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  • Je'nae Singh

What It’s Like Being A Queer Desi Professional

Oftentimes many people forget that “being queer” means more than just sexual or gender expression. We are also human beings actively participating in society. This also includes many of us who are working in professional careers. This can be in corporate, creative, or freelance fields. There has never been a point in my professional career where my queer identity is not honored or recognized. My work has always heavily focused on amplifying marginalized groups and communities — and I’m extremely proud of that. Being a creative queer, I have always used my writing and words to project and protect the many different faces of ‘Jae’. My queerness lives boldly on my resume, clearly showing how my identity as a queer WOC fuel my passion for projects I take on.

Photo Credit: Herzing University

As a podcaster and writer, I’m eagerly creating and reporting on stories that I believe will impact future generations. My identity as a South Asian queer woman has distinctly been reflected in my various podcast episodes as well as my articles. For me, there was never a question as to what type of work I wanted to do out of college, I knew my life would be dedicated to generating content and media that would uplift the South Asian diaspora and its sub-communities, including the queer South Asian American community. With our community's most recent rise to fame due to shows like Bridgerton and Ms. Marvel, it’s definitely an exciting time to be a part of this digital space that’s actively growing and transforming into an archive for future generations to come.

Photo Credit: Vecteezy

As a person coming from an extremely niche community [Fijian-Indian], I’d long recognized the importance of uplifting these groups. For me personally, it always irked me that people would assume that I’m Indo-Caribbean — Fiji is in the Pacific, not the Caribbean. This ‘confusion’ immediately minimizes the various SA communities in Tonga, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Consequently, this erased my Indo-Fijian culture, language, religion, and ultimately my identity. I felt even more ostracized when I turned 12 and I affirmed in my body, mind, and soul that I was queer. I was in preschool when I knew I was crushing on my friend and her Powerpuff girl overall. I knew that I could never speak up about these feelings [after all these topics are not ones you can casually bring up in desi households], so I swallowed down crushes and unrequited loves up until the end of high school.

I was internally, mentally, and emotionally tied down by my SA society's sexual and gender constructs and continuously felt oppressed until I moved away for college. I found liberation in collegiate academia and my internships, where I learned through trial and error what ‘professionalism’ means. From there, I was able to define the word for myself and this empowered me, filling me with the confidence and skills needed for my future career path — whatever that might’ve been. This confidence eventually led me to lead a freelance lifestyle, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But this comes with its own set of obstacles and challenges.

Photo Credit: Variety

At the beginning of this year, I took on a freelance podcast project for a queer non-profit based in LA. The podcast is an intergenerational conversation between myself and elder queers, non-binary, and intersex human beings. Right off the bat, I immediately noticed that the other co-producer and myself were the only POC. There were definitely certain conversations where ‘white man's burden’ and the white savior complex were heavily present. As subconscious as this may have been on their part, it’s a red flag that I have learned to recognize over the years as I’ve entered various spaces. Eventually, it led me to lose motivation and sight of why I had originally joined in the first place. This isn’t to throw shade at the organization. More importantly, to just raise awareness on subconscious biases still heavily present in ‘company culture’. It’s one of the main reasons I refuse to apply to your typical 9 - 5 job.

Like the American Dream, the 9-5 work life is a false promise. As Gen Z-ers, we are rewriting the ‘norm’ of traditional occupations. And as Gen Z, Generation Alpha, and onwards filter out of college and spill into various work fields, companies are trying to “keep up”. It’s trendy now to want to curate ‘diversified’ environments and have anti-discrimination policies when hiring. But how effectively are companies practicing these claims? To this day, we still have harassment running rampant within corporations with little to no repercussions. It’s always been a challenge as a queer professional to feel seen, supported, and protected in workspaces. It’s even a heavier load when you add POC to the mix.

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I believe that this narrative needs to change. We are living in the 21st century, so it’s time we start acting like it. To me, this looks like companies implementing Title 9 with dialogue and discourse including queer and transgender education in business settings. This also looks like more human beings advocating for mental health resources and organizations that support marginalized groups [this encompasses ALL marginalized groups: queer, BIPOC, AAPI, etc.]. Our fatal flaw within our SA communities is sweeping shit under the rug — a commonality easily found within the workforce — and this is EXACTLY the script that needs to be flipped.

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