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As A Woman Who Isn’t Interested In Sex, People Want To Know Why I’m On Tinder

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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.

You’re on Tinder!?

The surprise in my friend’s voice was so thick I could cut through it with a knife. Yes. I was on Tinder. I had a 3G connection, and comfortably large phone screen for looking at people’s photos. Not very complicated is it? But I pricked up my ears at the un-uttered assumption: “What business does an asexual woman like you have on a dating app?

In the last two years, a handful of my friends have reacted the same way. It used to ruffle my feathers, but the answer had always always been right under everyone’s noses. Literally. It was in my bio.

Vegan, asexual, bookworm. Here to find friends.”

I’d spent an entire evening crafting my profile, and carefully selecting my top five photos. In the end I settled for that very innocuous description. I won’t lie, I was proud of the simplicity. But more than that, I was interested in knowing how the average viewer would receive me. A thick-jawed woman, with glasses, dyed hair, and disastrously thick eyeliner, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But here I was. The way I wanted to be seen. And there was something comforting in that.

When the matches came rolling in – both men and women – it was a combination of questions I had already expected (and maybe even hoped for?). “What is asexual?” “Are you interested in dating?” “Why are you using Tinder?” “Will you change your mind about sex?” Clearly, I was an anomaly. I braced myself for some of the reactions I was used to offline: reactions that told me I wasn’t quite right, that I had to be fixed, that I was throwing a wrench in the works of the species preserving its future generations (uh, hello, there’s too few of us asexual people to make that kind of impact; you might wanna talk about pollution harming future generations instead). But as my conversations with other Tinder users lengthened, I was pleasantly surprised.

Everyone I matched with, initially, was allosexual (people who experience sexual attraction towards other people, be it heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual – you know.) After quick introductions, the conversation eventually veered towards that odd little word in my bio.

“So you aren’t attracted to anyone?”

“Not sexually, no.”

“Wow, is that tough?”

“Only when people get judgemental.”

My friends had all told me to expect varying degrees of flirting, offers for coffee, and offers for ‘coffee’, but with sex and romance decidedly off the table, my matches and I hit an awkward pause. And that’s when the real stuff began.

A boy from North-West Delhi, who had been trying to ‘figure me out’, let the walls come down. He began to tell me about the IAS exams he was studying for because of pressure from home, when all he wanted to do in that moment was go explore fort ruins nearby with his dog. On the day of his exam, I wished him luck. “Thanks for taking time to listen to me,” he replied.

Another match was a Bombay-based filmmaker, who sent me links to his trippy, abstract, art-house videos on YouTube, and introduced me to an array of interesting music.

A third was a lesbian movie buff, who dyed her hair crazy colours just like me! Two hours in, she was telling me all about her favourite feminist flicks from the early 2000s.

A fourth was a man who dubbed me his “Meme Buddy”, and we routinely sent each other the worst of puns and GIFs, because (we both agreed) everyone needed a good laugh at the end of the day.

And the fifth was a budding lawyer, who asked me what exactly I was looking for on Tinder. As it turns out, all of these people were what I was looking for; people who I could connect with, share my interests with, even learn a thing or two from them. The lawyer and I are still in touch, updating each other about the work we do, little successes in life, and more.

But wait, there’s more! Every match that came my way, every person I spoke to, every time someone pointed to the word “asexual” in my bio – it was all an exercise in acceptance, compassion, and empathy. People were asking questions because they wanted to know how best to interact with me, how to respect my boundaries, how to to get over their own misgivings about ‘my kind’. It was an opportunity to tell my matches that people like me exist. And for kicks, I would say, “Well, you already like me very much so there’s no escaping this friendship!

In many ways, my matches and I were also dismantling that nonsensical concept of a “friendzone”. But it wasn’t just about connecting with people who happened to be allosexual. Soon, I began to match with other asexual people on Tinder. More than I could count on my fingers, in fact! For one, it made me realise just how many of us there are, how many had decided to take the plunge and try their hand at online dating, putting themselves out there, believing that the world was full of people who would understand, who wouldn’t judge. For another, it was the perfect way for me to talk to people who shared my experiences, one-on-one, exchanging notes and jokes, without any external nastiness spilling in, in a way that wasn’t possible offline.

People might still raise an eyebrow at me when they hear the Tinder notification sound go off on my phone – “She’s on Tinder!?” – because of their narrow little ideas about forming relationships. But here’s what I have to them: “Sorry, gotta check this. Might be a hilarious meme from my new friend.”

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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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