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4 Stories Of Homophobia That Show We’re Still A Long Way From Being Inclusive

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Trigger Warning: This article addresses homophobia; mention of abuse.

To mark the International Day of Non-Violence, Love Matters India brings you stories of intolerance LGBT+ persons have faced in their day-to-day lives. One question pops up frequently and in all the stories: “Is there something wrong with us?” But, reading through their experiences begs a different question, “what’s wrong with the rest of us?” 

Wish She Had Given Us A Chance

I work at a call centre and live with two roommates. I was at work on Monday, so I asked my roommates to give the token money to finalise the deal of the house and submit the required documents. We were asked to bring various documents.

My friends went there with all the documents. The landlady was ready to take our documents and get them photocopied. At this point, the broker took her aside and said something. Soon they returned and said it will be difficult to rent the house to us.

When I got back home, my friends told me what had happened and it felt a bit weird at first…I then noticed Abhay was wearing green eyeliner. It suddenly dawned upon me that the green line on Abhay’s eyelid had perhaps caused the u-turn.

I assume that they did not want to ask us about our friend’s appearance and his eyeliner but declined to rent us the house fearing his identity. What strikes me is that people in India can possess fake Aadhaar and PAN cards and still get houses on rent, but we, who had all the original documents, were denied a house.

We met that landlady again after two days when some other broker took us to the same apartment to show us some flats. She appeared to not recognize us and avoided eye contact. I really wish she had given us a chance, to know us as people, to see how good tenants we could have been and how we all could have had a relationship that wasn’t smudged by prejudice over an eyeliner.”

Divyaroop*, 25, is a call centre employee in Mumbai. Hear his full story here

Representational image.

My Money Was Not Worth Taking?

I had just finished an exam on a Friday afternoon and was looking forward to starting the weekend. So I changed, wore my favourite dress and went to my favourite hangout at Connaught Place (CP).

I was quite fond of that pub because of the ambience and the cost-effectiveness. It was familiar. However, when I went up the stairs to the entrance, the doorman bluntly asked me what I was wearing. I was at a loss for words. He told me that I wouldn’t be allowed wearing those clothes.

The words hit me hard. I had tipped him multiple times just in the last month. Now, he stopped me at the gate. He not only questioned me about my attire but also did not allow me inside. I had gone there wearing shirts before and was served. When I showed up in a dress, I was turned away at the door. I had noticed women wear the same kind of dresses and are allowed in. So why not me? My money was suddenly not worth taking? My anger soon turned into tears.”

Rajneesh, 21, is a queer feminist pursuing his bachelors in computer engineering from NSIT. Read his full story here

Girl Or A Guy, Let’s Find Out!

I have always been an effeminate guy and was often reminded of my trait by all and sundry ever since my childhood. Girls would pull my cheeks and call me ‘sweet,’ ‘chikna’, ‘cute’ and other such names.

One day we were planning to do a group activity in the college. There were five girls and six guys in our group. As we were sitting and relaxing, one of the girls in the group asked, ‘So, are you the sixth girl or are you the seventh guy?’ She pointed her finger towards me. All eyes were suddenly on me. They were searching for an answer on my face. My throat went dry. And before I could say that I was the seventh guy, somebody put a towel over my face and wrapped my head inside it. And thereafter came a shout, ‘let us find out!

Despite my pleas and requests, I was forcibly laid down on the floor and stripped to my shorts. They threw my clothes under the table. The boys were holding my hands and legs while the girls were watching. I could hear some nasty comments every now and then. Everybody was laughing and having ‘fun’ because they were about to find out my gender!

I cried and begged them to not remove my shorts but nobody listened to my requests. The boys still held me tight. I felt scared, helpless, embarrassed and wanted to do something about it. I had never felt as powerless as I did that day. Girls poked my belly and chuckled my cheeks.

I had come there to have fun but ended up getting humiliated by my so-called ‘friends.’ After a few minutes, they let me go. The room went silent. All the madness came to a halt and I managed to run towards the bathroom after picking up my shirt and my track pants.

I went home but could not share it with my parents. I felt they would scold me too for being ‘girl-like’. I have been the talk of my family in the past too because of my looks. I could not sleep that night and also on subsequent nights that followed. I faked illness and remained confined to my room for a couple of days. One question that followed me from the incident was – ‘Is there something wrong with me?’

lgbtq pride parade
Representational image.

I Was Burnt With Hot Pliers

My parents are not the kind of people who’d check social networks. So, I didn’t think much when I posted pictures of me with my boyfriend Sameer on Instagram after our coffee date last night.

I had just returned from college and kept my bag aside to freshen up…After a few minutes, I heard a loud cry from my mother. I panicked. What I saw outside was something straight out of a nightmare: my parents sitting together and flashing my own Instagram at me.

Abuses followed expletives I hadn’t heard before, at least not from them, and definitely not for me. “You are dead to us.” Their anger didn’t simmer down. My father only grew drunk as the night approached. I was feeling more and more unsafe.

That night was the longest night of my life. Each second felt like a day. I could hear my mother’s cries and my father’s abuses till late. I was alone, scared, shivering, crying and hungry in my own room.

Even as days passed, things did not get any better. Needless to say, I was cut off. I was spoken to in curt tones and I had to rely on my internship allowance for travel and other necessities. I had to get my internship changed to a job. My parents tried to convince me to leave my ‘zidd’ (stubbornness) and become a ‘normal’ man! I wish I could explain to them how normal it felt to me to be what I am.

A couple of weeks later, amidst my mother’s usual routine of shouting obscenities at me, she burnt me with the hot pliers she uses for cooking. The physical pain was not as bad as the realisation of how dangerous living there was for me. I rang up two friends who both knew about the situation and asked them if I could crash with them. I filled my bag with clothes, IDs and other documents, booked a cab and got the hell out of there. I haven’t looked back yet.”

Vivek*, 20, is a student and is active in Delhi queer circuit. Read his full story here

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

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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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