Shocked when son came out as “Gay”, now this mother is helping the transgender community grow
In 2016, my son came up to me and asked me that he was looking for men’s shoes with heels. He came out as “gay” to me, which shocked me. “I was unprepared and was unaware of the term like LGBTQ and all. But then gradually, I read a lot, studied a lot, and watched many YouTube videos and articles to sensitise myself.”
“I realised it is normal, and there is nothing wrong with my son, which I used to think earlier.”
Meet the mother, Simmi Nanda, who not only accepted the sexuality of his son, but today, she is the proud founder of BeUnic – a queer-owned, community-driven platform for LGBTQ+ creators and entrepreneurs.
The origin of BeUnic
Nanda was working in the footwear industry. Nanda said, “As soon as my son enquired about men’s shoes with heels, I thought this was a very niche category.”
“There is not much competition in this category as we have seen that many of the big brands were coming out with rainbow canvas and sports shoes, but there was no such company making leather shoes with heels,” Nanda said.
And that’s how the concept was initiated, but certain issues were there. Initially, when the platform started selling shoes, it was realised that people would like to have some varieties on the website. “So we thought of transitioning from a plane website to a marketplace,” added Nanda.
Issues at hand
BeUnic works with an intention to give as much as possible to the queer community – from entrepreneurship to mental health support, community events to legal advice, queer literature to mentorship, and what not. However, certain challenges stood in Simmi Nanda’s way:
Firstly, a lot of queer entrepreneurs were not even aware of how to sell their products. So, the team BeUnic created a platform for them. In the words of Nanda, slowly and gradually, BeUnic is becoming the Amazon for the community where only queer entrepreneurs list their products, and now they are reaching out to international destinations like the US, Canada, and Australia.
Secondly, many queer entrepreneurs don’t know what accounting is; someone doesn’t know how to upload pictures, how to sell in the market or other nuances of the e-commerce platform. Nanda extended her helping hands and started counselling them and mentoring them for their startups.
Thirdly, many a time, many queer people have to face opposition from their own families and struggle. According to Nanda, this was very relatable as she passed through that stage.
Nanda said, “I appear to them as a motherly figure, and they share their stories with me, and I try my best to help them out.”
“Over time, I have realised that It is easier for this younger generation to accept. However, due to the generation gap, it is not easy for us to accept the fact simply,” she added.
Society is changing
Over the period of the last six years, Nanda has seen herself growing a lot. “I’m more comfortable now, and enjoy the community, go to many of my son’s pride parades, and even his exhibitions,” said Nanda.
However, it is still very nascent within our society. Nanda is also a part of the rainbow parent’s group, where queer children identify themselves. Thereafter, the parents get added to the group.
“Here, we share our stories. Sometimes, their children, as ten years old, identify themselves as from the transgender community. This gives their parents goosebumps and mental trauma,” said Nanda.
“Society is slowly getting a piece of knowledge, awareness is there, but still lot of things need to be done,” Nanda added.
More needs to be done
As Nanda believes, there is a need to bring the change to the very grassroots level. The sensitisation and awareness need to start from the school, as bullying is still there. However, the acceptance level in schools is quite low. Reason – parents are not interested in imparting such knowledge to their children.
“Even today, the parents of the children who have identified themselves as a transperson do not want them to come over to me,” Nanda said. There is a need to sensitise the cause from school to college, to even the corporates.
“I believe in making the trans community financially independent, and this will pave the way for their overall growth,” concluded Nanda.
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