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Why I Started A Photo Platform To Capture The Lives Of LGBTQ Mumbaikars

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In October 2014, while randomly checking an LGBTQ Facebook support page, I saw a post on photography. I immediately sensed the void and immensely felt the need to create a platform for photography hobbyists from within the LGBTQ community. I saw an avid photography hobbyist’s comment which spoke of his interest and emphasized the need to meet and bond with others from the community over photography.

Karthik Sharma and Raj Pandey.

That person was Kartik Sharma. I messaged him right then and there. When we talked, we realized, both of us wanted the same thing – to create an entity that could bind the LGBTQ community through photography.

We thus, created a secret Facebook group and coined the name – ‘QGraphy’. We began with the intention of giving back something to the LGBTQ community. And, quite proudly, we still live by our motto.

As an online group, we began encouraging our members to try their hands at photography; be it professionals or amateurs. We balanced our talent by motivating DSLR users as well as mobile phone users to click pictures. As time passed, we began conducting photowalks and photography workshops. Initially, it was a bit challenging as a lot of our members did not own a camera. All they had was a cellphone, and a lot of them were quite apprehensive to click pictures. We thus introduced various photography-based games and interactive workshops. People then began opening up and started experimenting with photography in its true sense. And pretty soon, our photowalk events were even featured in online platforms such as Mid-Day and Evensi. Thus, the word spread. Many a times, a lot of non-LGBTQ folks would turn up at the venue at the designated time. Some people were surprised to learn that it was a queer group organizing photography events. Much to our dismay, some would walk away, but there were others who would stay back and join in the fun.

Our primary motive is to help the community by offering them photography services. At QGraphy, we have covered multiple important LGBTQ events in Mumbai. There’s the annual Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride March. We also covered the recently concluded KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. And of course, there are those hosted by The Humsafar Trust, and GayBombay, among several others:

The Yaariyan Team, A Youth Initiative By The Humsafar Trust

Aravani Wall Art By Members Of The Trans Community

Director Sridhar Rangayan, Actor Ally Sonam Kapoor, And Sir Ian McKellen

A Glimpse Of The 2017 Mumbai Pride Walk

Actor Manoj Bajpayee And Founder Of BombayDost, Ashok Row Kavi

A performance By The High Heel Hotties At Mumbai Queer Film Festival

The Annual Kite-Flying Event, Organised By GayBombay In Juhu Beach

A Performer Gets Ready At The Humsafar Trust’s 23rd Anniversary

As community partners for these events, we do not charge for our services; except when there are costs involved to rent out camera and video equipments for coverage. Hence, the community saves on the cost they would otherwise have to incur by hiring professional services.

We chose the medium of photography to tell the world that we are just like them; as normal and as human as all of them out there. When we look at pictures, we relate to the persons in them, we relate to their stories. Irrespective of communicative or language barriers, people in general feel enthralled when they see their photographs. They happily pose for a picture every time we point our cameras at them. It boosts their confidence. Some of the photographs we clicked during events have been published in various media channels and tabloids. Because of this, an awareness is created.

The QGraphy group on Facebook has now crossed the 1,000 mark and our members’ count keeps increasing by the day. It is merely one’s passion for photography that binds QGraphy and our members together. QGraphy has always been inclusive of various identities – gay men, lesbian women, trans individuals and everyone else on the spectrum. What we strive to achieve in QGraphy is this simple idea – Being queer is just one aspect of our lives; we are more than just our sexualities. All of us are talented in our own ways. Photography and other aspects related to it can be one of our talented identities too. So, why not?

All photos courtesy of the author. To see more from QGraphy, check out their page on Facebook. Click here!
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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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