Why do we always look up to the west? Why can't we acknowledge the progress India has made for the LGBTQ+ community? Why are we not looking at the issues from the lens of an Indian perspective?

These are a few of the thought-provoking questions posed by Suresh Ramdas.

I was in the closet for 17 years of my life.

Suresh was just another corporate employee who "faked" being straight for ten years. It eventually took him 17 years to come out and be his authentic self. Today, he is a certified diversity professional who has completed a renowned LGBTQ Executive Leadership Program from Stanford University. A highly skilled and experienced corporate leader, he currently leads Hewlett-Packard's Global Pride Communication and is based in Bangalore.

There are a lot of challenges that are associated with coming out, he says. Be it acceptance, work, promotions, and society in general. It is a long process. But Suresh hopes that his efforts towards the community, his decision to participate in the Mr. Gay India pageant, his speeches, and his activism culminated in him becoming somebody that people can relate to. His dedication and drive to create change have earned him several accolades, including being featured in the OUTstanding 100 LGBT+ Future Leaders list in 2020.

We need to be 'Indianising' our conversations.

Throughout the conversation we had with Sumesh, he had the air of someone who was hopeful about the future of the LGBTQ+ community. He firmly believes that India is making progress, although it takes time for people to accept and normalize being queer. He does not look up to the west for the ideas of inclusion and believes it is high time we "Indianise" our conversations. He suggests that diversity, equity, and inclusion policies should be designed to suit Indian needs considering its immense diversity of languages, cultures, and religions. Suresh quickly pointed out that although communicating in English is essential, people should also be encouraged to speak and write in their native language.

Give it another decade. You will find lots of out and loud (queer) leaders in India.

Suresh was earlier part of a program called 'Leading with Pride,' which trained members of the LGBTQ+ community to become future leaders. India is plagued with a lack of diversity in its political and social leaders. This is a serious challenge since change and growth can only happen when empathetic, open-minded leaders emerge from the community they aspire to serve. However, Suresh remains confident that the situation will improve in the future.

People who are on the internet are a very small portion of the country.

Our echo chambers may lead us to believe that our nation is predominantly digital, but that is not the case. That's where, as Suresh says, we need to broaden our lenses. A report published by World Economic Forum states that despite having the second-largest internet user base globally, 50% of people in India still don't have internet access. Furthermore, the outsized youth user base indicates that the older generations have inequitable access to information. Suresh wants youngsters to be made aware of the ground realities and issues of India. He believes that change can sound daunting, but it could be realized by volunteering at a non-profit whose cause you resonate with,

A cisgender man/woman should understand their privileges.

Suresh firmly believes in a "growth mindset." We all make mistakes, but learning from those mistakes and moving forward is what's crucial. Mistakes like using the wrong pronouns are common, but what matters is that an ally is willing to learn, to ask, and to change. However, someone trying to be an ally should also understand the privileges that come with being a cis-gendered man or woman. There is still a long way to go, but Suresh's optimism was infectious. He believes - "All we need to do is just start somewhere. Even if it's baby steps, it's still in the right direction."

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