This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shirin Choudhary. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Being Non-Binary On Tinder And The Confusing World Of Dating

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.

Tinder Boy: “Do you confirm your gender?

Me: “What does that mean?

Tinder Boy: “It’s 2018. Some people don’t confirm their gender.

As a non-binary identifying person assigned female at birth, heterosexual men on Tinder tend to typify me as ‘tomboy’ or a particular ‘type’ of girl- the one with short hair who they love to fetishize. Or they ask me whether being bi/pansexual means I will have sex with a pan, or a threesome with that One Other Bisexual Girl they know. Homosexual women are kinder but still looking for someone who fits in more neatly in one of the femme-butch categories. But in all of these daily Tinder negotiations, non-binary people (assigned female at birth) like me are still not recognised as valid, desirable and attractive just as ourselves, without having to match the expectations of normative binary gender standards.

For most people, Tinder is a series of negotiations, from different gender presentations to carefully selected bios. The online dating world is designed in a way that, inevitably, needs you to limit what you choose to show people online–a set of five pictures and the short bio. It doesn’t sum up who you are (that’s what messages are for!) but it makes connecting with someone quick, easy, and convenient. For me, claiming a non-binary identity on Tinder requires a certain amount of patience and candidness, having to sometimes explain the basics of gender and sexuality to someone within ten minutes of a conversation. But as more and more people in the queer community in Delhi become acquainted with and open to different transgender identities, it gets easier. As an upper-caste queer person from a middle-class background in Delhi, though, my voice is just one among many, and my experience with Tinder still fairly positive.

Gender is inextricably linked with desire, love and sexual attraction. And desire, love, attraction are linked with many other socio-economic considerations. Entering the economy of desire, as my friend A puts it, means to ‘perform’ a certain gender expectation that would attract the other person. As a bi/pansexual person, when I attract cisgender men I might perform feminine and when I attract homosexual women I might perform masculine depending on my own sense of their expectations. Meeting someone new from an online platform is also scary, which is exacerbated for trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people because of the risk of violence or harassment. Whenever I meet someone new, I internally negotiate the decision of how soon I should be telling them about my identity. If it’s too soon, will I risk meeting someone transphobic? If it’s too late, will they feel lied to, and reject me? Unfortunately, most of us are familiar with the anxiety that comes with trying to impress a potential romantic or sexual partner or friend. But these anxieties are always layered with the extra risk of not just rejection but harassment or assault for those who come from different marginalised identities, whether externally visible or invisible. These could be anything from ethnicity, caste, gender to sexual orientation. In an unequal society like ours, desire and love are another playing field where these inequalities can play out.

Having a female-assigned body means to struggle with femininity and associated gendered expectations all the time. It means to constantly struggle with compulsory heterosexuality – being pushed by culture and society to only look at heterosexual men for sexual and romantic needs – and the often talked about constraints of femininity. But femininity and masculinity, beyond their constraints, are also interesting constructs to play around with, especially for transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. I want to see a world where people see non-binary as more than just a meme – as a valid identity and expression and as a way of seeing the world. Where people respect us not just through our pronouns or snazzy outfits (though not all trans people even want to wear fancy prints) but our needs as sexual beings – our desire to be desired without having to compromise our identities. Non-binary, transgender, gender non-conforming and genderfluid identities are more than just a fashion quirk or a fun piercing. For many people, it involves risking their jobs, families, friendships and lives in order to live their true selves. Socially constructed gender norms also affect whom we find attractive and who gets to enter the economy of desire as themselves.

Cisgender-passing non-binary people like me have it easier. At first look, I can pass easily as female. I can still cruise through tinder expectations by choosing to reveal my identity, pronouns and desires to a romantic interest over time, as I become comfortable enough to reveal certain behaviours and mannerisms or wear my preferred clothes. But for many non-binary people whose gender presentations refuse to easily conform to either masculine or feminine boxes, the online dating world is less kind. Even for famous American trans artists Alok Vaid-Menon and Jacob Tobia, finding Tinder dates has been a struggle, something they have talked about in their art and writing over the years. Transgender and non-binary people who do not fit neatly in one binary gender box are at risk of facing transphobic violence simply for being themselves.

So to make our dating world less heteronormative, less toxic and more queer-friendly, it is imperative for us to be open to different gender presentations and ideas of gender norms. To allow non-binary people the space to be honest without demanding an explanation of them at every step of the way. And to make our queer-feminist online and offline spaces more open and accessible to transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary people of different intersecting identities, caste and class backgrounds, tribal backgrounds and sexualities.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Read more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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
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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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