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My Journey to Becoming a Joyful Ally

Vieshaka shares her own experience with bias and how she came to be an active and vocal ally for the LGBTQ+ community.

Vieshaka Dutta
Vieshaka Dutta

My journey to becoming an ally for the queer community began with several moments of truth. I was on the fast track to a a successful career in HR, working with some of the most well-known companies in the world. Many of these had gender related programs and I was beginning to be aware of the larger world out there, but I had a long way to go.

As the recruitment lead, I became aware of the biases in the corporate world. People didn’t want to hire women of a certain age because they believed a woman would want to get married or have children and quit. It didn’t help that at this point of a rather glorious career, I wanted to plan on having a child! Finally at a life stage I wanted to have a child, I moved to a more inclusive organization only because –it was known to be inclusive for women! – way back in 2008!

While all these thoughts were brewing in my head, and I started leading efforts on diversity and inclusion, one of our LGBTQ+ inclusion sponsors came down from the US to share his experiences. He started sharing his own story of coming out as “gay” to his client, and about different incidents within workplaces. As he talked about the process of coming out, I felt completely out of my depth as this was unknown territory. When I was with him, the thoughts going through my head were, “Oh my God! I’m talking to a gay man!” and sometime in another conference, it hit me hard when the facilitator said “One needs to ask themselves – What would I do if my child comes out as queer?” - I remember feeling quite overwhelmed at both these times. 

As he talked about the process of coming out, I felt completely out of my depth as this was unknown territory. When I was with him, the thoughts going through my head were, “Oh my God! I’m talking to a gay man!”

These ideas accompanied me to my journey where I volunteered for a queer support group, in 2017, who wished to create advocacy at workplaces. I met people from the LGBTQ+ spectrum from different walks of life – including a queer person - who held a senior position but didn’t feel empowered to come out because they were married and well known as a heterosexual couple, many queer people who spoke about multiple suicide attempts due to lack of acceptance from family and also many more who had simply lost hope of securing good jobs because they didn’t want to re-live horrifying homophobic experiences. I remember going with my new friends from the community to the first pride march in Chennai - It was ELECTRIC! I definitely feel that PRIDE marches demonstrate the celebration of the human spirit in a unique and unforgettable way!

I got in to action, trying to make a difference in any way I could, bringing my corporate skills to my volunteer work, thoroughly enjoying every moment of meeting people from various backgrounds, making friends along the way. Then, when I was invited to my first gay party, I took my now 6 year-old son along, who had the best time ever hanging with “boys” who played with him and showered him with attention.  Soon I became part of a chosen family for many of my queer friends, and they became mine. When friends migrated, frustrated with India’s restrictive rules around adoption and parenting children, I was their reference.  They were my extended support system and part of a widening circle of friends, adding to my single parent community, community for mothers and more that have been a part of my life for years now. My life was getting bigger, fuller with support and love, and I had never felt so loved in my life!

But society’s conditioning runs so deep, that despite seeing how my life had changed for the better, I have faced many situations where people around me have tested me. And some of these situations have been really hard personally. I continue to fight for what I believe is right. Because if an ally can be persecuted to this extent, we need to notice and acknowledge what the queer community is subjected to every day. We need to take a stand for human rights. For every single human on this planet.

Vieshaka Dutta
Vieshaka Dutta
Director – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Throughout her 14+ year career, Vieshaka has built community support groups and manages large networks focused on support for women, mothers, and single parents. She is a strong ally for the LGBTQ+ support movement in India and supports advocacy in the workplace. She is a single parent to her 12 year old son and enjoys meditation through art.

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