The Story Behind Q-rious
North India’s first LGBTQ+ Career Fair
I was not aware of the fact that a woman had appeared for MTV Roadies Auditions and came out on Indian Television. Months later today, she has put together a job fair Q-rious along with several other members of the society who support the LGBTQ+ cause. Shyam, MIST’s founder connected me to Ankita Mehra and I wondered if this is going to be a first event story that I will write for MIST. However, when I spoke to her, I found myself in the same boat as earlier. This is the story of how Q-rious came to be.
Ankita and I spoke a little late in the night. But the belief in what we both do, kept us awake. I could make out in her voice, the good noble intentions in putting together the job fair. It jerked me straight on the bed to listen with attention. I had found a story worth sharing.
When Ankita came out, there was a lot of gossip at her workplace. Her manager’s (a man) girlfriend was interested in Ankita and expressed interest in her in the washroom once. When Ankita brushed aside her advances, the manager’s girlfriend got offended. The story in the office that made rounds was that Ankita tried on her and she rejected her. Ankita became the ‘controversy material’ in her office. She felt stuck, wondered about career growth in a space where people were biased against her. She had no one to talk to, she feared being judged. All she had to say was that just because she likes women doesn’t mean that she will go ahead and like everyone.
She moved to a startup. Ankita says that she had thought that since the team is usually small in a startup, she would not get to deal with a lot of people. She will not get humiliated as people would have better things to do than gossip. She organised an event in her company with about 50 employees in attendance. Members of the LGBTQ+ community shared their stories with everyone. People were genuinely interested to know about the struggles. A few employees came out to Ankita, they were part of the community too.
Ankita saw this as a light of hope. She continued to organise microevents at her workplace. She got people emotionally involved in the community members’ stories, their life journeys. Ankita was overwhelmed as people kept coming out of the closet, to her. She felt the influence of a small event, something that led to a big change.
Ankita says ‘people spend 8 hours in a workplace, multiply that by months and years. They are not being themselves, they can’t talk about things that they want to, while everyone is talking about their crushes and boyfriends.’ This motivated her to sensitise the workplaces.
Naren Krishna, Founder CEO of Equiv (a job portal for women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ and veterans ) and Stockroom (a curated platform for developers) got in touch with Ankita for the job fair Q-rious. He wanted to involve her in the business. She was curious about the work he does and decided to give it a try.
Ankita says while Section 377 has been scrapped and companies have opened the doors, they still have to come up with more nuanced offerings and the best things for the community members. Corporates have to understand that a transgender who has hormone bills to take care of cannot be expected to join work at Rs. 20000 salary figure.
It needs to be much more than that or come in shape of an insurance policy. POSH (Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act) is limited to men and women; it should be gender neutral and should include bullying and homophobic comments too.
Q-rious is first of its kind job fair being organised in the North. The vision is grand – the idea is not just to give jobs and access to the community to safe workspaces. Q-rious will also have training and guidance modules for the members and is open to everyone in the country. There are sensitisations programs for employers. The candidates get to register on the platform and once their application is cleared, Q-rious will also sponsor their travel and stay. Opportunities can be accessed on the website www.qrious.equiv.in.
The job fair is being organised in collaboration with Humsafar Trust, Mist, Yes We Exist, Manvendra Singh Gohil, Lakshya Trust and many others. As I spoke to her, Ankita expressed her gratitude wholeheartedly to everyone involved and supporting the job fair. She believes that the impact will be across generations and communities of people. They will develop a deep understanding of the LGBTQ+ group.
As I connect with more people from the community, I continue to be inspired by their stories, their grit and efforts. I am glad people like Ankita find a light of hope and spread it for others too.
Interview and Written by Luv Kumar (email@example.com)