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When The CEO Of Apple Announced That He Is Gay!

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By Veda Nadendla:

“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.” -Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Apple.

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As Tim Cook came out to the world in a beautifully honest and straight-forward piece for Bloomberg Businessweek Op-ed, it seems to have caused a domino effect. Within minutes of the announcement, the news went international and people around the world showed solidarity with Mr. Cook. There were some who found solace in the intimate detail of his life, while there were also those who were horrified and ashamed to read a statement so vivid and finally those who went to the extent of denouncing Apple’s products. What does Mr. Cook’s declaration really mean for the world today?

As the world perches on the eve of a sexual revolution, struggling to change oppressive mentalities and prejudices, Tim Cook’s openness about his sexual orientation is a sign that the world is inching towards awareness and acceptance. He said that before this, he was open with many people at work and it didn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treated him. Knowing that these people respect his choices and do not judge him, may have provided a sense of safety with his identity and led this world leader to be open with the rest of the world as well. At the risk of his own privacy being invaded even more now, Tim Cook has given to the world, an opportunity to embrace their identities and the identities of their fellow human beings as completely natural.

Tim Cook is the CEO of one of the highest ranking Fortune 500 Companies in the world and Apple ranks No. 1 on the magazine’s annual ranking of the most admired companies. When someone in such an international position of power and influence announces to the world that he is gay, the world perks its ears, opens its eyes and listens. Whether they reject or accept his identity, it doesn’t matter, because now, they know that being gay is not just a lifestyle choice or a preference and it does not stop one from having a successful career. This means that the minority community of the world, who have been struggling to come to terms with their identities and be accepted by the people around them, are inching a step closer towards being treated with civility. As Cook put’s his personal life on the line, he has paved the way for people of the LGBTQ community around the world to take inspiration from his openness and to be fearless about their identities.

As if it wasn’t enough that people of the LGBTQ community were judged by the people around them or often times shunned; they experience increasing discrimination at the workplace as well. This needs to change. Among the motivational aspects of his coming out, Cook has also inherently encouraged companies around the world to adopt a more inclusive policy toward their employees and give justice to those who have long been oppressed at the workplace for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. It is a wakeup call for leaders around the world, of companies big and small, to look past their prejudice and offer representation, fairness, and receptivity to people of all walks of life.

With a few people already being aware of Cook’s sexual orientation, his whole ‘coming out’ has been questioned for not being true in its essence. But why should coming out be such a big deal after all? Through his dramatic ‘coming out’, Tim Cook has also symbolized that telling the world about being attracted to the same sex is a liberation. A liberation from all the criticism for being gay, from the undue judgement received by LGBTQ people for being born the way they are, from people who don’t understand how natural it is to be gay and from the oppression faced day-in and day-out by people of the LGBTQ community. Telling the world you are gay is liberation from having to pretend to be someone else for the world to accept. Coming out is symbolic with a readiness to face that oppression, with a new found freedom and acceptance of oneself; a declaration of one’s true identity with no fear of the consequences.

But there should be no consequences. Why should someone be punished because of who they are? Why is being lesbian or gay a crime when the society is the real culprit of these people? Why must a person go through all the torment and muster the courage to come out to the world at all? There should be no need to ‘come out’. We are moving swiftly toward a time when more and more people will open up to the world about whom they are and we need to accept that it is normal. Why should we make an event out of something so natural and personal?

I know it sounds like a utopian world, but it is a world which is fast approaching. A utopian world where coming out does not have to be a shocker, when people do not need to declare their sexual orientation to the world in demand of rights and justice; a world where one’s sexual orientation is one’s own business and no one can or should deny them their rights. Tim Cook has edged us toward that world, through his personal story. But not everyone is in such a powerful position, and they should not need to be the CEO of a company to be accepted; what they need is a supportive and understanding community. Can we be that community for our friends in need?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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