It's extraordinary that someone like Gautam Yadav, who never had any interest in activism is now a prolific helper for those in need. However, Gautam's diagnosis with HIV at 18 and the subsequent panic and stigma that he endured laid the foundation for his work and social impact. He has fought damaging misinformation campaigns that positioned AIDS as a lethal disease and remains committed to improving the lives of People Living with HIV (PLHIV). Gautam believes education and sensitization during an individual's formative years are critical to battling the stigma.
I was lucky as my parents supported me, but not everyone is lucky.
Along with the crippling anxiety of living with HIV, he was also constantly questioning his identity. However, Gautam remains grateful for the support he received from his community and parents. He acknowledges the fact that not everyone's parents are accepting and supportive. A lot of people have to fake their identities, run away, and feel completely alone. This is something that Gautam is trying to correct at his current nonprofit employer - The Humsafar Trust - where he is a research associate. His genuine care towards the LGBTQ community was self-evident when he asked us to include his contact information to help young people who often feel lost searching for acceptance. He hopes to point them to resources, so they recognize that they are not alone.
I have a biological as well extended family who gives me strength.
Gautam also expressed his thankfulness for working in an office that promoted inclusive culture. All smiles, Gautam talked about his numerous friends, his extended family, and how they significantly impacted his happiness and health. Gautam's friendly nature, infectious smile, and warm responses were all a testament to his positive outlook on life. His work and commitment have resulted in membership and participation at the UNAIDS Youth Advisory Forum from the Asia Pacific, Youth Voices Count, Youth Lead Bangkok, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, and more.
People and corporations are willing to work with LGBTQ after Section 377 was struck down.
When asked about his choice to stay in the development sector instead of a cushy corporate job, he laughs and explains that just like any other profession - the development sector is also a field through which one can earn a decent living. But he recognizes that nonprofits alone cannot change the world. Corporates have resources, and the government has the power to make policies. Logically, these sectors need to come together and collaborate to bring about structural changes that are inherently inclusive to not just the LGBTQ community but to all marginalized groups. He does admit that post the removal of Section 377, he has seen more collaborations happen and hence remains optimistic for his community's future in India. It is essential for us not to forget the role the media can play in influencing popular opinion. The media is powerful, and it desperately needs to play a more active or opinionated role.
Apart from his work at Humsafar Trust, Gautam expressed his passion for acting. It started at the young age of 15, when he took up acting classes. His enthusiasm was evident when he told us that he doesn't want to perform on some big screen; he is willing to act even if it's a small stage in a small theatre. For him, what matters is the inner satisfaction and happiness that he gets when he performs.
I try to help every person without any judgment.
The thing about Gautam that stuck most with us was his level headedness and willingness to help others selflessly. When asked to advise someone struggling to come out, he suggests one should be calculative about the repercussions that emerge from coming out. Gautam strongly believes that coming out is not one enlightening moment in a person's life. It is an ongoing process, and financial independence is critically important as a safety net. He advises one should also not hesitate to get help from non-governmental organizations such as Sweekar - The Rainbow Parents and Humsafar Trust since they can understand and counsel parents.
PS - If in need, reach out to Gautam at firstname.lastname@example.org.