The Vicious Cycle of Invisibility and how to break it
The prejudices LGBT people face in our families, campuses and work places can be attributed to what has been described as the “Cycle of Invisibility”. This cycle accurately describes how homophobic attitudes are strengthened and perpetuated through the lack of openness among gay people to discuss their alternative sexuality in an open and healthy manner, and by the unwillingness of straight people to see beyond the negative stereotypes and false perceptions about LGBTs that are popular.
The cycle itself is self-explanatory. A homophobic society leads to a fearful gay people who do not come out. This leads to their invisibility in the mainstream of society. Straight people, unaware of LGBTs in their midst behave in a manner that is consistent with society’s homophobic attitudes. This pushes gays further into the closets and reinforces the long held beliefs of straight people. Which in turn leads to the creation of a homophobic society that perpetuates the vicious cycle.
It is not practically possible to break the cycle at any one point. One can not expect gay people coming out in droves all of a sudden demanding equal treatment. Nor can one expect the entire straight population to seek out the truth behind alternative sexualities and gender identities. Therefore, there has to be a concerted attempt, in our universities, offices and in public discourses, to break this cycle at multiple levels.
This means college and university administrators have to make it amply clear in their public messages -that homophobic bullying will not be tolerated. It means they make a conscious effort to sensitize on-campus counsellors to issues of sexual orientation. It means that bigger queer groups have to redouble their efforts to reach out to LGBT youth, and actively engage straight students too.
In our corporate offices, it means that the respective Diversity teams of various companies make sure that words like “inclusivity” are not mere managerial jargon, but start making sense to the mostly invisible gay employees. It means to enable LGBT resource groups to function in a way that they act as a succour for distressed employees, as well as a way for the senior management to reach out to its gay employees, and that corporate sponsorship is given to these groups so that a general perception of the company being LGBT-friendly is given out to both its employees and people outside. It means that Diversity Training in Corporate India should compulsorily include sexual orientation and gender identity in its list of focus issues. In today’s post-recession competitive environment where corporate behemoths are struggling against niche vendors, and companies are fighting a tough battle against growing attrition rates, a perception of not being gay friendly can mean losing out on the big Dollars and Euros, as well as a failure to attract and retain the best talent.
We’ve already lost enough time. Enough hate has been spewed, enough negative stereotypes been allowed to perpetuate. Enough wonderful and talented gay men and women kept in the closets. The time to break this cycle of invisibility in now!