Published: 23rd March 2018
When you're gay, your gender is under scrutiny. Not your work: Kolkata teacher after sacking
After being denied a teaching position when he shifted from full-time to part-time employment, gay teacher Avijit Kundu says he has no plans to sue the school just yet
Avijit Kundu has over a decade's experience in teaching and in all those years there hasn't been a time when he has not been prone to crass comments about his sexuality. Over the years, he has learned to cope with this bullying but he didn't think there would ever be a time when he would be fired for being gay. As earlier reported, Kundu was terminated from the Kolkata school he was teaching in a day after he released his book on his experiences of coming out as a homosexual man in India.
A qualified engineer, Kundu has worked in a number of engineering colleges before choosing to teach in schools, "Growing up I always wanted to learn dance but I never had the chance to because of people's biases about men taking up dances like Bharatnatyam. So it was only after I started working was I able to pursue dance. So I decided that working in a school would be less hectic," Kunda explained.
They didn't mind his choice of sexuality at first
It was with the intention of pursuing dance on the side that Kundu decided to give up on his career as a lecturer and decided to join the Calcutta International School as a teacher. Kundu said he initially applied to be a dance teacher at the school but when they mentioned that they were looking for a Math and a Physics teacher, he offered to teach those subjects. "The Principal was happy to give me the job but I still insisted that I be allowed to play a role in the cultural activities as well because dance was really important to me. She said she would be glad if I took up that role too," he said.
Multifaceted: Kundu had taught in engineering colleges for many years before deciding to pursue teaching in a school.
Unlike his earlier experiences, Kundu was happy to find that he did not face any harassment or open discrimination from his fellow colleagues,"In my past experiences in engineering colleges the discrimination was very open. I had a very hard time as harassment was a daily affair. People would mock me for my sexuality. Here, it was different, the colleagues were quite accommodating and the students were also nice to me."
Did making kids watch a movie on transgenders trigger this?
So when did it all start going wrong? Kundu said in August the principal summoned him and questioned him about a short film of his that had been uploaded to YouTube. "The film was based on the life of a transgender and it was made to spread awareness on LGBTQ rights. The Principal asked me if I had asked any of the students to watch the film because the parents had complained that I had forced them too," he said. Shocked at the being asked the question, Kundu responded to him saying that he did no such thing and the students might have been curious and googled him, "YouTube is a public forum, they must have seen my dance videos and the short film. There is no way for me to stop them from watching something available on a public forum." The Principal accepted his answer and let him be.
Kundu said he was questioned again a couple of months later about another incident, "I was told that there had been complaints about me "touching" boys, they asked if I had patted a student's back during the exam invigilation. I might have as a gesture of appreciation but I have never made anyone uncomfortable - this again I was told was a complaint from parents."
Lifelong dream: Kundu started to learn dance only after he started working and therefore wanted to pursue it on the side
'Be careful' they told him
Kundu was then asked by the principal to "be careful". However, things had begun to go well till his book in February. The teacher said he had applied for a part-time teacher's position because he wanted to concentrate on dance more, "My application was approved and we charted out a new plan and schedule. Everything was going as planned till the book released. And suddenly they said there was no position for a part-time teacher and I was asked to leave," he explained.
For now, Kundu has no plans of suing the school, he wants to wait for a response from them. "I want them to realise what they have done amounts to workplace harassment and gender discrimination. I'm from a family that is sort of well to do and I take tuition so I still make some money. What about hundreds of others who would have been completely ruined by a sudden decision like this? Even now if I have to apply to another school, it's not going to be easy because of this incident," he added. "Till now there has been no trouble with me when it comes to academics. It's the same for others from the LGBTQ community. Our work is never the problem, our identity is. Our gender is under constant scrutiny and judgement. Our work, talent and skills is never taken into consideration," he said.