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

Navigating Online Dating As A Bisexual Woman

Although I have not used dating sites since years (I am currently in a relationship), from what I can remember it primarily catered to the straight/gay binary. However, the queer umbrella comes with a lot more identities and their complexities. Their inclusion in spaces matter since inclusivity serves for integration and over time, normalisation of those that are different from the rest.

When I made a proper profile on one of the most popular dating websites in India, I decided to mention that I was bisexual. Over the next few days, I was flooded with messages and all from men. I realised, the reason I was probably being flooded with messages was precisely that I mentioned “bisexual”. Most men I spoke to would eventually turn to questions on threesomes. I decided to mention in my profile description that as far as men were concerned, I would prefer those other than cis-het ones. I reckoned that changing my preference for dating non-cisgender or non-straight male persons would mean at least they knew where I was coming from. Or so I thought.

I was sent messages by the same cis-het men mocking “men who will get with men”. Many straight up asked me why a gay man date a woman, which was further confirmation of seeing bisexuality as a fetish would. When I finally did match with a woman and started talking to her, I soon found out she was married (not mentioned in her profile) and was looking for a ‘unicorn’; bisexual persons who get picked up by couples who otherwise do not want to have to do anything with the person.

Online dating has thus been difficult terrain for me. I had signed up for this particular dating site precisely because a friend of mine who was gay recommended it. However, I came to realise that, at least at that time, beyond providing the option for my identity, the search and match parameters did not exactly go in my favour. Lesser known queer identities such as those who are “asexual” did not even have an option. The gender non-binary population was not even addressed. My partner, (a white, demisexual-bisexual, nonbinary person) pointed out that- they once noticed that user population in certain queer dating apps were also skewed towards white, gay men, and subtle racism was rampant. The entire scenario felt as though we are acknowledged only via a perfunctory nod, or not identified at all, or that the specifications of what we wanted were completely disregarded, leaving us vulnerable to those looking to mock us.

In my opinion, the first thing any dating platform should do is obvious: make a rule framework that is effective against prejudice and guarantees safety for its users, and efficiently follow up with it. For example, when complained about misbehaviour from a man she met online, the offender in question was then removed. Something similar to the kind put in place for queer people goes a long way in making us feel welcome.

The next thing to address is obviously the parameters. When I made a profile on a dating app mentioning my identity, I need more options on what am I really looking for. Providing tabs such as “interested in” followed by options are not always sufficient. My experience would have been different if whatever software was used by the dating app actually picked up my preferences from the profile description box instead of merely matching me with the limited choices provided in options. For instance, after the constant receipt of hate or lewd messages, I was forced to change my orientation to ‘straight’ even if it meant that it restricts my dating pool. That automatically matches me with just men.

I figured the reason I was not getting matches with more women or others was that there probably were more women like me who had to hide their orientation for safety. The expectations from a dating app can also vary from user to user. For me, the primary goal was to form a serious commitment. But for many others, dating apps are for hooking up only, which is entirely valid. Some sail between the two. Description boxes and a process set to check for preferences mentioned there can help a great deal here so it can match like-minded person only.

The recent move by Tinder to include more than two genders is worth appreciating. While my partner and I are still of the opinion that description boxes make for more accurate results, having personally seen Tinder’s interface when I once used it, I can put down that it is user-friendly. We are expecting that this move will allow for more queer users to safely navigate dating apps and would help them match with people who are not queerphobic. Following from here, we would love to see Tinder make a move towards including more identities from the sexual minority especially with regard to ethnic minorities. Ethnic minorities of a region who are queer often face double the prejudice on dating apps. This has been me as a person of colour when I used the dating app in the UK. It was hard to say whether a person actually liked me, or, as one told me, they have never come across an Indian, bisexual woman before – fetishisation and exoticization. I hope that dating sites push for more inclusion and cater to individual needs.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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