When Diana* joined a multinational firm, spending a day in office was an ordeal not because of the workload but due to the nervous glances and whispers every time she was around. A transwoman, Diana‘s first job was a humiliating experience. The situation got worse when both men and women opposed her using washroom toilet and she had to wait till the evening to use it.
“Firms recruit transgender people as a token gesture without creating a gender sensitive environment and this leads to discrimination. Discrimination is subtle. Nobody interacts with the person or joins for lunch. And the person is judged for their sexuality first and then for their work,” said Sunil Menon, founder of Sahodaran, a male sexual health project, at the Mainstreaming Transgender conference on Saturday.
On creating a transgender inclusive work space, corporates highlighted CSR initiatives and government schemes. Those from the community said sensitisation of employees in a corporate work space was the first step towards inclusivity. A diverse gender workspace involves the double-edged problem of lack of awareness in offices and the dearth of qualified transgender people to take up suitable positions. “While working with underprivileged communities we have realised that there are many schemes but only a few have the suitable qualification and skill to use these opportunities to their advantage,” said head of development initiatives atConfederation of Indian Industry (south) Deepamala K. “We need to ensure basic support from families so they can pursue their education and streamlining with society before we can talk about jobs for them in a corporate set-up.”
In a country where the stigma associated with sexuality pushes trangender people to the edge of society where they are forced to beg or work as sex workers, fighting for a liberated work environment for the few who make the cut will pave the way for the others. “Essentials of a gender sensitive space includes gender neutral toilets and dress code, awareness about conversation etiquette (which pronoun to use) and inclusion of perks like health insurance for sex reassignment surgery,” said Chandra Moulee, an LGBT activist.