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‘I Write, Draw And Paint About The Women I’ll Never Be With’

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Written Anonymously:

My partner of seven years (husband of five months) introduced me to this fantastic show on Cartoon Network called “Adventure Time”. The show follows the story of a young boy named Finn and his dog/adopted brother, Jake, in the magical land of Oo. It’s a pretty zany show, but I love it – not only because of its deceptively complex story-line, but also because it features some fantastic characters who are queer!

I found myself becoming insanely obsessed with two of these characters – Marceline the Vampire Queen and her on-and-off partner, Princess Bubblegum. I had a poster of them in my room, and my phone wallpaper was a picture of the two of them kissing. I even drew them kissing in my sketchbook!

I never really questioned my obsession with them (which incidentally, isn’t even close to ending yet) until quite recently. The reason why I took this thought seriously in the first place was because over the past two years or so, I finally consolidated certain feelings I had been having towards women for a long time. Having been with a steady male partner since high school, I couldn’t entirely get myself to acknowledge that I was anything more than ‘bi-curious’ – that I’d kiss girls, but only when drunk, or gush over my various ‘girl crushes’ who weren’t really crushes at all, apparently. I barely thought twice about how in every sex scene I had seen in my life – including all the porn that I had ever watched – I only ever got aroused by watching the women. I even ignored the fact that a whole bunch of drawings I made and stories I had thought up typically featured women who were together.

But, as I continued creating art and writing stories featuring women, I slowly started to introspect. I realised how so many of the ideas of love and romance I had formed in my mind were just that – only ideas. They had been planted there by the overwhelmingly heteronormative ideals and expectations perpetuated by the ‘rom-coms’ and ‘chick-lit’ novels I obsessively consumed as a teenager. I realised that I wasn’t so much exclusively attracted to men as I was to the idea of being feminine. Since I was always nuts about all things associated with the performative aspects of femininity (when it came to love), I enacted the girls I read about in trashy Meg Cabot novels. Men were merely instrumental in my assertion of my femininity, and not in defining my sexuality.

Opening myself to this realisation changed my perception of myself. Though I understood myself better, I felt vulnerable to a whole new world of judgement from people. Since I had been with a steady male partner for a really long time, and my gender expression is feminine, people didn’t take me seriously when I came out. Emotions I developed towards a female friend were perceived to be my experiments with my sexuality, or as efforts to make myself seem more ‘interesting’ or ‘sexy’.  When I shared how I felt about this friend, some of my friends responded by saying that everyone was bisexual to some extent. Others responded by saying things like “You’re bisexual? You? Really? That’s great!”

Clearly queer people looked and acted in specific ways – and I, somehow, hadn’t gotten the memo.

People’s reactions and my awareness of the challenges and difficulties that queer people face caused me to hesitate to come to terms with my sexuality and identify as queer. Yet, I couldn’t deny how I felt in my heart – identifying as straight felt wrong. At the same time, I had to find a way to express these emotions and desires, which were actively being shut down or sidelined by people around me or by the voices in my head. Moreover, I had to learn how to do this without hurting my partner or threatening the relationship we had built together.

So, I channeled it into the very thing that helped me realise that I wasn’t straight – into art and writing. Writing or drawing about queer relationships allows me to imagine and express what I feel it would be like to be with another woman, or with someone who doesn’t fall into the binary. It has not only helped me in expressing deeper aspects of my identity, but has also allowed me to give myself the acceptance and validation I expect others to give me. It helps me acknowledge that my sexual and romantic desires that aren’t heterosexual are legitimate, even though my partner is a man.

Reconciling and expressing these emotions and aspects of my identity is a process. As someone who doesn’t feel the social ramifications of being queer on account of being a cisgender woman in a heteronormative relationship, I hesitate to take up the space I feel belongs to those whose lives are more significantly impacted by their sexual orientation and gender identity. Since my partner and parents have been relatively supportive of my identity, violence from family isn’t a threat for me either.

Balancing my privilege with the legitimacy of my own identity and emotions has been challenging, and it pushes me into a constant state of expressing myself and holding back. I’m still learning about how I can hit the sweet spot between taking up space that isn’t mine, and allowing myself to see myself as a legitimately queer being. Until I can work this out, making art for the purpose of catharsis and self-expression will have to do.

Lover of all things sparkly and fluffy, the author feels ridiculously happy in a tiara, and spends far to much time thinking about what she’ll wear. She is as indecisive as the Delhi weather in late July, and is in the constant lookout for boxes to fit into – for now, Cisgender-Panromantic-Demisexual-Libran-Unicorn sounds great, but she may change her mind.

In celebration of Pride Month, The YP Foundation is running an online campaign to spark conversations around issues specific to queer youth and their engagement in queer politics, through narrative pieces, articles, essays, comic strips, artworks, and personal interviews. Through these, the campaign seeks to explore the importance of the queer movement in India and the intricacies of queer organising. it also looks at the different ways in which the queer movement in India is forging alliances with other movements, through the active engagement and involvement of young queer people. This campaign is a part of a larger international campaign hosted by CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality.

To submit your stories, poems, articles and artwork, send them to by June 20, 2018.

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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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