Today, Jay leads Financial Risk Management and Model Risk at Silicon Valley Bank. Over the past 15 years, she has worked at several multinational banks and consulting giants such as Barclays, Citi, ICBC Standard Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, and Deloitte. As a queer woman of color navigating career ladders in the western world, her worldview has been shaped by her experience of intersectional biases. This, her innate desire to increase the visibility of queer role models, and the intersection she occupies drive Jay's work.
Throughout adulthood, Jay has walked the tightrope of double marginalization. Being a migrant and queer in a white dominant country is nothing short of precarious. Thinking back to the time when Jay first experienced this, she recalls the time when she pursued further education at the University of Warwick, in Britain. There she encountered queer-positive communities, outspoken queer awareness, and participated in her first-ever pride march. At the same time, she had their first brushes with racism. Even worse, In her ethnic group, which is a minority in the UK, she faced the erasure of queer experiences.
There is a lot of homophobia in the ethnic minority community, but at the same time, there is a lot of racism also in the LGBTQI+ community.
What does it take for someone from the margins to thrive in a male-dominated sector? It’s not a straightforward answer, and it’d be silly to expect that from someone queer anyway (pun intended).
With a warm smile, Jay begins to narrate her story.
Jay hails from Mauritius, a nation that has a prominent Asian population. Like most of the nation, Jay's parents are Hindus. Being raised as a Hindu, Jay is aware of the smidge of gender fluidity in the religion. However, as with many previously colonized countries, the practitioners of this religion to this day continue to stigmatize marginal identities like our colonial and colonised forebears. It is no shock to know that Jay’s parents weren’t the most accepting when she first came out to them. Although she had a loyal supporter in her younger sister, Jay had to grapple with her parents’ slow understanding and delayed acceptance of who she is. They kept trying to convince her that the 'idea' and phenomenon of being queer was foreign to their community, and was a western import.
It's not that this is a western problem; there are Hindu deities who are gender-fluid. To me, this is just an era of post-colonialism that has been stuck in a lot of countries. The world has moved on, and we are stuck here. It is on the governments of ex-colonized countries to set the tone not only for their own countries but to spread the word across the world.
Jay, who has become aware of intersectionality and the whitewashing of native cultures, now acknowledges that the absence of queer people in our circles is due to hostile environments, which force queers to invisibilise themselves. As discouraging parents’ disapproval can be, Jay proved that it doesn’t need to be a reason for hiding one’s truth. Jay has allowed this to spark her efforts for inclusion and integration. She turned her parent’s uninformed rationale into a drive to create and amplify queer visibility.
While her day job lies in financial risk management, Jay devotes much of her time outside work to committed DEI strategies. Jay tells us that DEI is not just a branding tactic. It is a means to an end, one which can make queer role models accessible.
She has turned the privileges she found in her professional life into allyship tools. Jay co-chairs EMEA Silicon Valley Bank’s LGBTQ+ network. There she initiated the organization’s first-ever month-long pride campaign and began "global safe spaces catch-up" to encourage others to come out when they feel safe to do so. She regularly authors articles to raise awareness about the intersectionality of queerness and ethnic minorities, and mental health struggles. She is always on the lookout for volunteering opportunities to promote queer education and inclusion in schools.
For me, if you are in a position of influence, and if it is safe for you to be visible, I don't think you have a choice. People who can afford to be safe in the public eye, I'd say - do it. Because it's a matter of life or death now.
Our conversation veers to the issue of coming out. To mitigate the novelty and obstacles of the experience and nurture a home in an otherwise unforgiving heteronormative world, Jay suggests four strategies.
One, seek self-acceptance in spite of self-doubt. She maintains that coming out is one of the most significant things that a young queer person can do. Coming out of the closet is not a one-time activity. We come out more than once - to ourselves, friends, and family. It is difficult for a young person to embrace their individuality, especially when they don’t fit established social hierarchies and archetypes. Being in the presence of other queers helped Jay find hope for herself. Once the band-aid of self-deception was removed, the relief of self-realization set in. And slowly, but surely, it got better.
Two, find allies close to home. Jay is acutely aware of the systemic roots of marginalization and how individual efforts cannot wholly overcome such behemoth problems. Rather, one needs the power of a community, the wisdom of intersectionality, and hope for a better future to turn the tide of marginalization.
Three, share your experiences to help others sustain hope in safe spaces. As a child, Jay had no queer role models to look up to. This is a major problem: the lack of queer role models. Media representation has always oscillated between the absurd or comic relief which feels even more humiliating. This is what Jay is determined to change through her DEI advocacy efforts.
Four, create safe spaces. Jay feels there is great scope for egalitarianism in the corporate world, where the right strategies can reform attitudes and reduce discrimination. However, she does concede that there’s a long way to go. Oftentimes an enterprise’s efforts to improve inclusivity are often indistinguishable from its CSR efforts. Jay agrees that it would be naive to think that some companies will not have dollar agendas and that they will never engage in a disingenuous display of performative acceptance of the 'other'. Yet, Jay is adamant that not all companies are alike.
For me, it (self-acceptance) came without self-hatred but with a lot of self-doubts. Would I ever be able to have a happy life?
Safe to say, Jay has found something better than just a happy life - she has discovered a path to a content life. With her wife, and puppy, Cava, Jay continues to navigate these intersections. She is doing this with her chosen family and a queer-Asian community backing her, as she dreams and strategizes for a world where no parent says to their queer child, "Oh, but I have never met anyone queer."