This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Riya Jain. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

As A Straight Guy, I Feel Beautiful In High Heels

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By Riya Jain:

Smallest of experiences can make the biggest of impacts. It happened to me in the winter of the year 2000. I was 12-years-old and I was studying in Class 8. Our half-yearly exams were to begin the next day. I had had my dinner and was standing in our house’s balcony, brushing my teeth, wearing a half pant.

That’s how vividly I remember that night. For that was when I was unknowingly inducted into the beautiful world of femininity. A simple thing left such a deep impression on the pre-teen me, that it forever changed who I’d grow up to be.

A family friend had come to pay us a visit. As is the custom in India, she had taken off her footwear outside the door, in the balcony. It was a beautiful pair of heels. It caught my eye. It seemed different to me. It seemed strange. Till then, I had never seen a pair of heels. Not in real life, not on TV. I was only 12, after all. I didn’t know such a thing even existed. Seeing it amused me. I was curious. What’s this odd-looking pair of footwear!

Curiosity. That’s what did me in. Out of curiosity, the toothbrush still in my mouth, I slipped my left foot into one sandal. “So this different-looking pair of sandals even feels different!” That’s what went into the mind of the 12-year-old me. The moment the sole of my feet came in contact with the smooth insole of the sandals, it sent an exhilarating sensation through my body. Not only did those sandals look beautiful, even wearing them felt beautiful. And this was when I had only begun to slip one foot into it. I hadn’t even worn it properly, but that experience was so exciting that I had to stop and soak it in and I just had to wear it. So, with much anticipation (the door was wide open and my parents/sister/the aunty could come there any moment) I dared to wear both of the sandals.

Those Heels Gave Me A High

Oh boy! The heel must not have been higher than three inches, but I felt on top of the world. It felt absolutely exciting. It felt exhilarating and so joyous! It felt beautiful and sweet. I was enamoured. It was such a novel experience! It felt so different. It was the kind of feeling I had never had.

I just stood there admiring those sandals on my feet. The arch of my feet looked beautiful to me. I was thoroughly aware of the silky-smooth insole of the sandals, now in full contact with my both feet. I was excited, spellbound and nervous. Wary that someone might come out of the door and catch me trying on a visitor’s footwear. Thank God that didn’t happen.

Enchanting Spell Of That ‘Tick-Tock’ Sound

Thankfully, my space and privacy remained uninterrupted and I could soak in that novel experience. The femininity was taking its own sweet time to sink in. I was on a high, literally and figuratively. It was a high that just wasn’t subsiding. That tiny pair of sandals had got me enchanted. With much excitement of doing something forbidden yet so exciting, I took a step forward in it. I felt off-balance. Aha! So even walking in these sandals is different. “Hmmm… Interesting!” The pre-teen me was fascinated.

So, I took a step forward again, this time careful to adapt. This learning curve (as well as how beautiful I thought the curve of my feet looked) was just so exciting! And just when I thought I had become fully acquainted with heels, I was introduced to yet another aspect as I became comfortable in walking in them: that tick-tock sound those heels make when you walk in them. It’s hard to describe how amazing that felt. I shouldn’t say ‘seductive’ because at age 12, I was way too young for that, but it had some magical effect that I can’t put a finger on. There’s something inherently sexy about that sound. I was enchanted.

Oh boy! Just how beautiful this thing is! How much more there is to it than meets the eye! There I was standing, in love with how its smooth insole was such a welcome change from my boring school shoes and rough sports shoes. There I was, in love with how it made my feet look so beautiful (‘hawai chappals’ make them look so “ugh!”). There I was, feeling three inches taller and enchanted.

I’ve used words like exhilarating, fascinating, thrilling, enchanting, amazing, and I don’t know which other words to use, to describe what that 12-year-old me felt. As I’m recalling that memory right now, that feeling is rushing to me. Right now, I’m nervous-excited about it all over again. I’m thrilled all over again. I’m back in that scene and loving how it felt.

I have to be grateful that the aunty was petite and her sandals were just the right fit for me. Not too big, not too small. Just the right fit. I had the time of my life that night. The experience was so mind-blowing that it got me hooked. I just had to wear those sandals again. Too bad, neither my mom nor my elder sister were into fancy stuff. They had only boring, orthodox flats.

Trying All I Could

Since that night, I’d wait for aunties to visit us and take off their sandals in the balcony. Coincidentally, the next pair of sandals I wore, belonged to the daughter of the aunty whose heels had got me hooked. While the aunty’s was a pair of beautiful block heels, her daughter came to our house wearing a much less appealing pair of platform heels. It had rubber insoles and didn’t feel even half as lovely, but I was still glad I was getting introduced to a new variety. Walking in these felt no challenge at all.

Over the next few months (and years), I didn’t leave any opportunity of trying heels of any female visitor to our home. Six months after that, we shifted to a bigger house, and its design gave me the liberty to bolt the door from outside and strut around in visitors’ heels merrily. That’s where I’ve tried most of the heels I’ve worn, until my feet grew large and women’s sandals won’t fit me anymore.

That aunty paid us a visit in that house four years after I first tried her sandals. And this time around she felt so tiny. The 16-year-old me was much bigger than the 12-year-old me, and it was apparent now her sandals won’t fit me. Ah!

There’s Something Exclusive About Women’s Stuff

Undeniably, it’s my lovely experience with her sandals when I was 12, that introduced me to the beautiful world of femininity. After her heels enthralled me and awakened me to the hitherto unexperienced sensations, I knew there’s something exclusive about women’s stuff that’s beautiful, joyous, sweet and lovely. I was intrigued.

As in with all things good, I wanted a repeat. I wanted to experience more of femininity. I was curious and eager to find out how else could femininity enthrall me. So the 12-year-old me reasoned that since the bra is so exclusive to women, it too must give me that high. So I did try mom’s bra when I was alone at home. And that experience was such a dud! The bra was too big for my small frame. Getting the hooks right was a pain and it was so loose, hanging on my body.

That dud of an experience told me that there’s nothing special about women’s clothes. So, for months to follow, I was content with secretly trying women’s sandals. It’s been 16 years since my ‘induction’, but my love for heels stays intact. For, this is the entity that introduced me to joys and pleasures that rough-monotonous wardrobe for men never could.

Editor’s Note: For the purpose of the article, the author is writing under a pseudonym. This article was originally published on the author’s personal blog.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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