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5 Things That Make Online Dating More Welcoming For LGBTQ Indians

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.

Modern technology has certainly achieved remarkable milestones in the past decade by connecting people to each other, regardless of borders. One of these milestones is the creation of online dating apps, which offer a multitude of possibilities to people looking for romance, dating, or relationships. However, online dating apps have, after all, for a long time been a part of this cisgender-heteronormative world where we, queer people, every day and almost everywhere, have to fight the dearth of inclusivity. The need of the hour is to provide safe online spaces to LGBTQI+ persons. All people, queer or not, look for ways to make romantic connections with people on the same page as they are. However, for queer people, our online dating experiences are more likely to be a harrowing nightmare, owing to the disrespect, discrimination, breach of privacy, and lack of safety that have prevailed on online dating platforms.

It’s 2018! It’s time to shatter the historically heterosexual culture in the online dating world! Here’s how it can be achieved.

Acknowledging And Accepting Diversity

The spectrum of genders and sexualities is endless and diverse! This must be acknowledged and accepted in the real world. The same goes for the virtual world, with apps designing themselves in a sensitive and inclusive manner. It is time to get rid of the traditional three rigid options of “Men”, “Women”, and “Other”. LGBTQI+ persons are entitled to equal possibilities and choices, and it is absolutely discriminatory to have two distinct categories- “Men” and “Women” while clubbing all other genders in one homogeneous blob, “Other”. Rather, allowing us to mention our gender or sexuality, our preference(s), and then matching us with others based on such preference(s) is much more inclusive.

Providing A Safe Space

It is important for dating apps to understand that people identifying as LGBTQI+ are more vulnerable than others on online dating platforms. Queer people often end up being violated online because the internet allows anonymity to queerphobes and bullies, and these risks must be managed. In order to foster a safe and inclusive online dating culture, dating apps must have queer-friendly options such as “I don’t want straight people to find me”. Queer persons should be able to easily report profiles for cyber-bullying, and the reports must be regularly checked and acted upon by the app administrators. We will feel much safer on online dating platforms if these apps have explicitly stated inclusion policies and strict community standards to safeguard queer individuals against harassment.

Safeguarding Against Potential “Out”-ing

Our autonomy and choices are important to us. Whether we choose to “come out” or be “closeted” is entirely our choice, and we expect dating apps to understand this simple fact. It is highly disrespectful to “out” queer persons against our will or when we aren’t ready. Such “out”-ing may cause LGBTQI+ persons grave harassment and trauma, and in any case, amounts to breach of our privacy. Having the option to not reveal our gender on the dating app can really help. The gender or sexuality-related information that we feed into the dating app must be kept confidential even by the app administrative personnel, if we so desire, and there must be strict measures against misuse of the information that we wish to keep private.

Information Leads To Inclusivity

It is imperative that online dating apps are well-informed about genders and sexualities. Inclusivity can be achieved through sensitisation and awareness. Hence, it is important that the dating app administrative, development, and creative teams are sensitised on the issue. The app personnel must have a nuanced understanding of queer dating and seek to make it a good experience for LGBTQI+ people. The apps can also foster a queer-inclusive online dating culture by making use of gender-related authentic information in their content and promotions, thus urging cisgender-heterosexual people to be accepting of diversity.

Listing More Gender Identities

Online dating apps can also be more inclusive by listing more gender identities, which will pique people’s interest in learning about the gender spectrum. The list should be based on intensive research on gender identities. In their promotional content, the dating apps should mention their recognition of diverse gender identities in order to encourage more queer persons to come forward and avail the opportunity of online dating. The apps should also be flexible enough to expand the gender options and encourage inputs of queer persons on that front.

Our dignity, integrity, autonomy, and privacy are dear to us, and inclusivity will help us reclaim our spaces in the online dating culture without any fear. Let online dating apps be queerphobia-free zones where there is no tolerance for shaming, bullying, sexism, and harassment because we, too, deserve the chances at making meaningful connections and safe romantic explorations.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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