Bala's journey of self-discovery challenges societal norms. From coming out as gay in the sixth grade to embracing her gender-fluid identity, she navigates the complexities of gender and sexuality with resilience. Her narrative rejects the notion that identities are static, emphasizing the importance of self-awareness. In this conversation with us, Bala talks about this ever-evolving journey; how she encourages others to embrace their identities no matter what; and how she tries to make workspaces more inclusive.
I don't owe people justification about my sexuality; I have seen those changes in my body.
Expressing multiple genders, Bala challenges stereotypes about the fixed nature of gender and sex. Her journey includes personal revelations about coming out as gay and then realizing her inclination toward feminine expression, leading to her identification as a gender-fluid individual, and recently, Bala came out as a transgender.
She firmly believes that people should define their identity based on inner feelings, and not based on societal expectations and stereotypes. She asserts her right to self-determination, highlighting that her appearance reflects her unique identity and completely rejects people’s stereotypical expectations of looking or behaving a certain way.
To this day, Bala faces external judgment and societal expectations, but she stands firm in her conviction that people owe no justifications to others for their identity and choices. At the same time, Bala understands the need for support from friends and family. She emphasizes familial understanding and acceptance, sharing the heartening acceptance she received from her parents when she came out as transgender. “They accepted me wholeheartedly”, she fondly remembers.
But while her family accepted her with open arms, some of her friends were not that kind, especially when she came out as a trans person. She was disowned by a longtime friend due to her sexuality. However, rather than lamenting the loss, she celebrates the revelation of true friendships, reinforcing her belief that those who depart are not deserving of her presence.
Courage lies within you, you just need to bring it out through self-love and self-acceptance.
As a vocal advocate for self-love and acceptance, Bala addresses the socioeconomic factors influencing a person's struggles with self-love, especially those with marginal identities. Recognizing the role of education in fostering acceptance, she talks about a generational shift toward understanding and supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals. “It makes my heart full to see parents trying to educate themselves”, she says.
Bala's commitment to fostering a positive self-image extends to her workshops, where she encourages a daily mirror exercise to promote self-appreciation and gratitude. She speaks from her own experiences, acknowledging the ongoing struggle against homophobia while affirming the importance of valuing oneself.
We need to stop stereotyping genders, that’s where homophobia comes from.
Bala also actively engages in discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in marketing and other workspaces. Advocating for gender-neutral language and challenging stereotypical portrayals in advertising, she highlights the power of media in shaping perceptions. Bala calls for sensitization to these issues, encouraging organizations to adopt inclusive practices such as gender-neutral washrooms and respectful inquiries about individuals' pronouns.
Through her professional accomplishments, advocacy work, and personal revelations, Bala continues to inspire others to embrace their true selves and challenge societal norms. Her narrative serves as a reminder that genuine change begins with individuals being true to themselves, fostering a more inclusive and understanding society.