Queer influencers laying pitch for brands to deliver on their diversity goals

As a part of these initiatives, companies are also able to take guidance and feedback from the members of the community and drive change, including infrastructure.
As a part of these initiatives, companies are also able to take guidance and feedback from the members of the community and drive change, including infrastructure.

Summary

  • Brands invite queer influencers to engage with their employees and sensitize them towards the LGBTQIA+ group and make their workplace safer for the community and other minorities.

Soon after Yogi and Kabeer, a gay couple, delivered a training session at insurance company Future Generali's Mumbai office in July last year, a lady in her fourties approached them. She told them that it was the first time she had seen a gay couple, and if her teenage son ever came out to her, she would be able to understand him better.

Yogi and Kabeer are communications professionals and content creators, and are part of a growing tribe of queer influencers that are being increasingly sought out by companies to further their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals.

"That statement, especially as it came from a mother, made us very emotional. It made us understand that with us being out there at a workplace, there are so many people who are listening to us, and we don't even realize that our dialogue, our conversation, our presence there can give hope, can give meaning to so many people's lives and help them," said Yogi. He wished his parents' workplaces had such initiatives so his coming-out journey would have been easier.

The training session was a part of the company's 'pride' event celebrations. It was followed by a pride parade led by well-known faces from the queer influencer community, including Sushant Divgikar.

Read more: A crisis of inclusivity: Spare a thought for transgender students

The queer influencer community plays a vital role in helping brands achieve their DEI objectives. DEI goals are frameworks within organizations aimed at ensuring fair treatment and equal participation of all individuals, particularly those from historically underrepresented or discriminated groups based on identity or disability.

Brands invite queer influencers to engage with their employees and sensitize them towards the LGBTQIA+ group and make their workplace safer for the community and other minorities.

"We help them navigate these conversations within their organizations from bottom-level employees to top management. These usually starts with a general conversation on the queer community in India and then moves on to more nuanced discussions on how they can make their workplace queer-inclusive, safe and a positive space," said Sakshi Juneja, founder of Gaysi Family, a safe digital space for members of the queer community.

"It's heartening to see brands engaging with the community far beyond the Pride Month, partnering with influencers for their authenticity rather than mere token representation. In this effort, we have collaborated year-round with homegrown brands like Lakmé and more," said Gunjan Arya, chief executive officer, Only Much Louder Entertainment (OML), an artiste management and content production agency that represents popular queer influencers like Trinetra Haldar, a medical doctor and a transgender activist.

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Hindustan Unilever, which owns the cosmetic brand Lakmé, confirmed the collaboration with OML in response to Mint's emailed query.

Reaching a wider audience through online training

After the digital boom during the pandemic, brands have also become keen on virtual training sessions that enable employees to participate in these conversations from their comfort zones, even while working remotely.

"A lot of these training sessions have also been virtual, which means that they want to not just focus on the people who are physically present in certain locations, but expand those conversations to smaller towns as well, where there are other employees also," said Kabeer, Yogi's boyfriend, who creates content around their daily life to normalize homosexual relationships.

Driving change at workspaces

As a part of these initiatives, companies are also able to take guidance and feedback from the members of the community and drive change, including infrastructure. Many brands, including Future Generali, have built gender-neutral washrooms in their workspaces.

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"Last year, among the other initiatives towards creating an enabling environment for LGBTQIA+ community members, we focused on infrastructure-readiness. This led us to introduce gender-neutral washrooms at Future Generali. We witnessed enthusiastic participation from our leadership and employees alike as they painted a nice mural around it," said Ruchika Varma, Future Generali's chief marketing, customer and impact officer.

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