The same pain that pushes you down can be the reason why you emerge as one of the most vociferous people.
A seasoned speaker and LGBTQ activist, Harish Iyer is no stranger to the limelight. Having been described in multiple interviews as a "ferocious" and "strong" advocate for LGBTQ rights and child survivors of sexual abuse, one can hardly call these adjectives over the top. Harish has survived sexual abuse as a child, homophobia, discrimination, and violence. But he is anything but a victim. He has made bold statements demanding equal rights and a change in legal proceedings at multiple forums. Over time, he has honed his gift of the gab and can deliver sharp, quick-witted, and eloquent responses to almost any question. Harish has an unshakeable belief in himself, but his confidence is colored with warmth, respect, and friendliness that instantly creates a safe space.
Inclusion is not a stationary document. It's a changing phenomenon. Firstly, we need to acknowledge that we don't live in an equal space.
Presently the head of Diversity and Inclusion at Axis Bank, Harish is attempting to take on the corporate world. Just before our interview, there had been an incident at the bank, and he had to intervene quickly. He expressed his regret and promised to do better on Twitter. This is a promise that Harish continues to keep for various facets of his life. When talking about himself and the privileges that he knows he has as a brahmin, he reiterates the need to look at one's own mistakes and then promise to do better. He agrees that his past is not without errors. For example, the matrimonial ad posted by his mother, which said "Iyers" preferred, was the turning point where he realized the importance of intersectionalism even within the queer community. This was one of a few other incidents where Harish admits to having made an ill-judged decision. But for him, it is crucial to have the space to grow and learn from our past mistakes.
Yes, there will be mistakes. Yes, you may have to hang your head in shame, but you will rise like a Phoenix.
And he would extend this courtesy to anybody and everybody. Understanding the inherent homophobia that most Indians grow up with because of societal cues, he admits to having been a homophobe in the past. He believes there need to be spaces for interventions like therapy, education, legal measures, awareness campaigns, and impact. Citing his mother as an example, many parents require time to grow and learn. Forgiveness is not mandatory but moving ahead is a part of one's journey. A journey that Harish is extremely familiar with because of his sordid childhood experiences.
There's no healing, only acknowledgment of the truth that something bad happened to you and knowing that you are the writer of your own story.
Harish has been fighting tooth and nail for legal repercussions for child sex abuse and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. He knows it will take time and recognizes that he is uniquely qualified to play this role since every LGBTQ+ person cannot understand and educate. Those who can, those who have the patience, the desire, and the courage, should voluntarily agree to speak out. This is one of the reasons why Harish says he hardly ever refuses an opportunity to speak on any platform. This isn't restricted to the LGBTQ+ community since the "onus on inclusionary efforts belongs to those who are already included."
Despite his extroverted appearance, Harish is quite selective when it comes to his closest friends. He has a small group of friends, a dog, a cat, and his parents and grandmother, all extremely dear to his heart. Despite being a prolific and passionate writer, Harish detests reading. It's a matter of typing and letting go. A nature lover, Harish has also recently developed an intense love for traveling. However, he does attribute it to the fact that his past self struggled financially. Now, when he is finally stable and has the necessary resources, he has allowed himself the luxuries that come with it.