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Hari Hara Sudhan Ramaswamy – Founder of Ardham Foundation

How did you start your career in DEI or Social Impact? 

My own realization at the age of approximately six that I am attracted to a male being born as a cis-male, which at that time in India was ‘abnormal’ and further milestones of realizing other aspects and prerogatives of my own life has brought me to where I am. This to me entails educating not only non-LGBTIQA+ people but also LGBTIQA+ people about what it takes to be sexually and gender diverse. In doing so, It also entails eliminating patriarchy, casteism, heteronormativity, bionormativity (when IVF centres exist) and other social evils. 

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Tell us about a personal experience on why our world needs more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? 

  1. I have personally experienced where my parents have pleaded that I do not wear female attire as it brings shame to the family. Hence, I am having live with my family as a cis-male (as per my birth). They seem to think that being transgender is merely about wearing clothes of another gender (not the opposite gender). They think it is a phase and that it will pass. They are sensitized to understand what being trans means.
  2. Cis-gender people attribute marriage to consummation. That is fine. However when for example, when I propose a cis-male person of my love (which is extremely rare and only the opposite happens most often), they ask me for their sexual pleasures (despite them being married already) and tell me that they cannot marry me as I cannot give birth to babies being a transgender person. If this is the case why do heterosexual couples access IVF centres? When I ask why they are looking for sex with me when they have a spouse, many say they are unsatisfied or have always wanted to experiment or have friendship with a trans person.
  3. The concept of trans is to be inclusive. However, time and time again the trans community seems to be reinforcing gender binaries upon those who are unable for their own reasons to person gender-affirmation therapies including SRS. When we talk about trans people we only talk about transmen and transwomen. Where are the agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming people? This has been a serious issue for me. Even when meeting trans people, I am quite often treated not as trans.
  4. I have been exploited by a cis-male who identifies as gay. He used me for monetary benefits during a time when I was desperate for compassion and love. It was a lesson for me.

What does DEI mean to you?  

DEI – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, should be Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. For example, transgender does not just have to refer to transmen and transwomen. In India intersex people need more visibility through DEI initiatives? Also, there seems to be a class system clearly established within DEI and its beneficiaries where many times many scores of people are missed-out. Hence, there is a lot of room for improvement.

What is your proudest moment as a DEI professional?

 My proudest moments are when I make each and every cis-male who reaches out to me for sexual pleasure with a poor understanding of trans to make them understand what trans is and provide them with information about intersex people. I spend a lot of time with each person who have so many questions.

Why is DEI important to you as an individual?

DEI is extremely important to me and yet we see many people who use this as a platform for them to become famous. After a certain time, you can see them participating in talk shows and TV shows and capitalizing on the help they could offer even when it comes to helping a fellow trans person.

If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be? 

There are many things which require immediate action on. For example, the very issue DEI is that, some people engaging in DEI initiatives are only furthering their familiarity quotient. Also we seem to forget about DEI in poorer parts of the world like rural India. 

What is stopping your community, organization or company from achieving a more equal and equitable world? 

 Intense politics, neoliberal attitudes, corruption and favouritism that is prevalent everywhere. 

If you could say one thing to the leader in your community, organization or your company about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, what would you say?

This message would be to the ‘leader(s)’ at all levels be it a community/organization. I urge them to understand that they have become a leader because we work in that model (if you like) where people come together and devolve our freedoms making it the leaders powerful only to act responsibly and be accountable to people who made those leaders powerful. Of the people who empower leaders, a vast majority in a nation like India are either middle-class or those who live below the poverty line (BPL). It is appalling that these leaders once they are awarded a leadership become inaccessible to that vast majority of people and indulge in corrupt and shameful activities.  

Anything you want to share with your readers?

As a non-binary person, I sincerely ask all people of all sexes – male, female and intersex – to please respect and use individual persons’ identities and pronouns which they use themselves.

The interview is part of our Diversity Thought Leader Series


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About the author

Susanne Ricee

Susanne Ricee is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Researcher at Diversity for Social Impact. Sue brings over 15 years of HR and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion consultation experience.
Sue's previous experience includes Microsoft, Target, and Kraft. Sue is also the manager of Diversity Leadership Directory