A Blue Yonder Associate’s Journey: Choosing Allyship Every Day
Kranthi Remala (she/her) is a Technical Staff Engineer working in the Retail Planning space in Hyderabad, India. This Pride, she shares her journey to becoming an Ally along with some simple measures you can take as an Ally to support the LGBTQ+ community.
I was as inhibitive and scared as most of us would be when encountering someone different from us until I went to the annual retreat of the professional female photographers of India in 2019. The event hosted 56 women from across India who came together to celebrate the art behind the lens.
During the introductory session, I heard a voice that sounded like that of a man. She introduced herself by an extremely sweet, girlish name. She was a renowned photographer and a cinematographer from southern India. As we chatted and I got to know her, my uneasiness melted away, and when she shook my hand and hugged me to wish me well, I felt so safe that the bubble I was in had broken in the most beautiful way! Today, she and I are good friends, and this has led me on my journey to be inclusive —to be an Ally!
India is a diverse country and speaks for secularism. The LGBTQIA+ communities are often well accepted and even considered as good omen for any auspicious occasions; for example, they are welcomed in groups to bless a newly married couple during weddings. However, there is also another side to this story. It is quite common in India to misunderstand the community, or even be hesitant to spend time around members of the community. This is due to the basic fact that there’s no visibility or acknowledgement; instead, they are often hidden away or ignored, which causes dissonance in inclusion. Witnessing this discrimination propelled me into building faith in Allyship.
We are all bound by our cultural conditioning and made to live within certain standard definitions created by society. Did we ever ponder about the origin of these definitions, and if they were universal truths or accrued knowledge? It is time that we first unlearn the laws that bind our societal norms, give ourselves the chance to release any prejudice limiting us from being open, and welcome the limitless possibilities of celebrating every being around us. Thus, we would be getting into the realm of acceptance and self-initiating a sense of inclusion amongst ourselves.
Many of my friends and peers have asked me several times what does it mean to be an Ally? Allyship is often misconstrued to mean knowing a few people who are different from you and self-qualifying oneself. However, being an Ally requires a great deal of understanding for the lives and battles of each of the communities signified by the acronym L.G.B.T.Q.+ and their rights.
While it might take several decades of human evolution to overcome the unconscious bias of discrimination, the good news is it can start with you and me as instruments for change. Each of us hold a greater responsibility to be truly inclusive.
To be an Ally, here are a few things you can do to support the community:
- Little Things Can Make a Great Deal: It is often a little million drops that make up an ocean! We have umpteen resources around us to make smaller shifts. Visual markers often make the greatest kick starters! These little actions will show people of the LGBTQIA+ community that you are a safe person to confide in who will not discriminate and enable them to be their authentic selves around you.
- Pronouns: Let us begin by using pronouns in our email signatures, when introducing ourselves to each other in-person or in meetings, and in our social media handles.
- Badges: Look for Pride badges/stickers and show them off on your bags, laptop sleeves, water bottles, etc.
- Pride flags: When was the last time you furled a flag? Let us flash up the vibrant rainbow-colored flag on our vehicles, balconies or porticos? Pride flag signifies oneness. It is a sign of being welcomed, a hope of being accepted.
- Making the Discomfort, Comfortable: Unlearning our cultural definitions and limitations is hard for someone who is not from the underrepresented communities, but it is never too late to welcome avenues for newer and humbler wisdom. Be open to listening to stories in the most unvarnished form. Let it shake your ground, only to expand your roots to greater depths. Make it a practice to read about their lives or struggles of acceptance across the globe once a week and visualize them from a different lens. Participate in virtual inclusive sessions or community talks, attend local queer weekend festivals, etc. Listening to queer stories and seeking inspiration from influencers can go a long way in your personal Allyship journey.
- Less Assumptions, More Learning: Real empathy comes from being compassionate and conscious of one’s situation and recognizing the fact that others’ circumstances are glaringly different from yours – though all of us might be in a similar equation. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that the marginalized communities do not all have the same experiences. We usually observe that they become quiet and deplete themselves from expression. Thus, it is important that we do not generalize from a handful of stories. Assumptions must be avoided, and we should be open to garnering their unique experiences and intersectional identities. It is best to ask questions that can help us generate effective and welcoming conversations. Building trust and a sense of belonging is crucial to make one feel safe and to hone yourself as a better Ally.
- Bring Diversity to the Table: Inclusion and diversity are like a couple: they go hand-in-hand. To experience the complexities of inclusivity, we should first welcome diversity. Often, we create a psychological presumption of sympathy to be equally inclusive. However, it demands an elevated level of consciousness – one can begin by putting oneself into the shoes of others and reimagining their world. It is important for us to make time to hone these skills to represent ourselves as Allies.
- Building a Team of Allies: It does not take moving a mountain to be an Ally – it’s easier when you have a group of people who wear their Ally hearts on their sleeves! Gather with other Allies to build a network to expand your knowledge and understanding. Participate in community outreach programs together, attend dance workout sessions hosted by local LGBTQ+ communities, go to story time, etc. A great way to find other Allies is to participate in your company’s Associate Resource Group; at Blue Yonder, we have BYourself.
I am grateful to be working in an organization that supports an ecosystem for building good cultures that evoke psychological safety. Let us embrace Allyship, and more importantly, continue to embark on this journey! What a beautiful world it is going to be, as we begin to live with a sense of oneness and be grateful for the vibrancy of our planet. Let us be stronger catalysts to a symphony of natural existence!