Vinay Nirmala is a 24-year-old Journalist working with Mumbai Mirror Digital, Times Internet. He also volunteers as Director of Marketing with Impulse Mumbai, a group that started in the US for advocating equal rights for LGBTQIA+ community, to promote safe sex, initiate dialogues on safe sex and HIV, focus on mental health and addresses relevant issues.
He is the founder of Bezubaan, one of India's first androgynous modeling group. Vinay Nirmala is also active in advocating for inclusivity across the various colleges in Mumbai.
1. Have you been working for the LGBTQIA+ community for a long time now? If yes, what made you raise your voice for the first time?
I have been working to advocate for equal rights since 2015. I was bullied and harassed in school, leaving mental scars for life. When the internet introduced me to fellow queer people, I realized that the rate of discrimination and harassment is much higher and there aren’t any laws of protection. That’s when I decided to voice myself and fight for equal rights for the community.
2. Taking into account the past years, how much change do you see in terms of acceptance by the society?
India began a new journey since SC’s verdict on the draconian section 377. The road to true inclusivity is riddled with potholes, but we have come a long way. There’s been a significant change in the way society looks at the LGBTQIA+ community. It has started to explore and understand that we are no alien and have existed since inception. Cases of extortion, false accusation on gay men under section 377 have decreased. The struggle of decades has borne a fruit, giving us free air to breathe.
3. You have been working for quite some time now, at what level do you think people have started normalizing it at the workplace?
Many companies in India have initiated Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policies to recruit LGBTQIA+ individuals and nurture a safe and equal work environment. I work with Times Internet which has always been a safe space for employees. But after the judgment, we have introduced a couple of policies to strengthen queer individuals at work. Various seminars are also being conducted for non-queer employees to teach them how to treat queer individuals equally and act sensitively towards each other. Unfortunately, in the past two years, there has been a rise in ‘pride marketing’ and many brands are cashing in on the queer community. Incorporating rainbow colors in logos doesn’t mean they are inclusive.
4. A historical law was passed in 2018, decriminalizing homosexuality. What do you expect next from the judiciary for the community?
I am very thankful to the judiciary for making amendments in the law. I am looking forward to anti-discriminatory policies which will build a strong legal backbone for queer individuals. The right to marry and other fundamental laws also need to be granted to make the Indian society truly inclusive. It is going to be a huge leap.
5. Pride month is one of the biggest festivals for the community, how do you plan to celebrate it while in a lockdown situation?
The lockdown has jeopardized all our on-ground plans. But, hey! Aren’t we the most creative beings anyway? We are making the most of it by organizing mental health workshops online, initiating conversations on Pride history, the current scenario in the country, and the list goes on…Oh, we also do digital parties by the way.
6. You have seen multiple Pride Parades in Mumbai. How do you feel about the local community here?
The Mumbai community is as diverse as the people we see on our local train. We come from different regions, backgrounds, and setups. What’s remarkable is that the Mumbai community not just talks about queer rights but also participates in other social causes and movements such as the CAA and NRC. In the end, we are an equal citizen of this country.
7. How do you plan to support the LGBTQ community, create awareness, and break stereotypes?
I plan to continue to be a visible advocate by challenging the stereotypes, biased and discriminatory behavior revolving around us. The major aims for the coming years are to recognize the system failure in the education system, look at resources, and learn laws pertaining to the community.
8. What would you say to a person who is not sure about their gender or sexual identity?
Take your time, there’s no hurry. Self-realization is a process and do not let others influence it. If you are confused, seek help from a therapist and make friends with fellow individuals.
9. We are seeing a lot of young activists coming up and speaking for the community. How do you feel about the next-gen LGBTQIA+ community activists?
It’s very overwhelming to see the youth coming forth. For a change, it’s not just queer youth but the heterosexuals to are walking hand-in-hand. Their efforts are going to pave the way for a bright future.
10. Does Vinay Nirmala have any message for the Straight ally?
A big thank you to the straight ally. They have helped us in disarming hate in society. The struggle isn’t over but has just begun. We seek your continuous support to change mindsets and make the world a better place.
Check the Instagram profile of Vinay Nirmala here.