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It’s Not Easy To Be A Working Queer Woman

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By Anuska Roy

Queer women are faced with multiple levels of biases that impact how their career trajectories are shaped. A lack of opportunity for queer women within prominent workplaces contributes to a hindered growth for their career paths. Workplaces are unable to understand and provide the necessary space to queer employees.

This not only shapes up a general sense of anticipation for queer women but also creates a myriad of obstructions for them to enter into workplaces. The prevalence of discriminatory behaviour towards queer women from colleagues and supervisors makes them apprehensive of entering newer areas of work.

Moreover, invasive questions that are triggering and uncomfortable situates them in a vulnerable position. This makes them fearful of approaching newer opportunities. Consequently, the emotional burden of having to explain incorrect behaviour to colleagues at workplaces creates exhaustion and burnout for queer women.

lgbtq

Existing Biases Hindering Access To Opportunities And Growth

For queer women, their workplace may often become a space of heavy triggers and prejudice. Stereotypical assumptions related to their sexuality lead to many unconscious biases being prevalent in everyday interactions as well. Consequently, these biases can take the form of discriminatory behaviour wherein employers to choose to restrict opportunity and space for them.

This makes it difficult for them to grow within their workplace and contributes to alienating them from the workplace culture. Moreover, discriminatory jokes or hyper-sexualization also contribute to a higher rate of sexual misconduct for queer women within workplaces. Without any DE&I advisory in place, workplaces create an unsafe environment for queer women that harms the way they move forward in their career paths.

Moreover, queer women also perceive themselves to be at a higher risk of sexual misconduct in the workplace. This is because the heteronormative ideas often push the perception that queer women can be “converted” to be heterosexual. Hence, queer women feel their sexuality makes them doubly vulnerable in their place of work.

Queer women are also at risk of outing by their colleagues and supervisors. Many queer women do not feel comfortable sharing their sexuality or gender identity. However, a lack of awareness and training makes them apprehensive of opening up to anyone within their workplace. This also creates a sense of isolation for them. This not only creates isolation for them but also impacts their work output.

Consequently, dissatisfaction with the work culture impacts productivity, which in turn impacts their career growth. Moreover, microaggressions in the form of remarks that hint at their sexuality or physical appearance also contribute to them feeling alienated from workplace culture and negatively impacting their career growth.

lgbt woman working

Lack Of Training And Awareness

Most workplaces fail to acknowledge intersectionalities that persist within marginalized gender groups. Hence, their D&I mandates only incorporate inclusive workplaces for cis-heterosexual women. This decreases visibility for queer women, and their sexuality happens to be erased.

Other times their identity is often centred around their sexuality. A lack of policies and processes that increase accessibility and visibility for queer women also impacts how they progress in their workplace. Bias training programs are an integral way to address unconscious biases that change into discriminatory behaviour for queer women. Moreover, having D&I advisories in place with a special focus on LGBTQIA+ inclusion is another integral way to help queer women progress within their career paths.

Diversity and inclusion advisories not only put processes in place that help organizations build more inclusive workplaces for queer women but also put measurement analytics that helps them understand if these policies are actually working. Moreover, these processes also help destigmatize the idea of sexuality and help leaders recognize the need for equity measures for marginalized genders.

D&I advisories also help workplaces build more collaborative endeavours that can help queer women feel connected to the organization. This not only helps them progress within their career path but also helps the organization understand the gap that makes queer women shy away from collaborative operations.

Conclusion

Queer women are faced with discrimination that not only points out their position as a woman but also points out their sexuality as a cause of stigma. This makes them uncomfortable within their workplaces. Negative interactions also shape their perception of workplaces in general. This leads to queer women stepping down from job opportunities or not approaching higher-level opportunities at all.

A lack of inclusive leadership also impacts how queer women perceive workspaces. If they feel unsafe and uncomfortable in a workplace due to being unable to reach out to a trusted supervisor, they automatically step down from their position.

Generalized stereotypes and cases of misconduct also lead to long-lasting trauma for queer women. This leads to them stepping away from their work-life for good at times. A lack of D&I advisories that help place preventive policies in place also creates an unsafe work environment for queer women. LGBTQIA+ inclusion not only helps organizations create a more diverse workforce but also combats the problem of queer women being unable to access opportunities due to their sexuality.

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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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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