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People Refuse To Believe I Can Love And Be With Two People At The Same Time

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TinderEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #AllTypesAllSwipes, by Tinder and Youth Ki Awaaz to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week. Tinder now supports more ways to express gender identity by giving users the ability to add information about their gender outside the binary. Share your experiences of love, dating and authenticity here.

By Black Cat:

So you are in a bisexual, polyamorous relationship?!

I am sitting, pleasantly whiskey mellow at a friends’ fantastic Halloween party. It is 2018 and I have moved back to India after six years spent pursuing various law degrees and no jobs out in the UK. It’s towards the end of the night, where conversations get intimate and confessional. I have been talking to an adorable English guy who’s moved to Delhi a few months ago. His accent makes me homesick, but his grasp on my situation makes me grab him and shriek hysterically. We yell about being rainbow babies in Delhi. There is an immediate solidarity I have found in the LGBT+ spaces in India—a moment of “I see you. You see me. We are real, we are here, we are queer.” I tell him he knows the right words. I weave through the party, looking for my boyfriend. I want him to know that I found someone at this party who knows the right words.

Photo by Raajessh Kashyap/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

I am far away from Edinburgh where I realised I was bi and met my girlfriend. Almost five years, through Edinburgh, London, LA, New York, and Delhi, we are still together. My first vague memory of her is of a blonde, green-eyed girl I turned to in a dorm meeting and asked if she wanted to get kebabs. She did. She also wanted to go on long, pointless walks, have me translate Bollywood songs and learn to say my name right. We have been dormmates, flatmates, best friends, fellow adventurers and escapists for six years.

I am also far away from London, where I first met my boyfriend in a lecture two years ago, informed him I was not just talking to him because he was Indian and then crushed hard on him for a year or so (my girlfriend realised before I did). I spent too many evenings on my couch or his, making him watch way too much Halsey, drank too much whiskey, were each others +1’s and safety blankets to all social events, resisted loving him because he was ‘too right’ and then jumped right off that cliff.

About 8 months ago, my girlfriend and I decided that we would stop talking about trying an open relationship and try to see if it was something that would work for us. The plan was to casually date around, test the waters, see how it made us feel and then veto anything that didn’t feel okay. I came home to India for a holiday, went on Tinder, checked the “interested in men” and “women” boxes and got to swiping. Though there will always be a never-ending debate between ‘bisexual vs pansexual’, I consider myself attracted to more than one sex—binaries have never been my thing. However, the privilege of being a cisgender, straight-passing woman meant that I have had the choice to come out when and if I wanted to. I hadn’t been on any dating apps seriously before, so it felt like a whole new world.

A whole new world filled with questions about my ‘real’ orientation, what an open relationship was, did I want to get together with couples? (Bi, consensually seeing other people, and No). As a queer woman on a spectrum for polyamory, the online dating experience was still restrictive at the time. There didn’t seem to be the right words. Luckily, positive changes are finally upon us. Back then, though, I had to go over my situation, again and again, keep educating people and explaining myself—all of which I was happy to do, but it got very exhausting, very quickly. It made me realise my privilege more sharply than ever. Even being bi, I didn’t have to explain myself over and over again nor justify my existence—not for the most part. But deviating from the mainstream—even in the queer experience, meant a whole lot of work and effort to just be seen.

Being bi has not been simple, but has been recognisable. There is some hostility in traditional queer spaces and a lot of erasure, but people are learning the right words for sexual orientation. However, the information (academic or otherwise) that we have on how binary thinking harms us all, not just those of us on the queer spectrum, is still very much restricted to queer spaces and/or academia. I didn’t realise how much I bought into some form of binary thinking until I realised polyamory and monogamy were just as much a spectrum as gender and sexual orientation. Until I had to start explaining the concept of this spectrum to everyone around me—friends, family, strangers on the internet. So the fact that Tinder is recognising that there are more than just two ways to exist, to be, to feel, is exciting to me. Queer culture in India is relatively reliant on dating apps for finding like-minded people. Widening the scope of how people can present and introduce themselves helps us all find, recognize and understand the right words – for ourselves and the world around us.

On the day Section 377 was read down, I woke to the news through my father—he sent me an article and told me he loved me. I am exceedingly lucky to have parents who will not always understand me but will always support me. After the reading down, moving back to India and leaving behind a life patchworked over six years has felt much easier. I have always been open with my friends and parents about being bi—with my extended family, less so. Section 377 changed that—it made me feel less anxious, less afraid, and finally gave me the right words to start a conversation. Again, this is an immense privilege that is easy to take for granted. But it felt like a start to something more significant, to normalising what had always felt normal to me. A more flexible approach to the self, others, and binaries is perhaps the way to creating an inclusive world, where everyone will just know the right words.

Although my boyfriend and I moved back to India at the same time, my girlfriend works in New York. I always joke that there was no way I could deal with two long-distance relationships. Funnily, the thing about love is that there is no black and white, no binaries and no absolutes you can put on it. However, finding the right words helps me, the people around me and the world, in general, to come to terms with myself. Almost 8 months into this polyamory business and I now know that I will deal with the emotional work of two long-distance relationships, all the feelings, all the hysterical 2 am fights (mostly from me, surprise surprise) and all the sheer effort. Because no matter how many people refuse to believe that I can love two people and that there is no ‘choice’ to be made, I would burn the world to the ground, do anything for these two. Anything that is, except give up coffee.

Featured image source: Ponetium/DeviantArt.
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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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