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

5 Things To Know About Dating Trans Men In India

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Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!

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Have you ever been told to pursue a field of study or career because it suits your gender more?

As a queer demisexual trans man in India, my experiences of love and romance have been quite a journey. I have tried kink, I have been on online dating forums, and my love life has seen a lot.

Photo courtesy of Jamal Siddiqui.

It began with dating cisgender men in my teenage years (to minimise peer pressure), to now dating a queer feminist activist who identifies as lesbian. Being demisexual, I do not experience any sexual attraction unless I have formed a strong emotional connection with someone. I was always attracted to femininity regardless of gender, but I shied away from dating feminine cisgender men due to gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a distress that is caused when your gender does not match your biological sex which affects in various ways. And all of it has shown me just how diverse gender identity and sexual orientation are and how they differently they work.

I spoke with a few trans men from different cities to find out more about what dating is like for them. Based on our discussions, here are some issues concerning love in the lives of trans men.

Love And Acceptance

Every trans man is different – some may be macho, some may be feminine in their gender expression, and some may just be your boy-next-door. People generally assume every trans man will be into women. Trans men can be straight, gay, bisexual, queer or of any other orientation.

Society and partners are often confused and label us as lesbians because some of us still have long hair or dress as ‘girl’,” 25-year-old Yash Deep, who identifies as a straight trans man, told me. He had his first relationship in Class 9 and the second relationship for 6 months in Class 12. He tells me about how he first fell in love during his entrance exam preparation, and shared his first kiss. After his first breakup, he found someone on Facebook from Pakistan. It was a long-distance relationship that ended after two years due to compatibility issues. Now he is in love with an ex-classmate, but it is one-sided. None of his partners accepted his gender identity.

Our identity is an integral part of our lives and loving us would mean loving and accepting it too.

Language Does Miracles

In trans discourse, language is important. Language is not just words but also body language or how you acknowledge the gender of a trans person in their presence and absence. Some questions are insensitive. For example, asking “Would you be able to be a father after surgery”, asking about assigned names, or misgendering in any form is never acceptable.

We understand that at times, socially, partners might have to treat us like a girl, but in other times please refrain from treating us as a girl,” says Aditya, a 28-year-old post-operative trans man who identifies as straight. When dating a trans person, people should use trans sensitive language.

A ‘Bermuda Triangle’ Called Gender Dysphoria

If you’re dating a trans man, you need to understand gender dysphoria. Every trans man experiences different levels of dysphoria. It can give us a lot of distress, and make us angry, anxious or depressed. We might want to talk about it or we might not. Give us that space. Dysphoria is already disturbing and a heartbreak can add to the distress.

I was depressed because of gender dysphoria, break up on top of that made me suicidal and I tried to commit suicide on my birthday,” says Rohan, a 22-year-old straight trans man. He first fell in love with one of his relatives when he was in Class 12. They were in a relationship for four years and when the girl’s family pressured her, she started seeing a cisgender man. A girl flirts with him in office; however, he is wary of love now.

Trans Man Vs Cisgender Man

We are often compared to cisgender men by our partners, or by society. Socially accepted marriages and having biological children are seen as important and often many trans men feel that since they are not cisgender, they won’t be able to meet these expectations. This comparison creates vulnerability which in turn leads to the fear of rejection and inhibition in their love lives.

In Aditya’s case, he first fell in love with his classmate in school. The girl was supportive after his father’s death, however, after a couple of years she got married to a cisgender man because of family pressure. “If I would have been a cisgender man, she would have easily told her family about me,” says Aditya.

But because we are not cisgender, it is not right to assume that we won’t be able to satisfy our partners sexually or emotionally.

Hello Cupid, Find Me An ‘Ideal’ Partner

Finding partners or people to date becomes difficult for a trans man.

Straight women would want to date cisgender men, and lesbian women would want to date other lesbians,” says Yash Deep. I have a different opinion about this. It might be hard to find dates sometimes, however, there are straight people and queer people who want to date trans men.

Yet another problem is that many women assume that just because we were assigned female at birth we will be able to understand women’s issues and their lives better. But that is not always true.

What are they expecting out of you is a mystery at times,” says 28-years-old Ajay. But his is a hope-inspiring story. He met his girlfriend 10 years ago and they became partners in 2013. Today, they have entered a civil partnership in the UK.

We love the same way as anybody else, and heartbreak hurts us the same way too. Being in a relationship with a trans man in India can be difficult at times. But with a little understanding and patience from both sides, love and romance can be wonderful. Exceptions aside, we are amazing boyfriends, husbands, partners, fathers, companions and sons-in-law.

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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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