In honor of Pride, we wanted to feature some of the important work that Springer Nature's employee network, SN Pride, continues to do to support the LGBTQ+ community.
SN Pride is a global network, made up of local chapters across our global offices, including London, New York, Berlin, the Netherlands, and India. Here the founder of SN Pride India shares his personal experience coming out as a gay man, including a reflection on why he dropped out of the engineering field in his first year of school. Read his thoughts below.
Adapted from a blog originally written for the SN social intranet by Akshay Supalkar, former Springer Nature employee and Founder/former Chair of SN Pride India
Identifying as gay in a heteronormative society that avoids any mention of sexuality or even plain simple sex is something nobody prepared me for. In my 26 years of life as a human being and 13 years of coming to terms with my sexuality, I have lived in shadows, pretended very hard to be straight and “masculine”, tried to belong to a society which believed my existence was illegal. I have done all that any typical gay guy in India and maybe elsewhere does to make peace with being different and a minority. My incessant self-consciousness and social awareness deprives me of any right to feel specially persecuted as I see so many people from my community going through the same struggles every single day.
I always believed that my dropping out of engineering in the first year had all to do with the existential-spiritual crisis I was going through at the time, what I became aware of recently was the significantly higher drop-out rate of LGBTQ+ students due to bullying and un-belongingness. It was not an easy realization because even in your struggles you want to feel unique and special and never generic. But when I look back it is true, I was continually and badly bullied in school, college and which explains why dropping out was my “thing.” Even at a former unnamed workplace, when I tried to come out to colleagues with a Whatsapp status update, the worst way of doing so, I know, I was ostracized instantly, the men at the office suddenly felt even being seen talking to me would destroy their reputation as a straight guy. Suddenly going to a men’s washroom became the most horrifying thing of office time. Nobody prepared me for this too and I dropped out again after just five months of working there.
Two and half years ago, coming out as gay in India with Section 377 of IPC in place was not just risky, it was illegal. This makes us confront the uneasy realization of the “illegality of existence” as a person belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. Though homosexuality was decriminalized in September 2018 by the Supreme court verdict, I am still not sure of how much truly anything has changed in terms of the perception of the community and acceptance in school or the workplace.
When I joined Springer Nature in January 2020, I was simply in awe of the inclusive policies and the existence of a global LGBTQ+ employee network and I was so happy to know that there are openly gay people at the office if not in India but at least somewhere. I knew that starting an India chapter of SN Pride is something that I owe to my community and especially to myself. With the support from senior management and the global DE&I team, we started the India chapter of SN Pride. I have to say the healing I have received of my core wounds on a personal level through being acknowledged and accepted for one’s true identity is the most precious feeling in the world. I will be forever grateful to Springer Nature for this.
Being gay and out and different doesn’t come with a how-to guide and that’s why mentorship is so important. Acceptance of differentness and inclusion is not ingrained and that’s why sensitization is important. As LGBTQ+ people we are not looking for attention, neither are we playing the “gay” card, the “minority” card, or the “victim” card. You can’t imagine what we face every single day. Neither are we looking for acceptance because if I am celebrating my uniqueness why would I care about anyone’s acceptance or rejection. What is important to us is the acknowledgment that we exist. Today I want to say, I’m out and I am not dropping out!