Online shopping platforms in India are yet to be fully inclusive for LGBTQIA+ consumers. It is high time that the online shopping platforms should turn into a true ally and make their consumer interface more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people
Recently I came across the news of 6 transmen who were trained by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and placed with Amazon India. Positive news like this, regarding the inclusion of queer people in corporate jobs, always filled my heart with joy. In recent years, India Inc. has opened its doors for LGBTQIA+ people.
After the historic NALSA judgment in 2014, followed by the groundbreaking judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case, where the highest court of India decriminalized the draconian Section 377, corporates have come with open arms and included Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policies for employees.
I am not saying that all workplaces in India have turned into queer-friendly heaven, but a significant path has been travelled so far. Corporates are changing their attitudes and aligning themselves with the new wave. It does help them, both in brand value and monetary gains.
Events like a job fair for LGBTQAI+ people are the new normal, and many companies participate in these events, hiring talent from a diverse pool. But, is it enough? Is there enough visibility of queer people in the workplace?
Well, India is a country where the representation of women in boardrooms is only 14%, and society is yet to accept the law, a country where the conversion therapy for queer people is still a thing. In a country where every day, a queer life is lost due to the societal pressure, expecting a utopian society for the queer community soon seems impractical.
Nevertheless, the significant milestones crossed are still joyous moments, giving us hope for the future. The new-age corporates, especially the e-commerce platforms, are doing a fabulous job in diversity and inclusion by being vocal supporters of the community. Here again, the question comes, is it enough? Or rather, the question we need to as is if the
As a trans person who is yet to come out to my family, friends, and colleagues, I find it difficult to purchase dresses offline. You cannot avoid people’s glares all the time. So, shopping online is the only option left. However, I had a problematic experience, online shopping.
Online shopping platforms have only 3 categories for men, women, and kids when it comes to clothing and footwear. Bodies of males and females are different, and the sizes of clothing and footwear also vary. As a pre-operated trans woman, I find it very difficult to find the perfect size in female clothes or footwear for my body. After years of online shopping, I know which clothes size fits me, but footwear is still a major headache.
A young trans girl messaged me the other day asking which size dress she should buy and what footwear to get. I realized it is a problem for all. All trans people, be it trans men or trans women, start like this: In the closet, cherishing their true self in gender expression, in moments, hiding from the world.
When I started shopping online years ago, I used a trial and error mechanism. I would Google the difference in the size chart then buy it.
Even then, I would end up throwing away or changing many things. That was the main reason I used to only buy sarees at the start of my journey. Then, I figured it out and now my wardrobe is full of dresses.
Nevertheless, footwears is still a thing of worry. I am too tall and have large feet and need large size footwear. My size of female shoes is not available or is very minimal. This is not just my problem, but this is the problem of many trans persons like me.
The other, and major, loophole when it comes to diversity and inclusion in e-commerce platforms is that, on the one hand, they hire some queer people, implement some inclusive policies. But on the other hand, they restrict their customers within the binary.
Shopping apps, while registering a new account, gives only the option to select ‘Male’ and ‘Female’. Why? What about other genders? What about Non-Binary or Gender Fluid persons? When you provide the options in gender binary you are excluding the whole LGBTQIA+ community. It is discrimination.
You cannot call yourself a true ally if you have terms and conditions, and exceptions.
An organization is truly inclusive only, and only if, it includes all genders and sexuality in the workplace, market, commerce, and vendors. The moment these platforms restrict the gender of consumers within the binary-male and female, they turn themselves into a non-inclusive organization. At the workplace, they may be inclusive, but this non-inclusion of consumers takes away their claim of a true ally. Not providing options in the registration form, clothing, footwear, and other accessories for all the genders of the rainbow is queerphobia. So, dear E-commerce platforms, you are neither an ally not inclusive in a true manner.
The basics of diversity and inclusion at an organization do not only serve their social obligations but also helps in their brand value and business. No major online shopping platform in India has a separate segment for LGBTQIA+ people.
Imagine the amount of traffic an online shopping platform will get by adding a separate segment for LGBTQIA+ people! They could at least just add clothing and footwear, which are gender-neutral or different sizes, for trans people. They can just do away with the ‘men’ and ‘woman’ categories, and can bring in more diverse terms for it.
A truly inclusive and gender-neutral platform is what the LGBTQIA+ community needs and deserves.
Research after research has proven that the market of LGBTQIA+ people is far bigger than the imagination, and it is still unexplored in India. The number of online shoppers in India is expected to reach 150 million by 2025. The chunk of LGBTQIA+ customers within this simply cannot be avoided. It is high time that the online shopping platforms become true allies and make their consumer interface more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people. It will not only help the community, it will also help the brand value and business prospect of the company.
So, dear online shopping platforms, it is time to be truly diverse and truly inclusive, not only for your employees, but also for your consumers.