Pride Month

Happy Pride Month!

There has been a lot of discussion in media these days about Pansexual vs Bisexual, why one and not the other, which one are you and which one you aren’t. Well, as someone who identifies as pansexual and has a bisexual partner, I think I have a little something to say that might help.

You can find definitions for these terms anywhere, I am just here to give an insider perspective.

First off, let’s dispel two major myths. It has been said once, it has been said a hundred times but somehow they seem to continue to stick around and I keep getting the same questions. It is true some people who once identified as pansexual or bisexual did go on to come out as gay or lesbian but that is not the norm. Sexuality is definitely fluid and I am not denying it.  For many of us, it is not a way-station before we reach the final ‘gay/lesbian destination’. I am a pansexual woman with a bisexual man and I keep getting asked if I am straight now, but that doesn’t suddenly make us a hetero straight couple. Our identities do not depend on our partner, and we suddenly don’t shed our sexuality just because of who we are with.

It is unbelievable that even in 2018 people think we are ‘kidding ourselves’ by identifying as pan or bi. I am not sure if people are just scared because they are unable to hold onto society imposed rules for individuals or if they are uncomfortable because they can’t ‘figure’ us out (courtesy Carrie Bradshaw for the line). Neither of which makes sense to me. Most of these rules are antiquated and a direct result of deep rooted patriarchy. Gender roles and gender bias are the patriarchy’s way of oppressing women, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized folks. And if you just can’t ‘figure’ someone out, that is hardly their problem. People are not puzzles to be solved or jewelry to be organized. People are people (articulately said by Peter from The Room).

People are ever changing, gender is fluid and sexuality is always evolving. I am a brown, queer, immigrant woman. That is oppression and bias in four different ways. Take a moment to analyze: why there’s so much hatred out there, why all this bias, why are we trying to put people in boxes and why are we forcing others to live by standards only we believe to be true?

 

Nation of Immigrants – Part Two

Have you read Part One?

Panic. It is all consuming, takes over your mind and body. Leaves you paralyzed. It can last for a minute that feels like an eternity. If you are lucky, you will feel a detachment, an out-of-body experience. Your soul will float above your body, looking at the scene below unfold and your brain will struggle to comprehend the situation.

It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn – Paulo Coelho

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Women’s March 2017

The meeting was done, they had said what they wanted to say. My employment was to be terminated on Wednesday, I was to mail all the equipment to them by the next day.  Their reason, at least verbally, was that the their work requires a security clearance. I had worked for them for over two and a half years without one but now it was an issue. I explained I could get a clearance if I had a green card – enough clearance to continue working on the product I had already been privy to for over two and a half years. Apparently, the big boss did not want to sponsor a green card. If you are not very familiar with the work visa process, you’re probably wondering why I was reacting so strongly to being laid off. Read on to find out.

At this time, I did not know how long I was legally allowed to remain in the country once my employment had been terminated. My visa and stay in the country entirely depends on my employment. Being laid off wasn’t the problem, it was the complete lack of notice. I was given two days notice. Two days! I had worked there for over two years, I was the eighth employee hired and they were cutting me off with two days notice while I wasn’t even in the city.

P completely understood the predicament I was in but they didn’t care. My HR rep’s exact words “I understand you have to now leave the country. We will pay for your return ticket. According to my sources, you may have to leave by the end of the week”. I remember these words, they are etched in my brain forever. They knew what they were doing. Making me uproot my entire life, four years of life in five days with two days of notice. Of course, they are not legally required to give me any notice. It is called moral courtesy. It would cost them a mere $2000 to give me two weeks notice, which they had to end up paying anyway.

I called my lawyer, I was told I had 60 days before I would have to leave. It calmed me down greatly. Losing a job is hard but losing my status is terrifying. The talk with my lawyer had calmed me down enough to be able to think. I had accrued 10 days of paid time off that they were legally required to give me. I called my HR back, told her I wanted to take my vacation time off and I gave myself an additional 12 days. I also couldn’t burn any bridges, I had to be polite. I might need them for reference. They guaranteed I would get glowing references from any of my coworkers should I need it.

The worst day of my life. I was sure I would have to leave but I couldn’t let it get to me. I had to bunker down and get to work. I pulled all the favors, reached out to my entire network. It was a time full of fear and dread. It was hard work, October is not a hiring period. It is the beginning of holiday season. After 45 days of hard work and a giant hole in any savings I might have had, I was able to find a new job. I don’t steal jobs, I am good at what I do. I work hard to gain the skills and I work hard to prove my worth.

For the time, I could continue to stay. Here’s the thing about most immigrants – our lives are in constant flux, constant reliability on external factors, constant panic and constant fear.  We are exploited, are not entitled to any rights, ridiculed at and treated like subpar human beings and yet we are here. Has any one ever bothered to stop and think why that might be? The worlds we come from are so devoid of the things we desire in our soul that these exploitations seem like a price we can bear.

