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Sex Isn’t The Only Goal On Dating Apps, Here’s What Else You Can Find

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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.

My first foray into Tinder was way back in 2014. I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree, and after years of struggling with internalised homophobia and a conservative upbringing, had only recently began coming out – both to myself and to a select bunch of trusted friends. A lot about the coming out process was difficult, but one thing that I often craved while going through its various ups and downs was a kindred spirit – someone to talk to, who’d truly understand my experiences, would be able to offer companionship and solidarity in a way a straight ally couldn’t. But of course, this was only a year after Section 377 was upheld by the Supreme Court, and openly queer people in my vicinity were not just rare, but pretty much non-existent. Hence, Tinder.

My very first match was R*, a fellow 20-year-old student looking to “experiment” and “learn about the lesbian experience.” At the time, I was overjoyed. Not only was she one of the first queer people I met, but she was one of the first queer people I ever spoke to one on one, and I was thrilled at the possibility of making a new friend, if nothing more.

At first, it was nice. We shared basic facts about ourselves, though nothing veering into personal territory (this was the internet, of course, and one had to be cautious). She seemed like-minded. a humanities major, a music lover. Our interests very much aligned. But then came the question—and a recurring one, at that. “Your place, or mine?

For a lot of people, online dating is a means to an end. Sex and hookups – both casual and serious – are the often expected outcome. I knew some of that going in, but I had hoped for something more meaningful, more long-lasting than just a stray sexual encounter. It was only much, much later that I came to the realisation that alongside being queer, I’m also on the asexual spectrum. And with that realisation, my thwarted expectations from that Tinder encounter began making a lot more sense.

One might ask, what’s wrong with using the internet to find sex? After all, Indian LGBTQ youth hardly have offline spaces to mingle, interact, form connections, find sexual or romantic partners, and the online space seems like an easier, more accessible option. It’s not only downloadable at the click of a button, but offers you more anonymity, with which can come a sense of security. The answer to that question is simple: there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Dating apps are indeed an excellent way to explore one’s sexuality, especially if one’s in the closet, or “experimenting” and “questioning” their sexuality – for which sex is the commonplace approach for a lot of people, and that is completely okay.

But sex-positivity also means being cognisant of the people who might not want sex, for whom dating and sex may be completely mutually exclusive, for whom a simple platonic companionship, or a romantic relationship with only the emotional intimacy present, may be the be-all and end-all.

A lot of LGBTQ spaces, events, and even discourses often revolve around sex, making it seem like the only way one can reach a realisation of one’s queerness, or the only way one can legitimise one’s queerness. Two years ago, I met P*, a bisexual woman, who very bluntly asked me – “Have you ever gone down on a woman?” When I replied in the negative, she’d countered with an incredulous, “Then how did you know you were gay?” As if, being gay meant only the presence of a sexual attraction, a sexual thought, a sexual encounter. As if without going down on a woman, I couldn’t know I was gay.

Queer Pride marches, queer parties, queer gatherings all often celebrate sex as one of the major sources of identity reclamation and challenging of the heteronormative. In fact, a few months ago, I was at an ‘exclusively gay’ party where, if you had arrived single, the common presumption was that you were “looking” for sex. Again, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating sex, or putting it in the forefront of the movement, even. But by doing so, one can’t afford to erase the fact that asexual LGBTQ people exist, that sex isn’t the only manifestation of one’s sexuality, that romantic relationships or even platonic relationships between queer people can be as meaningful as pure physical intimacy.

The problem, however, is that this mainstream queer celebration of sex often translates into dating apps. Because sex – or rather, the questioning of sexual norms – have so long been associated with queerness, when queer people think of dating (or even mingling) online, sex seems to become the crux of it all. It is here that the online space becomes a double-edged sword – both a way in which one can de-stigmatise harmful notions around queer sex or make queer sex more accessible and a way in which the association of sex with queerness is furthered.

Does online dating only have to be about “hookups” apps, or can it advocate for companionship too? After all, there’s a great need to decentralise that idea if asexual LGBTQ people were to feel wholly, unabashedly comfortable using a dating app to find a partner – whether romantic or platonic.

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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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