Historically, there have been many misconceptions, stigmatization, and persecution of LGBTQ+ people. These attitudes have been based on cultural, religious, or social norms and limited scientific knowledge. Today it’s absolutely essential to recognize that being LGBTQ+ is not a choice but a natural variation of human diversity.
Being LGBTQ+ is not a choice
Scientific research overwhelmingly supports the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are not choices. Numerous studies, including genetic, neurobiological, and developmental research, suggest that being LGBTQ+ is a natural aspect of human diversity. Sexual orientation is influenced by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors, making it a complex and multifaceted aspect of a person's identity.
A history of diversity and acceptance
Contrary to popular belief, ancient India had a rich tradition of acceptance and celebration of all forms of love. Indian religious texts contained references to homosexual characters and themes, indicating mostly a neutral stance toward homosexuality. The Khajuraho temple features erotic sculptures showcasing the existence of sexual fluidity between homosexuals. It was only during the British colonial era in 1861 that homosexuality was criminalized under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, influenced by the belief that non-procreative sexual acts were sinful.
In spite of efforts in inclusion the LGBTQ+ Community continues to face discrimination
The discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community continues to be a harsh reality. According to the latest Human Development Report 2021-2022 from different countries, 75% of LGBTQ+ individuals have reported experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. The trauma leads to a higher rate of mental health issues and suicides within the community.
One of the popular arguments against the acceptance of LGBQT+ individuals is the belief that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder that can be cured through counselling, hormone therapy, or medications. However, the American Psychiatric Association decades back removed the classification of homosexuality as a disorder. It’s only much later in 2018 that the Indian Psychiatric Society announced that homosexuality is not a disorder. Despite this, some quacks widely practice conversion therapy, causing severe mental and physical trauma. Tamil Nadu became the first state to ban conversion therapy, emphasizing the importance of acceptance and support.
Data collection and visibility
The lack of visibility and understanding of the LGBTQ+ population has been a result of the historical oversight and exclusion of LGBTQ+ data from official surveys and census. This omission is also due to concerns about safety, privacy, and confidentiality. However, the confidential and safe collection of LGBTQ+ data and including it in official surveys and the census is crucial for understanding and addressing the needs of this community and healthcare support.
Social Identities and intersectionality
We all have multiple social identities that shape our experiences and perspectives. Acknowledging the intersectionality of these identities is essential. Homophobia and transphobia stem from deep-rooted prejudices and misconceptions, which can have detrimental effects on the well-being and social integration of LGBTQ+ individuals. Overcoming these biases requires education, awareness, empathy, and a commitment to fostering inclusivity, equality, and respect.
Personal lived experience on LGBTQ+ inclusion
Our personal lived experiences can shape our understanding and perspectives. I was a transphobic person due to the stereotyping and conditioning I’ve seen growing up. My journey of understanding the struggles of trans people has been a transformative experience when I encountered a transwoman during a train journey from Mumbai to Bangalore in my teens. This and various other experiences challenged my preconceived notions, bias and stereotypes, leading to empathy and compassion. My journey as an ally, of challenging my biases and actively supporting and advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusion through my work and personal relationships continues today.
Beyond performative inclusion
Investing in building an inclusive and discrimination-free workplace is essential today for the well-being of all employees. It helps build a culture where everyone is treated with trust, dignity and respect. Embracing LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace helps build psychological safety, encourages diverse perspectives, increases retention and attraction of diverse talent, promotes equitable policies and benefits, and enhances the company's brand as an inclusive employer. Today board members and investors care about businesses that are authentically invested in DEI as part of their overall ESG strategy.
The Gen Z population want to be part of work cultures that are truly inclusive of all identities.
Being an LGBTQ+ ally matters
Today companies cannot just have a performative approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion. True intention and mindful investment in hiring and supporting LGBTQ+ people is an expectation.
An ally is an intentional advocate who stands up for, supports and uplifts the marginalized and under-represented people around them.
The term "ally" holds particular significance within the LGBTQ+ community. An ally may identify as heterosexual and/or cisgender but actively strive to create a more inclusive and affirming world for those who identify as LGBTQ+. Being an authentic ally can be a transformative experience and people around you with a new perspective
Some simple tips to be an effective ally include -
Invest in learning more about LGBTQ+ identities and history
Check your own biases. Recognize and challenge any prejudices or assumptions you may have.
Learn and use inclusive language, starting with pronoun etiquette.
Add your pronouns to your email signatures, social media profiles etc.
Watch movies and series where LGBTQ+ have been sensitively portrayed, do this with your family
Be part of LGBTQ+ ERGs/Networks and Forums in your workplaces and outside
Recognize and challenge homophobia and transphobia
Support non-profits and social enterprises working in the LGBTQ+ support space
In embracing LGBTQ+ inclusion and being authentic allies, we send a powerful message of acceptance and love, fostering environments where people are free to be themselves without fear of judgment or exclusion and that’s truly the only way to be.
P.S – This blog was written for Times of India and published on