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

‘Dear Straight Ally, Last Week You Laughed At A Homophobic Joke’

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Submitted Anonymously:

Dear straight ally,

Last week, you laughed at a homophobic joke.

“It’s not a big deal,” you said when I called you out on it, brushing it off. I am equal parts puzzled and made uncomfortable by this logic, because this seems unlike you. You have always been a good ally – being sensitive to LGBTQ issues, attending Pride Parades and protests against Section 377 – and I don’t doubt your allegiance to our cause, but if you still think that homophobic jokes are “not a big deal,” something is going wrong.

In a country where homosexuality is still criminalized, the support of straight allies like you is essential for the LGBTQ movement to gain more momentum and visibility. When you stand alongside us in our struggle for equal rights, it drives home the fact that we may be diverse, but we aren’t different; that we aren’t the deviant, demonized ‘other just because our sexuality or gender identity isn’t normative – and that kind of solidarity goes a long way in making our lives easier. But even when you have the best of intentions, instances like these emerge – you end up using problematic language or use homophobic microaggressions,and even though you might not realize it, it ends up being harmful to the queer community. Being a successful ally might come with its challenges because after all, there are a lot of nuances to grasp and understand, but I know that you have the potential to be one, because I know you care.

Because you have mostly seen cis gay men at the forefront of the Indian queer movement, you have the tendency to think that sexuality functions in binaries of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’, but look at me – I’m the biggest contradiction to this common misconception. You accepted me when I came out to you as pansexual, but you still seem to be confused what that means, unsure that it can be a legitimate queer identity. Don’t worry, that’s not really your fault – our heteronormative social conditioning has forced us to always put gender and sexuality into rigid boxes, and identities that go beyond those markers often confuse us, but it’s time to reject these boxes, don’t you think?

I remember us discussing reality show contestant Gauri Arora’s coming out as trans, and how you constantly kept using her former name. How you kept tripping over her pronouns, and how the language you used to talk about her betrayed your lack of understanding of trans issues. None of this sat well with me. The queer spectrum is vast and beautiful, and within it, every identity is diverse and has its own nuances (whether it be in terms of pronouns or otherwise), and I am confident that if you become a little more aware of it, the shackles of your transphobic conditioning will slowly come loose. And while we’re acknowledging the diversity of the spectrum, let’s not also forget to recognize the diversity of class, caste and various cultural identities within the movement. I know that we are often blinded by our own privilege and, because of the dominance of middle and upper middle class savarna voices within mainstream Indian queer movements, we fail to recognize that the movement extends to others too.

A few months ago, you saw “Aligarh” and came to me, disturbed by the real-life incident that the film was based on. You couldn’t fathom how people could be so perverse and voyeuristic about queer sex lives that they invaded Professor Siras’ privacy, humiliated him and ultimately led him to commit suicide. However, in your haste to pledge support to LGBTQ people, you often end up sensationalizing the sex lives of queer people too, albeit not with as malicious an intent as was the case with the Aligarh Muslim University professor. Your curiosity is sometimes endearing, but more often than not it moves into the territory of an unnecessary fixation of fetishization, and that’s what’s unsettling. Are you so intrigued because you still see us as ‘the other’? These are questions allies should repeatedly ask themselves.

I know that you genuinely want to stand up for us, to speak out against the injustices that the community faces, but in doing so, many a times you (and other allies) take the focus away from us. Just think of the public meeting our University’s Gender and Sexuality Cell had organized last semester – it was you and a few other allies dominating the microphones, when in reality, it should have been about our voices. This is particularly tricky, I know, because the line between advocating for queer narratives and co-opting them is thin indeed. But a little more sensitivity, a little more empathy, and a little more awareness, maybe, you’ll learn to pass the mic to us too.

You can help us in so many ways, and doing so isn’t difficult at all. Whether it’s having our back in legal matters (which are indeed a murky territory for queer people in India), or helping us in a personal capacity – your contribution and solidarity is vital. Your love for us is evident, but let’s turn our relationship into something more inclusive, more nuanced, and more full of mutual respect. Queer lives matter, and we can have it matter even more if you are on board with us, in every possible way.


Your queer friend.


Featured Image for representation only. Image Source: wallpaperflare.

This article was first published here on Cake.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Srini Ramaswamy

By Srini Ramaswamy

By Srini Ramaswamy

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below