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5 Ways Workplaces Can Be Allies To Their Queer Employees!

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Written by: Anuska Roy

The Coronavirus outbreak situated workplaces worldwide in an unprecedented state of remote working without physical interactions. Workplaces were transformed into Zoom meeting rooms and conferences and communications became dependant on online hosting platforms.

For many workplaces, this switch to an online mode of communication and transference of information led to a disconnect between integral aspects of inclusivity in terms of language, demeanour and the overall praxis of implementing policies.

Representational image.

Challenge For Remote Workplaces

The sudden switch to communication dispersion through online modes led to a huge amount of confusion. Consequently, confusion with regards to following inclusive policies for all members of the workforce also increased. Corporate sectors and HR professionals can take up some important steps towards building an inclusive and diverse workforce. These policies are useful for the queer community starting off as employees. Furthermore, these can be implemented while conducting their work through an online mode.

For members belonging to the LGBTQIAP+ community, inclusivity can have ramifications through various actions. Consequently, given the importance of June as the Pride month, it is doubly important now for workplaces to take accountability for queer employees within their workforce.

Steps Professionals Can Take To Make Their Remote Workplace Inclusive:

1. Respecting Pronouns:

Pronouns are the most basic aspect of respectability that workplaces can give to their employees.  A welcoming and inclusive atmosphere wherein non-cis individuals must feel comfortable in their own identities is of importance.

Moreover, workplaces can cause be a huge trigger to non-cis persons who feel the need to constrict to heteronormative ideals of gender. Information dissemination through pronoun identification in mails, internal communications and so on can help them feel comfortable and included in the workplace as an integral and valued member of the team.

 

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2. Non-invasive conversations:

It is important to acknowledge that queerness is a deeply personal identity for some that they may not wish to put out on display. Consequently, invasive questioning along the lines of asking employees about their romantic history, current attachments or even their process of coming to terms with their identity can cause massive triggers for them. Furthermore, workplaces must remember to respect boundaries for queer persons just as much as they respect boundaries for cis-heterosexual persons.

3. Valuing your queer employees’ time and effort:

Workplace culture can often forge an identity for their queer employees as existing to provide free information to allies. It is essential to remember that queer identities must not be seen as a module for study or research. Moreover, their time and efforts are not to be taken for granted by colleagues or supervisors. Many queer individuals have often faced the brunt of educating their colleagues.

This education could have been learnt by them through simple Google searches. However, this responsibility always falls on queer employees. Queer identities must not be pigeon-holed into study courses that are available for free.

4. Implement queer-friendly policies:

Queer friendly policies for remote workplaces can range from implementing support programs for queer employees or even participating in capacity building workshops. Moreover, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown have placed many young queer individuals starting out on their first job stuck in homophobic homes. Consequently, having support programs for queer employees can help them gain access to necessary support groups and solidarity which they are missing in their own homes.

5. Fostering a gender-neutral environment for queer employees:

The development of a workplace is not solely measured by the technological or materialistic advances that one might have made. A diverse and inclusive work environment is of notable importance. A focus on nurturing space of comfort for all their employees goes a long way in building an embracing space of work. Hence, gender-neutral language is an integral aspect. Sensitive terminology for parental leave, menstruation and pronoun identification can help queer employees feel welcome in the workplaces they are a part of.

Importance of Allyship for Queer Employees in Remote Workplaces

The remote mode of working has not been an easy switch for many. For some queer individuals, a lockdown meant being encaged with their family members. Some of who are not accepting of their identities.

Hence, for them, a virtual space of acceptance and support is the only platform where they feel safe. In such situations, workplaces must cater to creating a safe space for their queer employees. Consequently, having access to queer-friendly workspaces and policies not only makes queer employees feel safe and welcome. Moreover, it also lets them know that they can reach out to their supervisors.

It is difficult to build these safe spaces without the help of any advisories or dedicated bodies that can supervise the structuring of the same. While legal boundaries can help workplaces achieve surface-level policy implementations, an advisory that works for inclusivity and compliance can curate strategies that help each workplace stay true to its culture while being inclusive to their employees. This Pride Month, workplaces must focus on building their culture to inculcate values that traverse beyond rainbow capitalism.


Ungender Insights is the product of our learning from advisory work at Ungender. Our team specializes in advising workplaces on workplace diversity and inclusion. Write to us at contact@ungender.in to understand how we can partner with your organization to build a more inclusive workplace.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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