LGBTI Community's Liberation Lies In Financial Independence, Say India's First Queer Job Fair Organisers
When section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised homosexuality was struck down by the Supreme Court, the LGBTI community across the country rejoiced. After several years of struggle, today, the world is metamorphosing into an equal and just place for the LGBTI community. But the question is, has our society accepted them? Did the stigma and prejudice against the community also go away with Section 377?
Trying to find answers to the questions, Ramkrishna Sinha and Srini Ramaswamy decided to address the issue in a unique way. Popularly known as Ram and Srini, the duo identified the most crucial aspect for the emancipation of the LGBTI community – Jobs! Financial Independence, in the words of Ram, is what makes a big difference in an individual’s life. In the quest, Ram and Srini founded the Pride Circle in 2017 which held India’s first LGBTI job fair in July this year.
“The financial stability leads to emotional safety, psychological safety and only when you are at peace can you plan to do bigger, to achieve better and there is no struggle for day to day earnings. I think here came the idea to put together a job fair that would really be impactful for the members of the LGBTI community,” said Ram.
The quest led the duo to team up and begin the construction of a channel that brings the LGBTI talent pool and the companies under one Umbrella. It was not easy but in the end, India was successfully able to get its first and the biggest LGBTI job fair called RISE (Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity) that was held at ‘The Lalit Ashok’, Bengaluru on July 12th. Organised by Pride Circle, the event was spearheaded by Ram and Srini. The Logical Indian had collaborated with the event as “Goodness Partner”.
Ram and Srini were working at Intel and Intuit when they met at a conference and exchanged ideas on inclusivity. They kept bumping into each other at conferences where companies and individuals would come together to have conversations about a more inclusive society. However, before section 377 was scrapped, there were very few companies who actually came out to talk. It directly indicated that if companies are apprehensive to even participate in the conversation, how would they be open to hire our LGBTI friends.
Ram and Srini felt the need to do much more to help their friends. “We began by doing meetups to help each other on this journey. A lot of people wanted to do something but they had never come across any trans person. So the meetups were also to familiarise one another with the community. We did meetups in about 10 cities and even in cities outside India such as London, Seattle, San Francisco, and Melbourne,” said Ram.
Adding to what Ram said, Srini explained how they met people who were working on a more inclusive work environment. But very soon they realised that there is no result until and unless they did something more tangible. “I think for us it became an important decision that there is no way we are going to progress unless and until we bring this conversation to the mainstream,” Srini added
India’s First LGBTI Job Fair
Many conversations, meetups, juggles and struggles later, the day finally arrived when RISE event became a reality, and it was creating history at the courtyards of ‘The Lalit Ashok’. It was the first-ever time that India witnessed something as path-breaking as a job fair dedicated solely to the LGBTI community. The event was organised under the Pride Circle Conclave.
The Bengaluru event saw an influx of LGBTI candidates and employers at the job fair. A host of notable speakers like Selisse Berry, Dr J Harrison and Devdutt Pattanaik enlightened the audience with insightful discourses around inclusivity.
The magic created by RISE- the film captures the essence of inclusion, a celebration of equal opportunity and recognizes the dignity in humanity.
The event indeed made a proud history when out of 320 job seekers from the community, 152 were shortlisted for the final interview and over 32 candidates got the job offers. The marketplace witnessed 20 LGBTI owned businesses and 45 sponsor companies among other things.
What Is Being Solved?
Until now the funnel of candidates was typically restricted to women, men and different age groups/demographics of young generations. But it had very little to do with people with disabilities and nothing to do with people of the LGBTI community. “Much marginalised become people of the community because they don’t stand a chance of getting a fair opportunity to be evaluated as a candidate. That was the thought process, the genesis of the overall initiative,” said Srini.
“We usually find that the LGBTI population is either unemployed or underemployed, especially the visible trans community without access to education and access to healthcare. There are so many challenges in day to day life that respectable workplace for employment becomes very challenging and also we talk about the population that is skilled in a certain sense but visibly underemployed,” Ram added.
There is never any history that has been made without overcoming hurdles. The changemakers had their fair share of roadblocks. The duo told that it was a great challenge to mobilise the various aspects of the community. Since nothing of this sort has ever happened before, it was difficult for people to see a vision or to believe in it. “The skepticism among the prospective candidates was whether the companies will really come to hire people from the community whereas the companies were apprehensive if the talent pool would show up, be visible where they are known to be LGBTI in a sense,” said Ram.
The organisers had to work their way from the grassroots level by working with the communities and the NGOs. The event did not guarantee the jobs but the key is to take the first step. “To be honest, pulling off an event with 36 companies to come and hire and an overall 46 sponsors for a two-year-old organisation is a big thing in itself and we were able to do that, “ Ram gleams with ‘pride’.
Vision for future
Visibility, inclusion, and incorporation is the philosophy behind Pride Circle. Being true to the core reasoning, the two men continue to make efforts towards mainstreaming the conversation across the country. “Beyond the hiring focus, it encompasses enabling the people to have the conversation about the taboo and stereotype that people of the community are only good with theatre, acting or performance. There are people who belong to the community and are at very senior positions in companies who are also out and proud. Our vision is to set them as role models to some of those in the community who are struggling,” said Srini.
Srini recently participated at the Berlin Conference of United Nations Human Rights. The inclusion of LGBTI community is also one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. “It is not just a number of candidates getting jobs, but it’s also a figure in terms of sensitising the employers, managers, society, and people at large. It will certainly give hope to the next generation. Overall we want to address the economic loss suffered by India because of Homophobia which amounts to approx 32 million dollars that are 1.7 per cent of GDP,” Srini said.
Where is Pride Circle now?
Pride Circle recently concluded its second chapter, “Pride Circle Meetup” in partnership with Northern Trust in Pune on August 20 and Gurgaon on the August 24. Besides, Srini Ramaswamy represented Pride Circle at the United Nations Human Rights Conference on “How to engage the private sector into the fight for LGBTI Rights” on 28th and 29th of July in Berlin along with some of the most powerful global voices in the LGBTI equality movement.
The Logical Indian lauds Ramkrishna Sinha and Srini Ramaswamy, the front-runners of inclusivity movement and expresses our sincere gratitude for being a ray of hope for our LGBTI friends and allies. We truly believe that inclusion is not just an exercise, it is a whole way of life. With all the cheerleaders of change, we celebrate diversity on drumbeats and welcome with open hearts, a new era of an inclusive world.