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3 Young People Share How They Got Over Their Ridiculous Prejudice Against Homosexuality

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By Love Matters India:

Many straight people grow up only hearing negative things about homosexuality. So then what happens when you actually meet openly gay people for the first time? We ask three young people.

‘My Best Friend Turned Out To Be Gay’

Maryushka Pereira, 28, personal assistant, Pune

I’ve been friends with Preeti since college. I always knew she was different – she preferred boy cuts, motorbikes and baggy clothes. She never joined our girly chatter. Others thought she was weird, I found her cool. We spoke about boys and sex very often but I never learned about her dating life. I just assumed she wanted to keep it private.

Two years ago, she landed up at my home, late at night. She was drunk and got very emotional. Through her sobs, I learned that she had just ended her four-year-old relationship. She even told me she was gay. She hadn’t mentioned anything about her sexuality earlier. She knew I came from a conservative Catholic upbringing. Perhaps, she thought she didn’t want to lose me as a friend.

At that time, I couldn’t care less about her sexual orientation. I felt helpless for what she was going through. All I knew was I had to be there for her. That helped me overcome my initial shock. It took me weeks, but now I am able to accept my friend for who she is. Also, if I can accept her sexuality, I can accept others’ too.

‘Love Everyone And Judge No One’

-Clayton Gomes, 24, accountant, Goa

My family is super religious. We are church-going Catholics. If you’re a god-fearing Catholic, you will know that the priests and the Bible don’t acknowledge homosexuality. That’s putting it mildly, they condemn it. So I grew up condemning it. I wasn’t the preaching, flag holding type but I would try to stay away from such people.

When I joined work last year, I realised my team included a gay man. It made me a bit uncomfortable. I couldn’t just speak to him or focus at work around him. I always ignored him. Before Easter, during confession one day, I spoke to my priest about my behaviour. He told me I was being unfair and rude to my colleague and it wasn’t a Catholic thing to do.

A few days later, I questioned my priest about the Catholic Church’s behaviour towards homosexuals. He said something that changed my outlook. He said that as much as the Bible tells us that homosexuality is bad, it also tells us to love your neighbour and to spread kindness and light wherever you go. He said my foremost duty as a Catholic was to love everyone and judge no one.

Those words stayed with me. The next day, I went and spoke to my gay colleague and apologised for being rude to him earlier. I told him honestly about my feelings and he was very understanding. We have spoken a lot about homosexuality and religion. He has helped me realise that homosexuality was just as normal as heterosexuality. After this incident, I would like to think I am not judgmental or rude to homosexuals anymore.

‘I Participated In A Pride March’

-Vivek Deshmukh, 25, journalist, Mumbai

As a junior journalist, I was sent to cover all sorts of events in my city. They may not be the events that you like or dealing with subjects of special interests to you but you just have to do it. One of the events I had to cover in my first year of internship was a pride march. Back then, my knowledge about LGBT rights was very limited.

I knew the government didn’t recognise them and their choices were considered illegal. I also knew that most religions condemned it. If you ask me, I was impartial. I’d never met any open and out homosexuals, so I was blissfully ignorant. When I was given the task, I tried getting over my ignorance. I didn’t want to attend the event but I had no choice. Braving myself, I went for the pride parade.

As part of my job, I had to talk to participants there. I spent three hours doing just that. I spoke to a lot of people, gay, lesbian, transgender, open and people who still preferred to keep their sexuality a secret. Their stories moved me. They spoke about ordinary feelings – love, lust, betrayal, friendship; of their struggle – being considered outcasts, mocked for their choices and bullying. At the end of it, I had discovered a whole new respect for the community. I realised that they were too fighting for acceptance, like many other human beings. However, their struggle was for the right to live their life the way they wanted to.

All names have been changed.

This post was originally published here on Love Matters.
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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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