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To The Maker Of The Homophobic Video Promoted As ‘Comedy’ And Seen By 60,000 People

Dear Rishhsome,

I saw a video you recently posted, which maybe you think is meant to empower gay couples, and I need to tell you how utterly upsetting it is.

The video has over 60,000 views on Facebook, and honestly, I don’t think it deserves any of the attention it has garnered so far. The said video opens up with a bearded ‘gay’ guy creeping up on his – straight roommate? Best friend? I don’t really know what. There’s a ‘straight’ chap irking his shoulders and calling his gay companion names like “nangi aurat.” Cut to the next scene and the two bearded dudes are enjoying a drive in a balmy sunny afternoon, when the ‘gay’ man grabs the hand of the ‘straight’ one, only to be insulted again. (You do realize homosexuality isn’t the same as hiccups, right? We gay men don’t get sudden and uncontrollable bouts of grabbing the hand of any male around us.) Later, we see the ‘gay’ dude first dancing to some supposedly seductive or romantic number in the bedroom, and travelling faster than the speed of light to haunt the seemingly distressed and frightened ‘straight’ boy on the couch, and then the video ends (thank God!).

I reached out to you on Facebook, asking you to take down the video. Which you did. But you and I still need to talk.

Tag All Your Gay Friends” the video read. I wonder if people who enjoyed the video have gay friends to introduce them to a reality they seem so detached from. Personal misconceptions aren’t any of my concern. But turning them into a video and utilising your influence over social media to propagate homophobia is!

Perhaps you and your followers cannot relate to the everyday-struggles, troubles and tribulations of the gay community because hey, as you said in your comment with the laughing emoji, you are a straight dude, right? Moreover, you have the beard game going on for you, hence further affirming your cisgender, hyper-masculinity!

Perhaps it was just one of those days when sense chooses to absolutely abandon the human race, because there were people not only appreciating your “acting skills” but also calling the same a “mood-elevator”, “awesome” and whatnot!

But I, for one, am clearly not amused. Here is a reality check for you, Rishhsome, and for more than 60,000 people who have watched, liked or appreciated this completely distasteful video.

This video does not empower but short-sells the everyday-struggles of the gay community – and I am not even touching upon the entire spectrum of the LGBTQAI+ lives here. It reduces us from the status of being humans, and puts us back to being the laughing stock of the society. When I finally started believing in Bollywood again after their sensitive portrayal of homosexuality in movies like “Kapoor and Sons” and “Aligarh”, your video brings back blasts from the past, like Abhishek Bachchan and his contemporaries prancing around in “Dostana”, mocking the gay community, condensing our lives, hopes and aspirations to merely a bunch of effeminate stereotypes, packed up in pink.

I know systematic oppression, alienation, and discrimination from society would never have been part of your formative years, like it was for so many of the gay men you feel entitled to mock in the name of light humour.

Not only was this video insulting to the gay community, it was also misogynist. I fail to understand why anyone would refer to a shirtless, bearded, seemingly cisgender guy as “nangi aurat” because he is gay. Listen to me carefully now, because I am going to tell you a secret that is going to change your life. I don’t think anyone ever told you this before, but Females and Gay Men are NOT THE SAME THING. And if you think calling bearded gay dudes “aurat” is supposed to be insulting, you are simply someone who believes males are superior to females.

These “gay friends”, that everyone is having so much fun mocking in the video, are real people. They are students, employees, entrepreneurs, and more; besides trying their best to safeguard their fundamental right to live with dignity and privacy, they also have to fight a colonial law like Section 377.

There are gay guys, who collect sleeping pills every night, simply to end their existence. There are young gay teens living in hostels that are bullied and sexually abused every night, simply because they are ‘effeminate’ and, apparently, cannot stand up against a gang of powerful, privileged, macho bullies.

We don’t need comedy like this to ‘empower’! We need people to stop appropriating us and our lives, all for the simple need to gain more followers and subscribers. We need fans and subscribers to actually introspect, check their privilege and utilise the same to heal the world that has systematically oppressed, abused and appropriated marginalised communities.

Each gay person in India is strong and resilient. Every day that we struggle to express and assert ourselves, fight or negotiate with the oppressive system and society, we empower ourselves. Every gay teen or ageing elder gay man, choosing to live instead of ending his life, is already empowered.

We fight the law and the government alike for respect and dignity, but it looks like we now have to spend our time fighting videos like these, too.

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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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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.

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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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