“I Celebrate Pride Month By Fully Embracing My Authentic Self”
“I Celebrate Pride Month By Fully Embracing My Authentic Self”


“I Celebrate Pride Month By Fully Embracing My Authentic Self”

In honor of Pride Month, we are privileged to share the inspiring journey of Sonalee Chaukekar, a transwoman who has navigated significant challenges to carve out a successful career as a Front Office Executive at Mindspace Business Parks REIT. Sonalee's story is a powerful testament to resilience, determination, and the profound impact of inclusive workplaces. In this candid interaction, she discusses the pivotal moments that have shaped her personal and professional life, the hurdles she has faced, and the transformative support she has found in her current role. 

How has your identity influenced your personal and professional life, and what have been some pivotal moments in your journey?

From a young age, I faced significant discrimination as a transgender person. The mistreatment and exclusion I experienced created a deep sense of isolation. However, those challenging experiences instilled in me a strong determination to build a fulfilling life and fight for the rights of my community.

A turning point came when I decided to use my channel my energy towards finding solutions for the obstacles facing our community and work towards eliminating them. My work as a Swachhata Prerak, helping coordinate sanitation efforts across 11 districts in Maharashtra and contributing to the elimination of open defecation, gave me immense pride in improving society. Another meaningful part of my journey was working to prevent drug abuse in the transgender community and educating others about our struggles. This advocacy raised awareness and pushed for our inclusion.

However, the biggest milestone was getting a job at Mindspace Business Parks REIT. Previously, I had worked with NGOs and committees supporting transgender individuals, but this gave me an entry into the corporate world, making me feel truly accepted in the mainstream workforce. My co-workers embraced me wholeheartedly, and for the first time, I felt a sense of belonging—my hard work counted for more than my gender identity. Having that stability and acceptance was so transformative, after facing so much discrimination. It showed me that I could achieve success simply by being myself.

What challenges or discrimination did you face at work because of your gender identity? How did you handle those situations?

When I started my current job, I had concerns that the discrimination I had faced as a transgender person would persist. Growing up, even my own family struggled to understand and accept my identity. In school, I endured bullying, disrespect from teachers, and a lack of protections for transgender students.

At, Mindspace Business Parks REIT, for the first time, my employer accepted and supported me. My colleagues respected my name and pronouns. My colleagues had been sensitised via trainings on LGBTQ inclusion and they fostered a supportive environment. After years of judging and rejection, it was very heartening to enter a place where I could openly express my authentic self without fear. I no longer had to conceal my identity. I could concentrate on my work.

I could sense they didn't just hire me to check a box—they truly prioritised creating an environment where I felt valued, empowered, and gave me a sense of belonging. Having leadership that actively promotes LGBTQ policies, training, benefits, and advocacy—that's what allowed me to finally feel accepted after facing so much bias.

How do you celebrate Pride Month, and what does it mean to you personally and professionally?

I celebrate Pride Month by fully embracing and honouring my authentic self without fear or shame. While this designated month holds deep significance as a time to reflect on the LGBTQIA+ community's resilience, courage, triumphs, and ongoing struggle for equality and acceptance, the spirit of Pride should be celebrated every day. However, the pursuit of acceptance, inclusion, and equal rights is a continuous effort that extends beyond any single month.

I am pleased that occasions like Pride Month raise much-needed awareness, as they help ensure it is not merely a single month for sensitisation. They establish that Pride should be celebrated every day, and that this month presents an excellent opportunity to reinforce and sensitise individuals toward the LGBTQIA+ community. 

It is crucial that corporates take proactive steps not only to recruit transgender individuals but also to prioritise their sustained growth and development within the workplace. Mere recruitment is not sufficient; companies must foster an inclusive environment that supports and empowers transgender employees, providing equal opportunities for advancement and career progression. 

How inclusive and accepting do you find your current workplace? What are some positive steps they have taken to support the LGBTQ+ community?

I am truly grateful to have found an inclusive and accepting workplace at Mindspace Business Parks REIT as a transgender woman. They have fostered an environment where I can bring my authentic self to work without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

A positive step is the Pride Side Policy, which explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. This policy enhances my sense of belonging and reassures me that my identity is respected and protected within the organiwation. Mindspace REIT promotes respect and acceptance through gender-affirming practices, like using my preferred name and pronouns, updating gender markers on company records, and providing access to gender-neutral facilities, making me feel seen, heard, and valued. They also have an adoption assistance committee to provide necessary guidance and support to LGBTQ employees, and a corporate insurance policy covers medical expenses for family and even for same sex partners.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for yourself and for the broader LGBTQ+ community in the corporate world?

For myself, I want to keep advancing in my career and inspire others in the LGBTQ+ community to go after their dreams in any field. With my corporate’s support, I'm now able to pursue an MBA—an opportunity that felt out of reach before.

Looking ahead, I hope for more LGBTQ+ representation across all corporate levels to break stereotypes and build acceptance. I dream of families embracing their LGBTQ+ loved ones and recognising our talents. By implementing comprehensive policies, training programmes, and support systems, corporations can play a vital role in promoting acceptance, breaking down barriers, and creating a truly inclusive workforce that celebrates diversity. 

With empathy and understanding from society, I know we can create a better future of true inclusion for LGBTQ+ people in corporations and beyond. Someday, I might share my journey, my struggles, and the resilience of our community through the pages of a book. This book will hopefully give a voice to our collective experience.

Source: BW People