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As A Queer Man From Kashmir, This Is The Story Of How I Found True Love

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By Anonymous:

As per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love is a fundamental human need. At different stages of life, we all seek love, and for those of us who are romantics, we seek that one person who fills the gaps in between our fingers and holds our hands firmly through all the ups and downs of life. I met that person when I was 16. I had recently passed Class X. The adrenaline rush was at its peak and so was my consciousness about my predicament as someone with an ‘alternate’ sexuality.

It was customary for my family to spend winters at our ancestral Delhi house ― our schools used to have a three-month-long vacation, and bearing the cold chills of Kashmir was not our cup of tea. This year, however, was the first time I was away from my family. My parents were keen to send me out of the country for higher studies so I was in Delhi seeking various coaching classes. Those days, we had a limited number of internet cafés. I somehow managed to get an internet connection at my home and used to surf the internet without any time restrictions. Keen to find a boyfriend, I used to search for sites where I could find like-minded people. Within weeks of my appearance on that site, I came across a profile which was a sight for sore eyes. It wasn’t that the guy had posted a particularly good looking picture, but the conversation I had with him was very sensible and humorous.

Our conversations continued for weeks and we finally decided to meet at the end of March, 2005. I still get goosebumps when I recall the day I first met Aaftab. Six-feet tall with a great physique, it was a perfect description of what I imagined ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’ to be. This was my first time ever encountering a date, and I didn’t know how to react. We met over lunch and discussed everything from our personal lives to politics to the weather and what not. We kept meeting often, and somehow, deep down in my heart, I knew I wanted to spend my life with him. The funniest thing was when I started calling him “Aaftab bhai”, as he was nine years elder to me. He never took it the wrong way, but I somehow knew even then that we wanted to remove this suffix.

Aaftab, at that time, was working with AT&T as a customer care agent, and was also an aspiring model. He used to stay in a rented accommodation in South Delhi, with other flatmates. He belonged to Nagpur. For the first few months, we used to meet outside for coffee, movies, house parties, lunches, and dinners. By now we were introduced to each other’s friends as well. In the beginning, I never dared to ask him to come over to my place, and vice-versa. But one fine day, I invited him over my house for dinner. It was one of the most joyous moments of my life to have him in ‘my’ space.

We had been acquainted only six months, and getting intimate was never an alluring factor between us. Though we used to discuss this topic a lot, trying to decide who would make the first move was challenging. Every time he had to go back to his home, I found my confidence in jeopardy, as a lot of people used to keep an eye on him. I took courage, one day, and decided to speak to my father, asking him to let out two rooms of our flat on rent, as, this way, I would also get some company. The intent here was to have Aaftab with me. My dad agreed to it and I convinced Aaftab to move in. It was like nature itself was conspiring to settle things in a way that my wish was a command to be full filled. A few days later, Aaftab moved in to my house and from here our journey of togetherness started. We used to cook together, clean the home, and wash clothes while singing and dancing. The urge to make my thoughts clear to him was at its peak, but I still couldn’t gather the courage to confess my feelings to him.

One fine day, while he was at work, I thought of writing a letter to him. To get it all out, I might have torn out and filled the pages of an entire notebook, but I still couldn’t quite articulate the words. I decided to speak to him face-to-face. When he arrived, I grasped all the courage I could and expressed my feelings to him. It was a one-sided conversation for almost 45 minutes where I was talking and weeping simultaneously. I sensed that I was about to get hurt and everything would be over. To my surprise, he grabbed me in his arms, and lifted me up. The kiss was so passionate that my lips started to swell and bleed, but I couldn’t feel the pain.

The joy of him accepting our relationship was just like a fairytale coming true. The next question was what role we were going to play in this relationship. We both were on the same wavelength, and wanted to explore all the things love had to offer. At last! I started to live my dream. We were called the most adorable couple by a lot of people around us. They said it was because of how we complemented each other in the best of ways. I was very possessive about him, and he was the epitome of love and care for me. Soon I introduced him to my family as a tenant and a good friend and also took him to my home town.

For so many queer people, acceptance is hard to come by. But sometimes, it comes in the form of loving someone much like yourself. We were together for seven happy years and I always believe that to be the golden era of my life. Not only did we flourish from the love, care, and respect we had for each other, we were also there as a support system for each other. I learnt a lot about life from him. It was he who introduced me to the world of glitz and glamour, and I started my modelling career with him. Going on shoots and walking on the ramp with him was just so perfect. Not only was I with someone I loved and cherished, but it was a way for me to learn to accept myself for who I am. And isn’t that something everyone should have a chance to do?

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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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