Shalini Devi’s pleasant and charismatic demeanor is sure to put you at ease as soon as you meet her. A successful corporate professional and biker extraordinaire, Shalini impresses you with her optimistic aura and intrigues you with her professional growth story. When asked about her coming out journey, she has a very thoughtful response and her quirky sense of humor begins to come through.
When heterosexuals don't introduce themselves as heterosexuals, then why should I?
However, she acknowledges that it may be necessary to come out when you see a fellow queer person struggling. Coming out to them, then, is an act of providing safety, comfort, and support. She followed this with another cheeky statement that had us breaking into smiles.
I have a very strong gaydar.
On the whole, Shalini seems to have lucked out compared to her queer counterparts elsewhere. Her parents were firm believers in giving the same education and opportunities to all their children irrespective of their gender. And she realized from an early age that she was different from others. She insisted on wearing pants to school instead of the skirts that were prescribed for girl students. Her preferring women over men or innocently declaring in school that she wanted to marry a woman as a child was also not frowned upon by the people around her.
This good fortune has followed her in her professional journey as the organization that she is a part of supports and provides a safe environment for queer people. She excitedly tells us that sexuality and physical appearance never factor into the hiring process of her organization. However, she does firmly believe that in order to make the workplace safe for queer employees, beyond diversity hiring, it is also very critical for organizations to constantly run sensitization initiatives. At her own organization, the leadership pilots an initiative called Friends of Pride which organizes regular discussions around LGBTQIA+ issues.
Shalini’s face lights up when she talks about the community that she has found on her biking journey. She has been pursuing professional biking since 2014. She has come a long way from being a part of a group that was only men to now participating in all women's biking groups. She has found an accepting and supportive community among bikers. Shalini beams with pride as she talks about women bikers who give up their regular jobs to follow their biking dreams.
Shalini understands that it is imperative to give back to the community too. Periodically she has been a part of several queer events, support groups, and initiatives. On an individual level too she helps out young queer folks who might be struggling with their identity by directing them to resources and appropriate people.
Her take on romance is very refreshing as she tells us that she doesn't focus on the person’s gender while dating. Identifying herself as a pansexual she says that gender for her takes a backseat while dating, and other qualities like sensitivity, kindness, and grace take precedence.
My favorite thing about being queer is that we are happy people.
As Shalini explains to us that she has never really been in the closet and doesn’t have a dramatic coming-out story to tell, she does emphasize that it is pertinent to reach out to young people and inculcate the values of kindness, acceptance, and empathy among them. Allyship, first and foremost, is the absence of judgment. To be a true ally one must be ready to give unconditional support to those who are brave enough to face the world and come out.
As she champions the corporate world, we wish Shalini more power and we are excited to see where her biking adventures take her next!