“There are no wrong questions, but there’s always a right way to ask.” These words by Jay Anand, poignantly capture what it means to be a true ally.
I’m going to be honest when I say that as a cisgender, heterosexual woman, I often have many questions about the LGBTQIA+ community, as do many of us. But regardless of our sexual orientation and gender identities, it is safe to say that we have all experienced invasiveness masquerading as curiosity.
This is not to say that we stop having these questions. Inquisitiveness is part of the human condition. Because how else are we to progress as a society? Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, ignorance certainly did (metaphorically, of course, most of us here are cat lovers). But there is always a mindful way to approach that nagging inquiring mind, which is what it means to be an #AbsolutAlly.
As heteronormative individuals, it is particularly peculiar that we often respond with “Oh, you didn’t tell me!” everytime someone mentions that they’re not heterosexual and that we believe we are entitled to that information. Many of these questions and the manner in which we frame them stem from the deeper conditioning of what is 'normal' and 'natural' that has been entrenched within us. All of us, the LGBTQIA+ community included, have now entered a generational process of unlearning and learning, which is a beautiful place we now find ourselves in.
It is therefore important how we partner with and empower each other, in an effort to do better for each other, as a community.
The #AbsolutAlly campaign intends to empower allies to pass on the mic to those asked last. What better way to do this than Absolut Glassware partnering with ten diverse individuals and voices; Patruni Sastry, Jay Anand, Alex Matthew, Aniruddha Mahale, Maitrayanee Mahanta, Anwesh Sahoo, Haima Simoes, Dutee Chand, Durga Gawde, and Anjali Lama; all of whom have been trailblazers for the Indian LGBTQIA+ community in their own right. In a series of powerful films, each one of them illustrates seemingly innocuous, yet thought-provoking aspects of their own interactions with the world around them. The beauty of each of these narratives is the fact that all of us have at some point inadvertently asked the questions and perhaps made the comments addressed in them. You can watch them all
From unlearning false assumptions and stereotypes to mindful ways of communicating questions on gender identity, to navigating harmful phrases or terminology, these films give us pause to reflect on our past approaches owing to social conditioning. Haima, Jay and Anwesh highlight the implications of intrusive questions; Dutee Chand illustrates the importance of using inclusive language; encouraging people to use the word ‘partner’ instead of the more binary terms ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’; while the other narratives show us hurt and discomfort often caused by assumptions.
For Absolut Glassware, it was integral that this campaign goes above and beyond merely telling these stories and as such, they’ve taken steps to partner with organizations and implement initiatives that double down on their vision of absolute allyship. They have collaborated with Mr Bartender & The Crew, India’s first bar academy dedicated exclusively to women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, to facilitate sensitization workshops that cover the gamut of queer identity and representation in Indian bars. These workshops will kick off this month and aim to cover over 100 different bars and clubs across the country. Absolut Glassware will also be holding Pride nights in key metropolitan cities with the intent of celebrating the community and its allies.
We also suggest you read:
15 Young LGBTQ Indians Share Their Coming Out Stories: Part II
11 LGBTQ Indians Share Their Coming Out Stories: Part III