘safe-spaces’:

  1. HR Initiative: My previous workplace was fantastic when it came to employee-needs. Once I got a call from my regional HR-head who was surveying people who might have fallen victim to body-shaming and similar such things. A colleague had passed a comment on my grey-hair, and somehow that got noticed by the HR. Similarly, the HR noticed fat-shaming done to another colleague and sexist comments passed in groups. They tried to intervene and correct all of these things. Amazing work, no? I’d love it if I can see such a check for Queer slangs and comments too. Call out people (politely) for passing homophobic or offensive remarks; you don’t have to be an HR to do it, just a sensible human being.
  2. POSH: Sexualising your colleagues should not be acceptable, whether gay, straight or anywhere in between. Therefore, Sexual Harassment Policies should include provisions for same-sex harassment as well. I’m not saying the perpetrator is always a straight person; it might be a queer individual as well. But fair policies need to be in place.
  3. Sensitisation: Talking about your partner or about community events that excite you like going for Pride, participating in and organising sensitisation workshops, etc. should be effortless.
  4. Acceptance: An amazing feat would be people just being out at work. In one of my previous organisations, I saw a non-binary individual coming to work in the identity of their choice and being completely out and proud about it. A great news is that that organisation recently announced equal insurance benefits for partners of their queer employees. Yay!
  5. Equality: Acknowledge relationships of same-sex partners. Acknowledge that they have to devote time to their partners too, you cannot excuse someone who is married but not excuse someone you think is single, or know is queer and committed. Give them equal opportunities with the equal benefit of doubt given to married employees.
  6. Kindness: Be kind! Just like you would be to any other individual. Don’t be homophobic and hence aggressive toward queer folks.
Inclusion. Equality. Kindness.

Why Is It Important?

We all deal with many difficulties at workplace, homophobia (and the accompanying aggression) is an additional burden on individuals from the LGBTQ+ community. Sometimes so much so that an un-safe workplace becomes toxic and unbearable to work at. Would you like going back every morning to a place where you have to constantly be on guard?

Think about it!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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