I could have just returned to India. What life would I be returning to? A life I have forgotten to live. In America, I have my freedom, independence, opportunities I would never have back home, relationships and friendships; my life is here now. I love my country and there are over a billion people living there but I have forgotten how to live there. I have set my roots here, I have established my identity and my world here.

Personally, I come from a country I could potentially return to. What about others who can never go back? Who have come here to seek asylum from the horrors of war and terrorism? Who are escaping a past so terrible, uprooting their lives was the only choice? Why should we be threatened by them? We should open our arms and help each other out as much as we can. We are all born as one, borders are manmade lines. If immigrants threaten you, then please do some research. Why do you think they threaten your way of life? Don’t let yourself be swayed by hate speech. Learn for yourself, expand your horizons on your own, talk to the immigrants about their life, don’t make assumptions. At the end of the day, if you think about it, we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants.

Nation of Immigrants – Part One

In India, every one thinks America is the land of dreams. There is an illusion of money, richness and freedom associated with the country. The plan is always to complete your Masters, find a great job, work for a couple of years, get married, buy a house and move to India in your old age as a millionaire. That is the American dream. Little does anyone understand the hurdles and hoops one has to jump to ‘find a great job’.

you broke the ocean in half to be here, only to meet nothing that wants you – Nayyirah Waheed

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Chicano Park mural

The company (let’s call it C) I interned at welcomed me back after graduation on my OPT (Optional Practical Training). They told me, I would work on my OPT until December and at that point they would sponsor my H1-b. I had no reason to doubt them. I had been treated very well during my internship, I had been given great feedback and they had reached out to me on their own after graduation. November comes around and I bring up the topic of H1-b. They have me apply for a position internally and I go through 5 rounds of interviews at the end of which they told me I was the candidate they would pick. Two days later, however, they come back and tell me they have had some problem with H1-b visas recently and they were unwilling to sponsor any more at this point in time. This was my first job, I had heard of my coworkers having trouble and I believed them. This was in 2013 when immigration wasn’t a problem and there were several other companies willing to hire immigrants.

I began a new job search, went through several rounds of interviews at several companies and was finally hired at another company (let’s call it P). It was a start up with 3 programmers, one HR rep, one project manager, operations liaison and the big boss. I was the eighth employee to be hired. I began work in April of 2014 and understandably the deadline to apply for H1-b for the year had passed. I worked my ass off, I showed initiative, creativity, leadership; I was very enthusiastic. Why wouldn’t I be? It was my first adult job. I loved the work they did, I loved being an integral part of small and close knit team. Everyone was very supportive and friendly. 2015 April, time for my annual appraisal, they were so impressed they promoted me and promised me a $10,000 raise! They even applied for my H1-b. Everything seems great, doesn’t it? Here’s the first red flag I was too blind to see. They did not actually give me the raise. They changed my title, I had more work to do but I wasn’t seeing the money in my paycheck. At one of our team lunches, our operations liaison let slip that they were waiting on my H1-b to be approved before giving me my raise. At the time, I was naive and I trusted them. They were my first company, I had no reason to doubt them. October rolls around and my visa is approved, I get the raise and I am a happy camper.

I continue to work with diligence, I was rewarded with a project that I completed from start to finish, they included me in business decision meetings, I was involved in hiring and training new hires. Here’s a little vague background on P. They have two products – one is a direct contract with the government and the other is an off-the-shelf software product. Obviously, the government contract required security clearance but the software product did not. Besides, it was my baby. I was involved in that product since it’s inception. So, I am staring at April 2016 – two years of being an exemplary employee. I am very happy with my salary and not looking for another raise. I did have another request, though. It was time for them to start looking into sponsoring me for a green card. It’s the natural next step. I have another wonderful annual review and I broach the subject of a green card. Being a startup, they did not have much information about the process. I did my research and provided them with great references and even found them a lawyer. P seemed optimistic about the process.

Another October rolls around, I haven’t heard anything about my green card yet and I believe they are gathering information. Now at this time, I had to visit a friend in a different city. He had been through some tough times, I was going out for moral support for a few days. P has a great work-from-home option and I explained the situation to them. They were quite understanding as I was only going to be gone for about 4 days. I land on Saturday, I have a great weekend. I log into my computer Monday morning and I have a meeting invite from my HR rep titled ‘Projects and Resource Requirements Meeting’ for that afternoon. Suddenly, there’s an alarm bell going off in my brain. I have no idea why, call it sixth sense or intuition but I knew something wasn’t right. I immediately texted one of my best friends and she told me I was being paranoid for no reason. I do have a tendency of overthinking and jumping to the worst conclusions. I am an anxious person and am constantly forming awful scenarios in my head. I calmed down slightly, I reasoned with myself. There was no reason to believe I was going to lose my job, it could just be about starting a new project or launch of a new product or hiring on more employees.

I completed a few tasks for the day, prepared myself for the meeting. It wasn’t a video conference, just a phone meeting. The invitees were my HR rep, my project manager and me. I definitely had prepared myself but there was no way to know I was facing literally the worst day of my life.