One cubicle at a time: A gay man’s fight in India

Even in a country where homosexual activity is illegal, one man can help change a workplace to make it more supportive of LGBT people, as shown in the following article by C Moulee, a gay employee of the Symantec high-tech firm in Chennai, India.

His account is published in full on the online publishing platform.  Two excerpts from his article are below, beginning here:

Making One Cubicle Safe at a Time: A Gay Man’s Fight in India.

C Moulee, a knowledge engineer at Symantec in Chennai, India. (Graphic courtesy of
C Moulee, a knowledge engineer at Symantec in Chennai, India. (Graphic courtesy of

In late 2013, India’s highest court suddenly turned me and millions of other gays into criminals — once more.

It was a devastating blow. Nearly five years earlier, the Delhi high court had struck down a draconian part of the Indian Penal Code declaring homosexual acts illegal. But the Supreme Court said that decision should be up to Parliament, not judges, and overturned the earlier ruling.

My friends and I quickly gathered after hearing the news, fighting to hold back tears and stay strong for one another. We were like so many others, weeping over a victory — one that had brought us such peace and relief — wrested from our grasp.

But I knew we didn’t have the luxury of grieving. It was clear that we would need to seek protection in our workplaces and our communities since we wouldn’t have it under the law.

I reached out to the human resources department at my employer, Symantec, in 2014 to start the company’s first Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) in the Asia-Pacific region. After nearly two years of delay — first for a company ruling on the ERG, then for recovery from floods in 2015 that ravaged the southern city of Chennai, where I work — we launched this year.

To this day, Parliament hasn’t taken any action on the law, but their inaction has only served to fuel our cause: We’re making one cubicle safe at a time.

And that’s just the beginning.

Getting Started

I was always out and active in the community, advocating for gay rights before the ruling. I never had the coming-out talk. I was a visible target.

Early in my career, before coming to Symantec, I felt the sting of discrimination at another tech firm. I’d be moved off projects without explanation and my colleagues referred to me as “ombodhu,” or “nine,” in Tamil or by making a hissing sound, “usss” — both are derogatory expressions used to refer to gender non-conforming men and male-to-female transgender people. They would say “nine” randomly in my presence and once, I found the number nine written with a marker on my car hood in the office parking lot. …

[His new employer was different, Moulee found. And now, with the establishment of the Pride ERG, even more changes are under way.]

Spreading Tolerance

Symantec-with-flagFrom the beginning, our group has strived to create a welcoming environment for our gay, lesbian and transgender colleagues as well as to rally potential allies.

We have ordered signs that people can place in their cubicles. They say things like, “No tolerance for intolerance” and “I’m inclusive, are you?”

We want to make everyone feel secure at work. That’s why we say we’re making one cubicle safe at a time.

While HR training materials are LGBT inclusive, the SymPride ERG will soon offer training to educate staff about what it means to have an accepting, inclusive workplace. The prospect of having more support is encouraging. If people are made aware at work, they can take that awareness home. It makes it easier for them to accept LGBT people — friends and family — off the job.

Still, there’s a lot of work to do and our numbers are small. At a recent forum that I attended, only four of the 36 tech firms had LGBT ERGs. Seeing this pushed me and two friends working at other tech firms to form a grassroots group we call “Queer In Corporate India.”

We help encourage support for workplace inclusivity as we embrace each other in friendship, which gives each of us a little extra support. We provide others tips on how to talk to HR and the legal departments — sharing how we crossed those thresholds — and how to start a conversation with upper management.

A key point we share: You have to push even harder in an organization where the culture makes you feel like no one is listening. Don’t give up.

Today, I feel safe and at ease at work. I don’t have to pretend or hide my social life. I can say that I went to a Pride march or I went out with queer friends. I can bring my whole self to the job.

That’s not the case for others in India, but we’re working to change that.

Together, we can make one cubicle — and one company — safe at a time.

For more information, read the full article “Making One Cubicle Safe at a Time: A Gay Man’s Fight in India.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at


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