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FAQueer: 8 Things I’m Asked Because I’m DEMISEXUAL

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By Arf Gray:

Not a lot of people know much about demisexuality, an orientation on the asexual spectrum. Because of that, they have a lot of misconceptions about what it actually is. Most of the questions demisexuals receive are invalidating or clearly show ignorance about the orientation on the asker’s part. This is how I deflect them.

Does this mean you just have sex with people you love?

Plenty of people prefer to only have sex with people they love or are romantically involved with. But that doesn’t make them demisexuals. Demisexuals only feel sexual attraction when they form a deep emotional connection with someone. That connection can be romantic or platonic in nature. People who only have sex with people they love may still feel sexual attraction, even if they choose not to act on it immediately. That behavior pattern is not the same thing as demisexuality, which is an orientation based on feelings of sexual attraction.

Do you just have trust issues? Or maybe you were abused?

While some individual demisexuals might be distrustful or have a past history of abuse, demisexuality, like other sexual orientations, cannot be pathologized. But even if external factors like trust issues or abuse contribute to how they experience their sexuality, their identity as demisexual is still valid. Sexualities do not exist in a vacuum—if a person finds that they experience sexual attraction in a certain way, then they may want a label for their orientation regardless of why their sexuality is the way it is.

Isn’t demisexuality just what’s “normal?”

Demisexuals often consider themselves asexuals with exceptions or somewhere between being asexual and non-asexual. They usually find more shared experiences in the asexual community than outside it. Finding only a handful of people sexually attractive, and that too only under specific circumstances, is pretty far from the normative sexuality, in which people can feel sexual attraction without an emotional connection and often do on a regular basis.

Wasn’t the word coined by a teenage girl on Tumblr?

Demisexuality was first coined in 2008 on the AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) forums. While it is popular on Tumblr because of the huge asexual community there, it did not originate there. But the origin of the word doesn’t matter—what matters to demisexuals is that they’ve found a word that helps them understand themselves better.

Why are you making an orientation out of slut-shaming?

Some people think that demisexuality is an inherently “slut-shaming” orientation because demisexuals require an emotional connection to find people sexually attractive. However, most demisexuals tend to be socially progressive and sex positive, meaning they don’t judge others for having casual sex (some may engage in it themselves). How they experience their individual sexuality is not a moral judgment on others, any more than a heterosexual person’s orientation is a judgment against homosexual people.

Why do you need a label for something that’s just a preference?

Demisexuals usually find their way to the asexual community because they feel significantly different from the people around them and want to find out why. They may relate to some of the experiences of asexuals, but not fully, so demisexuality gives them a place to be between. Demisexuality is not just a preference—it’s a valid sexual orientation because it describes the set of people an individual is sexually oriented towards. For demisexuals, that set is people with whom they have a close emotional bond.

Are you just making up a label to claim that you’re oppressed?

Demisexuals on the whole do not experience structural oppression and I personally have never seen a demisexual claim that they were oppressed (though they might be because of other intersections or facets of their sexuality). However, they do experience specific problems and issues pertaining to their sexuality, so the label gives them a way to connect with others who share the same experiences. Also, like asexuals, they are affected by heteronormativity and compulsory sexuality.

You just want to weasel your way into the LGBTQ community, don’t you?

Many demisexuals have other LGBTQ identities—for example, they might be transgender or they may experience same gender attraction—so they might feel connected to the community because of that. On the whole, though, the asexual community is mixed on whether or not it wants to align itself with the LGBTQ community. Some asexual people think it makes sense to do so, while others would prefer to remain separate. Demisexuals choose their label because they want to find a place with others like them, not because they want to be seen as LGBTQ.

Ultimately, demisexuals just want a place to belong so they can feel less alone, like everyone else. They deserve the same respect that people of other sexual orientations get and need more visibility, so others like them can learn about demisexuality too. As more people learn about demisexuality, fewer people will feel broken and alone.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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