Here’s a situation described in the graphic below that many of us may be already grappling with, followed by multiple possible answers to the question it raises.
Depending on our pick, we may either be an ally or an opponent of the LGBTQ+ community. And even the most progressive-minded and vocally supportive among us may be surprised by our blind spots and hidden biases during the course of such an exercise.
This is one of the 18 questions that is part of an online quiz, Kaun Banega Ally, that's being run by Pride Circle, an organisation that fosters diversity and inclusion (D&I) for LGBTQ+ people in India’s workforce. Currently taking place on their Instagram handles (posted on their stories by both @pride.allies and @pride_circle), the contest ends on 13 January. The three winners, who will be announced on 14 January, will get a voucher of ₹500 each.
“We have been to so many diversity conferences over the years, but we haven’t got to know much about the back stories behind these initiatives,” says Srini Ramaswamy, co-founder of Pride Circle. In June, Pride Circle had organised a 21-day ally challenge online, using video games, among other quirky formats, to spread the importance of "allyship". According to Ramaswamy, around 13,000 people participated in that initiative, including from 108 organisations based in 58 countries around the world. It will take place again this year.
The idea behind these allyship initiatives is to bring about more sensitization towards LGBTQ+ people at home, school, society and workplace. The strategy is to imagine different scenarios that are usually experienced by people in such contexts. But instead of strident advocacy and the hectoring language of rights, these modules use familiar and relatable situations to raise public awareness about the LGBTQ+ community and the challenges they face every day, while helping people to figure out the most sensitive responses to such experiences.
Apart from making these allyship events part of their annual calendar, Pride Circle is planning to launch an “ally book” in March, featuring stories by 45 people from across the spectrum—corporate India, entertainment industry, teenagers, parents of LGBTQ+ people, teachers, and so on.
“We wish to highlight the stories of unsung allies in this volume,” Ramaswamy says, “It will be an annual publication with 45-50 stories updated every year, available in both print and digital formats”. Apart from the CXOs of Novartis and WeWork, actor Nandita Das and activist Anjali Gopalan are among the contributors to the first volume.
As for the ongoing Kaun Banega Ally contest, the majority of the participants so far have got the answers right, Ramaswamy says, more women than men, but across religions and locations in India.
Although India’s LGBTQ+ community crossed a landmark hurdle towards achieving equality in 2018, when the Supreme Court read down the draconian Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, they did not necessarily earn the dignity and respect of society overnight. That fight, to change the public’s mindset, is a continuous work in progress and can only be won hand in hand with the allies. And it needs to take place in every walk of life—from schools and colleges to our workplaces and living rooms.