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Two years post-377 verdict: Fired from Kolkata school, a gay teacher finds a supportive workplace

Meet corporate professional Avijit Kundu who shares his experience of working in a corporate vs traditional academic set-up, and how discrimination over one's orientation needs a serious re-look.

Written by Jayashree Narayanan | Pune |
Updated: September 8, 2020 8:43:46 am
diversity and inclusion, transpersons in professional work spaces, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, LGBTQ persons, avijit kundu,Professionalism in the academic workspace needs to be across traditional and corporate set-ups, feels Avijit Kundu. (Source: Avijit Kundu)

“Balanced, more confident and a proud gay.” That’s how Avijit Kundu — who was fired from his job of a school teacher in Kolkata in February 2018  — describes himself two years after the traumatic incident. He allegedly lost his job for distributing copies of his then published book about being homosexual to his colleagues. While the school refuted the allegations of homophobia, a jobless Kundu had to take private tuitions to pay his bills until December 2018 when he joined a corporate e-learning platform in Hyderabad.

“It is a closed chapter now. I was drained of energy at the time. But then, I had to keep working and look for alternatives. It is then I decided to make the switch to e-learning,” says Kundu, who is now working as a team lead of the Physics team at Toppr.

Kundu says a supportive work environment has enabled him to give his best, for which he was also rewarded with a promotion. “Why should a person be criticised for one’s natural orientation? I remember, a year ago, we were talking about our backgrounds in my current office and how we moved to e-learning. When the office colleagues learnt about my history, they stood up and clapped for me. They were impressed. I remember saying how in the corporate sector, people crib about long working hours and stuff, but going by what all I have dealt with, it has been a cakewalk for me.”

ALSO READ | After 377, career options have opened up for transgender persons: Filmmaker Naveen Tokas

Always inclined towards teaching and mentoring, the M-Tech professional finds the corporate set-up more inclusive as compared to the traditional teaching set-ups. “People are taking it (homosexuality) as a fact here. As a corporate, the focus itself is different. Amid the tremendous work pressure and so much to do on the professional front, you hardly get time to bother about one’s personal life. Even if it bothers, people are much more understanding, professional and practical. At the end of the day, they are not dealing with my personal life but my professional identity. So, they are more concerned with that. I was also quite surprised, to be honest,” said Kundu.

diversity and inclusion, transpersons in professional work spaces, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, LGBTQ persons, avijit kundu, Two years hence Section 377 verdict, Kundu wants the trans community to keep raising its voice. (Source: Avijit Kundu)

Today, two years, after the landmark unanimous verdict of decriminalisation of section 377, in the Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India case, which decriminalised gay sex and held the 1861 law unconstitutional, Kundu is “very happy” and feels how positive environments at workplace can make a “marked difference” for trans persons.

“A few years ago, I was not so confident. LGBT people are themselves an agency of change. I have become much more comfortable. If the outer world stops bothering about sexuality and wanted to understand people through their professional skills, there is nothing like it. A workplace should not bother about one’s orientation but their skills. In such an environment, the person becomes much more free to evolve, professionally and may be, aim for personal growth,” he said, in an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com.

ALSO READ | For trans-friendly workplaces, employers rolling out inclusive policies and more

It is the first company that Kundu has managed to stay on for a long period. “Previously, in all the schools where I was working in a more traditional set-up, my personal life came into so much of focus that I just couldn’t concentrate. The corporate set-up at least has moved forward. There are other people in my office, a few, who are out of the closet, and some are not, yet it hardly bothers anyone. I have seen this change,” said Kundu, who is currently working from his hometown in Kolkata amid the pandemic.

ALSO READ | A ‘dream come true’ for the transwoman winner; recognition for the entire trans community

While Kundu has found a supportive work environment, the fact remains that only a handful of organisations have such workspaces that include diversity and have inclusivity policies. “I think, I believe. I believe that the life of most LGBT persons is itself kind of a change because of the struggles that we go through. Your professional skills and your work should only matter. If companies can streamline professionalism, it can build a much more healthy environment,” said Kundu, who is also an Odissi and Gaudiya Nitya dancer.

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