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How An Advisory And LGBTQIA+ Activist Are Pushing 100 Companies To ‘Ungender’ Their Forms

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Written by: Ritushree and Team Ungender

Like many others, the Covid-19 pandemic kept me from doing something I love: travelling. Before the pandemic hit, I would travel at least once a month. Let me tell you why I love travelling. After several therapy sessions, I came to terms with my gender dysphoria. I travelled to other cities where I could be myself – the woman I am without any fear of prejudice. This January, when the Covid-19 situation seemed better, I started travelling again, with all precautions, of course.

Photo: Ungender

Even though the pandemic has changed the world, some things are, unfortunately, still the same.

I book my flight tickets and hotels online. Every time I book my tickets, a part of me feels bad.

Almost all the websites that I use to book my tickets, I’m made to choose my gender in binary. It’s always either ‘Male’ or ‘Female’. There’s hardly ever an option for transgender persons and non-binary persons.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed in 2019.

Why, even a year and a half later, do I have to be subjected to trauma each time I try and book something as simple as a flight ticket? How can a person with a government ID that identifies them as a transgender person be forced to choose between Male or Female?

This was killing me. I thought about it a lot. I felt isolated. Not one person I knew was talking about this. I thought that was because nobody thinks anything will ever change.

I decided to do something about this binary imposition. On March 7, while booking my flight tickets on MakeMyTrip, I was triggered again when I had to choose between M/F.

I took a screenshot of the form and posted it on Twitter asking MakeMyTrip for answers about this discrimination.

The tweet had a decent reach because, on March 12, Mr Saurav Khurana from the MakeMyTrip management reached out to me. Mr Khurana assured me that they’ll change the interface. But nothing has happened so far.

That got me thinking about all the other websites that ask for gender data but don’t provide the option for transgender persons. Everyday, we use so many online platforms where we’re asked to provide gender data in binary. This may cause very little to no inconvenience to others but for transgender persons, it is all about pride, acceptance and our rights.

Some poor attempts at inclusion happen when websites ask if you’re Male/Female or Others. At the outset, this might look like inclusion of gender diversity but it is not.

Putting all other genders, beyond the binary, in the category of “Others” and “Unspecified” is discrimination. The exclusion and discrimination are pervasive. Why can’t a transgender person say that they’re transgender proudly? These forms are perpetuating stigma against transgender folks.

Many companies implement D&I policies at the workplace but fail to realise that diversity and inclusion shouldn’t just be limited to employees but should also be for consumers. Moreover, the non-inclusion of ‘Transgender’ on the form is also violative of the law. Any exclusion of transgender persons is discrimination and a sign of transphobia.

One of the people who had reached out to me after my tweet on March 7 was Pallavi Pareek from Ungender. Together, we came up with #UngenderForms – an initiative to identify 100 online platforms in India that ask for gender data in binaries and urge these platforms/websites/companies to #UngenderForms and fix the issue at the earliest.

I’m excited to share that in the last two weeks, Team Ungender and I have built a database of 100 companies that need to Ungender their forms at the earliest! From online shopping websites, streaming platforms to government websites, we’ve covered a lot of ground.

Among the 100 companies on the list, you will find popular online platforms like Flipkart, Myntra, Urban Company, Nykaa, Practo, Big Basket, GoIbibo, ClearTrip, Chumbak, Zivame, JustDial.

You can find the entire list of companies, here.

Today on International Transgender Day Of Visibility, I urge every single person reading this, to reach out to the listed companies and ask them to #UngenderForms. Let us know that you’re pushing for this important conversation for me and other transgender folks in the country by using the hashtag #UngenderForms.

We’re writing to the companies on the #UngenderForms list today and urging them to address this exclusionary feature and fix it.

So, if you’re someone who comes across a form that asks for gender data in binary, take a screenshot and tag us at @UngenderTalks on Twitter and use the hashtag #UngenderForms. You can also find us on InstagramLinkedIn and Facebook.

Similarly, if you’re a company, doesn’t matter if you’re on the list or not, if you’re taking note of this exclusionary feature and fixing it, show us and everybody else that you’ve evolved. Tag us at @UngenderTalks and use the hashtag.

We’re going to push for change until the companies Ungender their forms and take the much-needed step towards inclusion. To keep yourself updated, follow Ritushree, here, and Ungender on Twitter, here.

#UngenderForms is a part of Project 100. An Ungender initiative – Project 100 reflects our dedication to ungender our language and our day-to-day interactions. In addition to #UngenderForms, we have built a Gender Dictionary with over 100 words on all things gender, we’ve also tracked over 100 all-male panels or manels across 2020. We hope to continue to add to Project 100 other such important developments in our work with gender.

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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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