September 2018

Wings to soar

Anubhuti Banerjee, manager, IT, customer relationship management, at Tata Steel, shares what it means to transition and finally be 'yourself'

Growing up in a nondescript town, my inner self was clear that -- despite what I looked like and others said -- I was a girl. Back then, I had mixed emotions about this fact not being known to others. I wanted to tell my parents, but what could I say? I hadn’t the words or the confidence to tell them that I wanted to transition into a woman. So, I kept quiet but made up my mind that some day, I would be a woman.

After finishing tech school, there was a ray of hope when I got an offer from Tata Steel, a company famous for its values. Stationed at Jamshedpur, I found the work engaging, and was encouraged to think and speak with confidence. I could even get access to the psychological counselling I needed. I was ready for the next step – that of transitioning socially, legally and physically, to be a woman.

The biggest hurdle was ignorance. Most of my colleagues had very little idea about LGBT issues. Neither did any of the company policies mention them. However, the company’s diversity initiative was doing fantastic work and our chief diversity officer’s empathy and understanding of what I needed reassured me that I could officially come out.

The first few months after coming out were a rollercoaster experience but being called 'madam' and being free to express myself was worth it! The diversity team sensitised my colleagues to what I was going through, and what was expected of them. Everyone, especially women, seemed to understand and appreciate the change. I could use the women’s washroom from then on.

Later, I transferred to the Kolkata office for better social and medical support. I have since completed my transition, ably supported by my organisation. I finally feel like I belong.

The day we launched Wings, an employee resource group for LGBT people, was the most emotional day of my life. The response has been phenomenal. There’s still a long way to go in the journey of total acceptance at workplace. But there is no doubt that I, and this journey, have sprouted wings and are ready to soar!

This article first appeared in July 2018 issue of Diversity Matters, the magazine that captures developments in the diversity and Inclusion space from Tata group companies