He Was Handsome And A Pro At Wooing, But Did He Know I’m Trans?

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.

I remember my heart pounding as if prompted by an electrical surge. Sweating all the way from forehead to toe, feet cold as ice, biting my lips, ruining my lipstick. There were a whole lot emotions—nervousness, fear, anxiety, and vulnerability—flowing inside of me. I had already chugged three glasses of glucose water in one go to calm my nerves.

The guy was 26, educated, handsome, and chivalrous. A pro at wooing a girl with his witty humour, engaging conversation, and cute compliments. After we kept exchanging texts on Tinder, back and forth for a week, he finally earned my digits and approval to meet up for a strawberry milkshake. I was undisputedly attracted to him and the feelings were mutual.

But even with everything going perfectly well, the whole world seemed to be telling me that I was a liar. The fact that I still hadn’t mentioned my trans identity to him pinched me initially, accusing me of playing perfidiously. By being so active and vocal about it on my social media accounts, engaged with interviews and articles that revolve around trans issues, and having an appearance that pretty much ‘looks trans’, or, at the very least, gender ambiguous, I preferred to think he must know, and hadn’t brought this up as topic; an act of courtesy. But on the other hand, if he did not know, he probably would’ve never bothered to give me as much attention.

There’s no way I can just pass as a ‘cis-born’ girl, without anyone noticing that I’m trans. And even if I could, the thought of playing ‘trickster’ would never leave my mind snug. I’m more at ease when someone somehow knows about it. But when they don’t, it comes down to a very difficult situation as I just cannot find any other way of revealing my identity that doesn’t sound like a political statement, psychological research, a request for acceptance, compassion and sympathy, a way that doesn’t feel like an invasion of my privacy, or an apology

Only very occasionally, everything leads up to an ordinary conversation, during which I don’t receive any response such as “What’s that?”, “Can I ask you a question?” or “You’re so brave!”. I usually just either end up feeling like I’m giving a TED talk or like a contestant in an edeb8 competition. And when, at times, condemning opinions and derogatory slurs are also thrown in my yard, I tend to ‘unmatch’, so as to not let it affect my mental health. Though it’s not true that I never experience the urge to strike back, but as a representative of a minority group, I always have to watch my words and manners, so I do no such thing that can devalue the whole trans community or can be used as a violation against the terms and conditions, and community guidelines of Tinder service providers.

I’m absolutely proud of the girl I am today because I have gone, and, in fact, still go through a hell of a time to become her. Regardless, I prefer to be known for my characteristics, individuality, accomplishments, choices, and beliefs. But going only by ‘trans recognition’ obliterates all these factors and limits my personality with the stigma, adversity and taboos that are attached to the people of my community. Being trans, does not fully describe me as a person, rather it just talks about a certain aspect of my life that deals with challenges, struggle and dysphoria. It is very personal information that reveals plenty of details about my life and vulnerability. I should have the choice of ‘whether or not’, ‘when’ and ‘to whom’ I reveal this information. Without being left feeling like a ‘liar’ ‘perfidious’ or ‘trickster’.

As trans activist Jen Richards puts it: “Until men have to disclose to me that they’re assholes, I don’t have to disclose anything at all.

Anyway, back to the date and what happened post the ‘swipe’. I had lost my appetite the day my date and I were supposed to meet. After checking my watch four times, I sat on a couch, contemplating my life. My heels weren’t being cooperative, and it felt like my dress was suffocating me to the point of unconsciousness.

I was just too afraid to know his reaction, too sensitive to be judged, too insecure to be rejected, and too innocent to be made to feel like a deceiver. My overthinking led me to remind myself about those hundreds of cases of trans women getting beaten up, Intimidated, abominated, and stranded in the worst of scenarios; turning out to be the targets of hate like Gwen Araujo, Islan Nettles, Jennifer Laude, Mocia Loera and many more trans women who were murdered by men upon their finding out that, despite their having a ‘womanly appearance’, they weren’t biologically female.

Drowned in the sea of guilt, I often blamed myself for being the way I am, for having the past that I could never change and for being in the present that is still associated with some segments of my past. With each rising sun, I put on a brave face and pretend to be unbothered—about being watched, discussed, singled out at and everything that is directly pointed towards my embodiment of womanhood and expression of femininity. I act like a badass, ceiling-breaking, revolutionary going against social norms and dealing with every hardship that comes with my identity.

I burst into tears. I undressed, pulling down the back-zip of my dress. I couldn’t summon up sufficient courage to go out and put myself in that position of criticism. It is already an act of valour for trans women to go out and be themselves, if for no other reason than we are the ones who are aware of the possibilities we encounter with ‘dating without disclosure’.

However, even after several major disappointments, I refuse to give up. I still believe I have a chance, coming across ‘the gold among the dross’. Everyone doesn’t have the same perspective about everything. Sometimes, it’s just our insecurities and diffidence that drives us, and doesn’t allow us to think positively, experience this world, make friends generously, enjoy passionate company, or even run into The Prince of our lives.

Just like every cloud has a silver lining, persistently digging through the rough can lead you to discover that one diamond hidden among the rubble.

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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 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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