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‘I Used To Believe That The Worst Thing You Could Be Was Homosexual’

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By Vishesh Jain

I write today to talk about a universal cause that both you and I are equally part of.

My story started out like the very people who oppose you. I was a homophobe for as long as I could remember. I grew up laughing and mocking homosexual men. For my peers and me at that time, any boy who spoke, acted, walked, or talked “gayish” was to be humiliated and degraded.

open letter to lgbt community


I admit rather shamefully that I believed then the worst thing you could be was homosexual. It was insulting and degrading and showed you were not ‘man’ enough.

To me, who had been fed piles of cultural and social dogma while growing up, you were weird and abnormal. I remember how my father told me how ashamed he would be if I ever told him I was ‘one of you’.

The truth is, I hated you so much, not because you are wrong or immoral, but because deep down somewhere I feared you. I feared that hanging out with you might make me like you. I feared what the world would think of me; I feared losing my ‘masculinity,’ my reputation, and social rejection and abandonment by associating with you, so I kept my distance.

One day, when I had recently started working, my sister confessed that one of her very dear friends was homosexual. Initially, I was shocked, because I loved hanging out with him and had never suspected him of being gay. My sister reproached me for telling her never to bring him home and being so narrow-minded. Out of love for my older sister, I met him cordially albeit uncomfortably. Within an hour of chilling with them, I was back to being comfortable, and I had completely forgotten about his sexuality.

For me this was a turning point, it seemed as if a sudden light bulb switch had gone on, breaking down twenty years of conditioning. Suddenly, I found myself curious to know more and form my own opinion. I read about homosexual references in biology, literature, history, mythology, and in other cultures. Through my sister’s friend I met some of his friends who were activists and realized how wrong I was to misjudge you. In time, I grew to empathize your cause and became a supporter of equal rights.

However, the greatest change came when I befriended a guy who is gay. We were best friends at work, and while I was supportive when he told me, a powerful realization dawned upon me.

You see, he and I weren’t so different after all. He was bullied for being ‘girly’, and I for being ‘fat’. Both of us craved for our parents to accept us as we were – he for his sexual orientation and I for my career choices and liberal religious beliefs. Most of all, both of us struggled to find a sense of belonging in a world where we feared we would be shunned at every step. We were both same and different, and it was this respect for our differences and empathy for our struggles that had made us the best of friends.

While my sexual orientation is heterosexual, I too had to fight against people to be accepted for who I am. Which is why today I believe the cause that you fight today is not just your cause, it is also mine.

Today, I feel that you don’t just fight for the rights of the LGBT+ community, you fight for the rights of all those people who fear to express who they are in a conformist, intolerant, and condemning society. You fight to break the ideals of culture as being rigid and predefined rather than fluid and evolving, an amalgamation of the impressions left behind by its people – past and present. You fight against the worship of a god that creates only to condemn our differences vis-a-vis a god who creates to celebrate them. But most of all you, for the most fundamental and basic universal right of freedom – to live unapologetic, unbowed, undisguised as who we are and how we wish to express ourselves.

Somewhere today, all of us are living in someone else’s idea of reality – our parents, peers, political leaders, or society’s, the only reality we know of. We fit ourselves into someone else’s notion of what is acceptable and not, of who we are and who we should be. And in the process, we lose out on the one thing, which is most dear to us – our individuality.

Which is why this cause isn’t just your cause, it is our cause. It is our cause of freedom to love – ourselves as we are and those who we choose, without discrimination of caste, creed, sex, or religion. And finally, it is our cause to create a future generation of denizens who can grow up accepting and respecting our individual choices vis-a-vis ridiculing them. Which is why, we should keep fighting… all of us.

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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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