From being terrorised to speaking in front of even a small group of people to be able to start my entrepreneurial journey involved many decisions which I had to take consciously or subconsciously, but if I got a chance to change even a single thing about this journey, I wouldn't. Hailing from a country known for its diversity and varied heritage, when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation, there is little to no acceptance in the society. Being effeminate, there has always been a little extra set of challenges I had to face since childhood. From being shamed for basic things like walking and talking to being unable to present me in front of others due to being made fun of, childhood wasn't much easy.
While school is known to be a safe place for children to learn, for students like me, it's a living hell that we have to go through every day. Being at such a young age, while you haven't even discovered yourself, your peers try and put you in a box that forces you to believe that you are different and, in a wrong way, broke my self-esteem from within. From being abused by students from my same school to seeing 'For a good time call Navel' scribbled on my school bathroom stalls, it wasn't the easiest journey to survive, and hence decided to take the first way out as soon as I could. Even though it meant not having a farewell or losing the few friends I had made, I chose to fail school and apply for private SSC.
College was a little easier, as, by that time, I had learned to camouflage some of my quirks to seem normal (as society describes), but the act couldn't last for long. Knowingly or unknowingly, there came the point where I started losing my act and starting behaving as I usually would do. But thanks to some professors and a sturdy position in the college's cultural association, no one could make fun of me (at least not on my face.) But, till that time, there also came the courage to be able to stand up for myself. It was indeed an empowering experience for me as I let people know that just because I am different doesn't mean they can shame me or anyone like me.
Learning Slowly And Steadily
Slowly but steadily, I started learning more about gender, sexuality, etc., and soon, I realised that while I'm not sure what my gender and sexual orientation are, I'm sure that I am not 'Homophobic' like most of my peers, and I'm not afraid to stand for what I believe in. The more I got invested in the thought, the more I learned that gender is a spectrum and the essential piece of information of all that it is constructed by society. After this epiphany, I became vocal to my peers about my belief that 'gender causes discrimination and bias'. Being effeminate myself since childhood, I realised that the term which describes me perfectly is 'Queer' as it is an umbrella term that gives me a space to find myself and explore my gender and sexuality.
Life After College!
After college began my professional journey, and believe me, it was quite a roller coaster. Starting from an internship in a Hindi national news channel to becoming a sub-editor for a national newspaper, I was ultimately a different person. From being closeted about my queerness on the TV channel to embracing my true self at the newspaper office, both experiences helped me better understand myself. While the team did not seem to care about my queerness in the office, writing articles for such a renowned platform helped me realise that I would like to contribute more to the youth who are just like me and struggling to get some authentic and realistic information. Hence, I came up with the idea of 'Closeted Stance', an information portal that could also be a virtual space for the LGBTQIA+ community willing to discover themselves or learn more about themselves.
After working there for a while, I decided to take a break so that I could relax and also set up my portal. During the same phase came a time when many companies and celebrities were approaching me and a close friend of mine for freelance projects, and as it used to bring in some side income, we decided to take up these projects. Slowly we realised that we had sufficient projects that we didn't need to resume working on and decided to start our entrepreneurial journey. While being an entrepreneur in your early 20s sounds quite fascinating, the challenges that come across are unmeasurable, from being misjudged for being too young to sometimes not being taken seriously based on our age; it was challenging and fun to tackle each challenge, one at a time.
While setting up our own company, as my business partner is also an ally to the community, we still decided to keep 'Closeted Stance' as a subsidiary of 'Neo Aeon Media Solutions (my company), and one of the first things we both agreed on the fact that our company will be a workspace that has zero-tolerance against discrimination and bullying policy, especially against the LGBTQIA+ community. We have also set up some basic rules like asking for an employee's preferred pronouns to educate about why is it essential to have an opportunity to choose pronouns; we are building a team that not only accepts but respects people of all gender and sexual orientation. Just the opposite of what I had to face in my academic and professional life.
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