Vocal for Local Queer Edition: Supporting Queer Owned Businesses

Updated: 06 September, 2020 12:47 IST | Maitrai Agarwal | Mumbai

Queer folk discuss the need to support LGBTQIA+ businesses while we handpick a bunch for you!

Illustration/ Gaysi Family Blog
Illustration/ Gaysi Family Blog

September 6 marks the second anniversary of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code being struck down. A watershed in Indian history, withdrawal of the draconian law decriminalized consensual relations between same-sex adults. While the society’s outlook towards the community is changing, we still have a long way to go as far as equal rights and sensitisation are concerned.

We might be having an increased number of open conversations, but it is imperative that we also talk about the existence of queer folk in businesses- whether it is a queer person starting a business or a queer person entering a company with their entire selves out of the closet.  We spoke to queer folk, business owners, and professionals; to help us understand the importance of analysing queer experiences in the workplace and supporting queer businesses.

Content Curator and Gaysi Family Blog founder, Sakshi Juneja explains, “There is a growing need to examine closely the varied experiences of queer folk in the professional world - to better understand the challenges they face, the opportunities that are available and specially to make their stories reach the audience whose support they need to equalize the field.”

LGBTQIA+ individuals have continually experienced employment discrimination in traditional working environments. According to a 2018 study on the rights of the transgender community by the National Human Rights Commission, roughly 92 percent of transgenders are denied their right to partake in any form of economic activity, regardless of their qualifications. The systemic violence meted out to the community prevents them opportunities similar to that of other independent businesses. This is by no means accidental, simply a crystal clear sign that one’s ability to thrive can be correlated to the inequalities created by homophobia, transphobia, and capitalism. This is exactly why queer entrepreneurship matters, why it is a crucial survival tactic for the community.

Queer entrepreneurs create establishments with inclusive values, queer sensibility, and safe spaces, the importance of which cannot be stressed enough. Supporting businesses run by queers is a meaningful way to support the community in a larger sense. You can directly contribute towards financial independence of a low-income community by choosing to spend consciously. Published author and sought-after motivational speaker, Raga Olga D’Silva said, "The LGBTQIA+ community is highly creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. The pink economy in India itself is into billions. Those people or companies not supporting or not marketing to the community are losing out. I encourage all to support the community and through such efforts, the economy, companies, and the community at large will all grow".

Need help finding queer businesses to support? We’ve got you! We have rounded up a bunch of diverse Mumbai (and Pune)-based queer enterprises for you to check out and show some love.

1. Gaysi Family

Gaysi Family Blog is an online forum and website which aims to provide a voice and a safe space to ‘desis’ (people from the Indian sub-continent) who identify as queer. It is meant to be a platform for queers who have something to say, whether it’s personal opinions, coming out stories, poems, erotic fiction, reviews, event notices, or anything at all that is related to being Gaysi or queer. Currently, they are hosting their own LIVE talk series on Instagram about Queer Businesses. Brand storyteller, Naina Narang shares, “In a short span of two months, we have been able to cover a diverse range of narratives, while some stories inspire us, some make us realise that ‘Queer’ people are all around, the one thing that binds all these stories, is how proud they leave us feeling to see one of us - THERE shinning! - and to me today that’s our win! After each session, the interviewee has come back to tell us the host of love and support messages they have received, and the sheer encouragement they have gotten as the community around them is pushed to view them in a different light”.

Since 2011 they have also managed to create offline spaces to screen queer films, hold book reading evenings, open mic events, and self-publish a queer magazine, called ‘The Gaysi Zine’.

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A post shared by Gaysi Family (@gaysifamily) onAug 18, 2020 at 6:00am PDT

2. Speaking Minds

An international speakers bureau with offices in Mumbai and a robust presence in India, UK, and New Zealand, Speaking Minds specializes in premium B2B engagements and content curation. They have a host of speakers from different backgrounds ranging from celebrities, journalists, thought leaders, sportspersons, authors, to social activists. Discussing representation in the industry, the Bureau’s Director shared with us that even though companies are increasingly seeking LGBTQ+ speakers for dialogue on inclusivity, the representation is low. There are some like Raga who are now supporting that the community changes the narrative by sharing their stories on various platforms and participating in policy changes within corporates as part of the diversity and inclusion initiatives, hoping to make such dialogues mainstream over time. 

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A post shared by International Speakers Bureau (@speakingmindsb2b) onSep 4, 2020 at 12:05am PDT


3. Cafe Guftagu

Sumit, the owner of Cafe Guftagu describes it as an ‘inclusive dialogue cafe’. Located in Mira Road, the cafe was opened to fill the immense gap of an affordable queer friendly cafe in the city. “Though there are few places in the city which are pretty open but their high prices restrict the access of many average income earners to these spaces, and at times forces them to live a life in duality by hiding their identity to go to other affordable spaces,” said Sumit. After visiting various queer friendly cafes across the country he realized how such establishments help in creating a safe space for queer individuals. Inspired to start his own venture, he hopes Cafe Guftagu provides a platform to LGBTQIA+ individuals to interact but also bridges the divide between the queer community and heterosexual community by creating a space to initiate a dialogue between the two. Presently, the cafe is being used as a crowd-funded community kitchen to serve meals to daily wage earners, sex workers, transgenders, and others who need help.

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A post shared by Cafe Guftagu (@guftagucafecg) onFeb 7, 2020 at 3:14am PST

4. The Farm

The Farm is the flagship project of Protecterra Ecological Foundation (PEF), a non-profit whose core philosophy is that behavioural change related to nature will only come when we look inside, if we are kind on the inside, only then we will be kinder to the planet. Spread over2.5 acres, the Farm is completely organic- built out of scrap and waste, and home to around 40 animals. We spoke to founder and director Pooja Bhale who has been living in a canvas tent at the Farm since 2015, “The purpose of the non-profit project is love, awareness, and learning. Love for the self, awareness about our impact on the planet, and learning from each other, the earth, and everything sentient that we share this planet with.” Visitors can opt for day visits, farm stays, or learn organic farming and meditation among the many things offered here.

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A post shared by The Farm (Pooja Bhale) (@thefarmandlove) onJul 27, 2020 at 11:30pm PDT


5. The Hair Artisan

Run by expert hairstylist Nerissa Misquitta, who has earned top honours at BBlunt Academy - Mumbai, London School of Barbering – London, and Not Another Academy – London, the Hair Artisan was conceptualised in 2014 based on her passion and love for all things associated with hair. Speaking about her enterprise, Nerissa said, “The Hair Artisan is an extension of my personality and creative side. Here, I go above and beyond just hair cutting and styling.” Fully understanding the significance of outwardly appearances for the LGBTQIA+ community, she adds, “One is encouraged to be themselves- speak, act, and dress in a manner that represents their individuality. I'm committed to queer representation and ensure that every individual is at ease and addressed by the right pronouns. Before every haircut, I invest time understanding my client's needs making sure that they leave with a look that represents them the best.” Located in Vile Parle West, the studio is accepting one on one appointment to ensure safety during these times. 

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A post shared by Nerissa (@thehairartisan) onJul 27, 2020 at 11:21pm PDT


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First Published: 05 September, 2020 03:35 IST

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