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The FAQueer Series: 8 Things I’m Asked Because I’m GAY

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In a societal construct particularly like India’s, identifying as LGBTQ+ is viewed as a “Western concept” by a chunky portion of the population. Whilst society has made remarkable – and laudable – progress in the recent years, there is often an accumulation of prejudices, stereotypes, and blatant misunderstandings that characterize an entire body of ignorance which painfully stands in the way of further progress. As a gay man myself, I have seen this ignorance accentuate itself through the varying kinds of questions gay guys are asked.

When did you know you were gay?

When did you know you were straight? Hasn’t a part of you always known? And acted on it? The only difference between you and most of us gay guys is that while we too have known about this part of us, we were not privileged with the unquestionable, natural acceptance and the absence of sourly prying eyes as you were. Being able to observe the collective societal behaviors from a merry age, most of us grasped an understanding that what we felt wasn’t looked upon as “normal”, so we refrained from publicly sharing our feelings. But yeah, most of us, like you, have known we were attracted to the same gender from an early age. Before puberty, possibly.

Have you ever tried being with a girl?

Firstly, what makes you think it’s okay to ask such an intruding question? Can’t you take our word for it? Don’t you think we’d be fairly familiar with our innate desires, romantic and sexual? It is important to understand that some gay guys would have had gotten into legit relationships with the opposite gender, however, many would have had not. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know our nature. Just take our word for it.

How do you know when you’ve never had sex with a girl?

Again, a painfully, despicably invading question. To want to have sex with another individual, one has to experience sexual attraction. Gay guys do not experience sexual attraction toward the opposite gender. That’s what makes them gay.

You don’t seem effeminate. Are you sure you’re gay?
You’re just effeminate. It doesn’t mean you have to be gay, does it?

Being effeminate or masculine is merely a behavioral expression that has very little, if not nothing, to do with one’s sexual orientation. There are gay guys who are penetratingly masculine (no pun intended), and there are straight guys who are clearly effeminate.
An individual’s familial upbringing may also act as a determinant of their behavior. For instance, someone with more present female figures in their life may be more likely to become effeminate in their behavioral expression. However, that written and done, being effeminate is not a synonym of homosexuality.

You’ve never been with a guy, so how do you know?

Just like there are innate reflexes embedded in our cognitions and physiologies, there are inborn preferences that drive us to tend to particular sexualities. It is really in the person’s nature. For instance, if you imagine yourself being in a life-or-death situation, your most natural preference would be to live. You can imagine yourself in an alternative situation, however, that would, most likely, be followed by multiple internal alarm-bells going off, in unison, signaling you to avoid it. Now just replace the “life” and “death” elements with two or multiple genders. A gay guy would, naturally, be attracted to another guy, and that, therefore, shouldn’t require “rationale” in the form of first “trying out with a guy and then arriving at a ‘conclusion’.”

Do your parents know?

Familial relations may or may not be given priority by an individual at a time of disclosing their sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is a touchy subject. It depends on the person’s relation with their parents or guardians, and immediate or extended families, plus the level of comfort they have with their own self. It is a subjective question that will meet a subjective answer.

What’re you going to do when your colleagues find out?

Firstly, it isn’t just for members of a particular professional setting to develop impressions of one-another based on each-other’s personal life. There’s a reason why there’s a dichotomy (which may not necessarily be adhered to, but that’s another subject) between a professional life and a personal life. On the same hand, it is justifiably inevitable for professional relationships to become personal; in that case, if one’s colleagues don’t accept them for who they are, they should be subjected to enlightenment, and in worst-case scenarios, if the individual’s professional environment becomes hostile, maybe it’s for the greater good they walk away.

I hope you understand not everyone is accepting. Do you?

Most of us have spent a great amount of our lives fighting our own selves, trying to prove our own natures wrong. Whether we like it or not, whether we appreciate it or not, we do know a thing or two about people not being accepting of us.

Come on, now.

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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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