Happy, MBA and Gay- Harish Iyer on Corporate Life, Queer Rights and Child Abuse

 | January 23,2012 12:44 pm IST

Not enough qualifiers shall be enough to introduce him. Harish Iyer is an environmentalist, creative wizard, gay rights activist, MBA, animal rights activist, humanitarian and writer among other things at the same time.

Born in a joint family, Iyer was sexually assaulted at age seven by a close male relative—an age when a child can not even discriminate between safe and unsafe touch.


Harish spoke to CoolAvenues.com about Queer Rights, Challenges for a gay in the corporate world, child abuse and his career plans.


Tell me something about yourself. Your education, work experience etc.
I presently work with the leading digital media company in their events division. I used to work with Shobiz Experiential Communications Pvt Limited for 3 years.


I have done my B.Sc in Botany from Khalsa College, Mumbai University. Then, M.Sc in Life Sciences - Applied Medical Sciences from St. Xaviers College, Mumbai University. Then, I did my advertising and marketing diploma from Xaviers Institute of Communication (XIC) and Post Graduate Diploma in Event management from National Institute of Event Management. And then executive MBA (PGD) in Marketing Management from NMIMS.


Has your orientation been an issue in any interview or say NMIMS?
Never, I have been wearing my heart on my sleeve all the time.
I remember one funny incident where I had gone for an interview, and in the form where I needed to tick in one of the Two Boxes that read "single", "married"... (why assume heterosexuality always?) I slashed both of it and wrote GAY... Yet Not Legal and ticked next to those. I got that job.


My CV has a P.S. that says "candidate available only for an equal opportunities employer."


I would rather not give the company the chance to be my employer.

(It works the other way with me, you see!)


Have you faced discrimination position on account of your sexual orientation in normal college life?
Yes I have. It’s rather funny to think of those days now, as now I am so out and about gay rights on social media and everywhere.


But in college, I had contemplated suicide, even attempted and rather failed.

At a time, when I was not even sure about my sexuality, just that one friend had let out my dirty secret of child sexual abuse by a male relative of mine to the world. Suddenly my mannerisms were seen as GAY, and there were slurs like "for gay sex contact harish" on college loos. Also, years later, I visited the same college - for an awareness film and find them way too receptive and open to sexualities.


What it takes to be successful after facing 11 long years of abuse?
A fist-full of heart- You need to have the heart to see your past as past, and look at the child you were in your childhood as "that" child and not as you yourself.


You know, the lava keeps burning inside, and when you finally decide to speak up - there is suddenly an eruption of positive energy.


I wouldn’t say my past propelled me to the future, but yes, I wouldn’t deny that it does play a role in making me what I am today.

What do think how society as an MBA will see your sexual orientation?
Well, you know. I am not seen as a gay person. But as a person who happens to be gay. Well, I don’t think with whom I sleep or about whom I sexually fantasize has got anything to do with my work or profession or even my immediate society.


Speaking about different strata of society, I would say, that even my house-help knows that I am gay, and rather than getting shocked, she said "humaare gaaon mein bhi do log hai aisa… galat kyaa hai usme?"


What role did your family and society played in helping you overcome the trauma of abuse and accepting your preferences?
No one played any role in motivating me.
Not even my parents did help me the right way.


The only one who helped me was my dog who listened to me as I spoke and kicked my tears as I cried and I am not even exaggerating.


Well, my preference is not about choosing my sexuality. In that context do heterosexuals (straight people) "choose" to be heterosexuals? My preference and choice is in being out about it.


Family and society did champion the cause when I stood up. Everyone likes to be with a confident and a vibrant person. But when my knees were week, they didn't lend me a helping hand.


Do you think that corporate life will have challenges due to your orientation?
People do face complications. But it is important to make noise about it. And noise could be made, only if people come out of the closet.


Do you think I would spare the organisation, if they deny me a job or discriminate basis my sexual orientation? I will rant about it on social media and then hit headlines in leading newspapers. I am serious. :)


What are your career plans? Do you wish to work as a corporate or work in the area to bring awareness in the society about gay rights?
You know, ideal would be if I get to work on human/LGBT rights in India or abroad. Wish I make the same kind of money that I make in the corporate world. But in the absence of such a lucrative option in creative management.


I always can bring about awareness though social media and participating in campaigns which I still do after work and on week ends. But if passion can become profession, then WOW.

Join Harish and the rest of Bombay at the Queer Azaadi Mumbai - Pride March on 28 Jan 2012. Visit www.queerazaadi.wordpress.com for details.





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OhBoy on 01/23/12 at 01:16 pm

Awesome read...
I like the point where you wrote this
My CV has a P.S. that says "candidate available only for an equal opportunities employer."

I am looking for a change but only with an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY Employer in mumbai.. its really hard to find a good digital agency with low office politics and all of this discrimination