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A Gay Man, A Curious Mother, And A Tinder Date They Didn’t See Coming

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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.

By Anonymous:

All I want is that there is someone to take care of you when I am not there, it doesn’t matter to me if that person is a guy or a girl.

After all these years, my mother still remains one of the best people I came out to. No, not because she was so accepting and not even a bit surprised by the fact that her son was into men. It was because of the ease with which she made me feel like at the end of the day, as long as you have people standing by you, it will all be okay. That, and for being a constant reminder of how unconditional love should be.

For representation only.

Even today, there are times when my mother has some or the other question about gender, sexuality, people, and the community. In all honesty, when these questions come my way, I get surprised. But then I think about how far she has come, and how after all these years, she still WANTS to know about the many whats and hows of the path I tread. It is not an easy relationship at times, me and my mother. On bad days, there are moments when I get frustrated with her questions. There is a subliminal sense of disappointment over how she still doesn’t know certain things; How are transgenders different from transsexuals? Is that friend of yours who wears a saree a girl or a guy? If you are such a romantic at heart, how are you so casual about sleeping with so many men?

The last one stumps me. Not because she somehow figured this out about me, but because I don’t have the answer. In my resilience to find love, I somehow walked over the no man’s land, the grey area of being neither here and nor there. And surprisingly, I loved it. I mean, why not? Not like I was so sure that I would ever find someone to be with anyway, eh? Just as well. Maybe the road to the one who your mother trusts you with is paved with frogs who don’t turn to princes, countless strangers you kissed and don’t remember, men you slept with who were never going to be able to put you back together, and songs that only leave you wanting more. Just as well.

Ma will have to wait a while maybe. So will I.

**

There was nothing on my mind when I went to meet him that autumn evening. There were no expectations. That tends to happen after a string of relationships that didn’t work out and being on dating apps that widely consisted of men who were more keen on your likes in bed rather than your taste in films. Although, the week that lead to this evening was sprinkled with some really deep, interesting, and funny conversations with him, I sat on that bench waiting for him expecting nothing. That, and the fact that this was a guy I came across on Tinder and not the other apps, put me a little at ease. If nothing I was surely going to get a good evening out of this meet, maybe even a friend.

He walked towards me with a familiarity in his eyes that I didn’t expect. I felt a sense of contentment that I didn’t see coming. At the risk of sounding awfully corny, I told him he looked very adorable. I handed him the flowers I wasn’t sure he would like. He did.

All evening I felt I kept myself away from the edge that I knew I was capable of jumping off. Take it easy, I told myself. Go sweet, go slow. You don’t even know if he is keen on you.

That’s one of the things about dating when you are queer. Not only are you fighting so many of your insecurities and anxieties, you are also fighting so many thoughts and ideas that have been handed to you to become a part of your mental makeup. Talk only to leave him guessing. Don’t come on too strong lest you scare him away. Take a few days to text back. Don’t suggest meeting again unless it comes again. Don’t appear needy.

And there we sat, in that cafe, in the presence of posters of so many movies that became eternal love stories. There we sat, tossing away everything we were told, telling each other things no one knew. And that is where it all began. In a weirdly poetic way, it took a right swipe for me to find someone who, in this digital age, loves the idea of writing letters as much as I did. That, and how we collectively didn’t care for the “dating rules”, probably why we are still going strong.

**

As I write this, I hear him and my mother argue in the kitchen over what the best way to boil pasta is. After spending so much time with them together, I can safely say they get along well. Well, minus that one awkward moment when my seafood loving Bengali mother’s heart skipped a beat over that fact that he is a vegetarian. I also think she takes solace in the fact that he is a teetotaller. Mothers.

Image source: Flickr.

There are still days when I genuinely can’t believe that I lucked out. For a long time, I believed that I was as lucky in family as I was unlucky in love. But maybe you don’t have to be winning at love to be winning in life. Maybe all any of us can do is go about life patiently, happily; maybe all we can do is date resiliently but open minded, without an agenda, so that when the one who makes your heart flutter actually comes along, the surprise only adds to the happiness.

Until then, you can keep swiping, especially when you know your mother has your back.

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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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