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

The Bullying In School Made Me Ask, ‘Is It True That I Wasn’t A Boy?’

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!

Created by Youth Ki Awaaz

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

I used to get beaten up in childhood by my elder sister, a lot. The situation would even turn bloody at times. I could never protest, only cry till my mother would come to my rescue. She would sometimes wonder aloud  – why would I always get beaten up? Why can’t I save myself? I never replied. I would carry those marks on my body to school.

Most boys there jeered at me too; mocked and ridiculed me for not being “a boy”. I was referred to as “half-ladies” by them. As I started growing up, the epithets and addresses changed – from “half-ladies” to “full-ladies” to “ladies” and eventually “hijra”. I did protest. Sometimes I did.

I got admission in a big boys’ school in the third standard. It was a huge campus, with many boys from different places. Soon the experience turned bitter. My docile nature invited ragging. My body language and gestures soon made me the target of ridicule. My use of language and my non-use of slangs invited mockery of all sorts. I was never a ‘man’ in their view. I never had any ‘masculine’ traits as per societal norms. I only had the body of a man, everything else was ‘womanly’. Though I used to be silent at first, I later used to protest which inevitably led to being beaten up. I could hardly match up to them. Moreover, I was never in favour of physical assault.

For representation only.

Despite being good in studies and being the class captain a couple of times, I was humiliated and scorned. Many times I asked, “Why do you all call me ‘girl’ every time?” But they never cared. I have tried questioning myself multiple times if the trouble was with me. Was I out of the mould? Never into sports, was always spending time reading, speaking softly, not behaving like any other average boy of my age. Is it true that I wasn’t a boy?

I used to think a lot and amidst all these thoughts I finished school to enter college. Studying in a co-education college, I made quite a few female friends. We made strong bonds and always hung out together. This is not to say that I did not make male friends; I did, but could not interact with most of them for the kind of language they used and thoughts they nurtured. Coupled with all this, there was mockery and taunting, and I earned a title in college – ‘Apu’ (Sister).

Some said I was a playboy, others said I was a snob for always and only making female friends, while still others said that isn’t it obvious that I would befriend girls, after all, birds of the same feather always flock together? My college life too was ruined. I hardly went to college thereafter. There was no means by which I could face the reality, digest those venomous slurs. I started questioning myself, why is it that I feel bad upon being called ‘a girl’? Is it because I am male? Is it alright for a girl to behave like a man but the reverse is always a trouble? I used to get anxious and depressed. Even some of the girls inquired, “are you a girl?”

The distinction that society has forged between feminine behavior and masculine behavior seems quite frivolous to me. Can we really ascribe behavior to gender? Just because a considerable number of men behave in a certain way, do others have to follow too? The same goes for women. If I behave like myself, why would gender be a part of it anyway? I know sexuality is a matter of consent, but whom do I explain that to? How do I explain it? Those who do not care about society and flow with the mainstream, do I explain them? Earlier I used to think this way, but not now!

Once, in order to prove my masculinity, I lit a cigarette in front of a group of boys. I soon started coughing and could hear that they were making fun of me. They broke into laughter, saying “Even women can puff cigarettes these days, and look at him!”

My physical appearance has also been the grounds of ridicule many times; my skinny frame invited taunts and also benevolent mockery. I have been advised to put on weight and walk like a man, shoulders straight and not drooping. My gestures, way of walking, and dressing generated a visible discomfort and revulsion among people.

Why do I behave like this?  Not only my school and college mates, even my family members are vexed with me. Nothing about me is ‘manly’. Some say they are not ‘feminine’ either. This is when some people started saying I am like the Hijras. Is it so that the confusion is in them rather than me?

But nevertheless, I am satisfied with my predicament after long years. I am not intimidated like I was before. I don’t feel the need to prove my masculinity any longer. I do not feel the necessity to vindicate my gender or sexual orientation to the world and society. I am myself. I am not like anybody else.

I had uploaded a picture of mine wearing a flower band on my head. Many jeered and mocked but they do not affect me any more. And there are people who praise my gestures. I have made many friends who themselves are gender non-conforming.

However, it has taken quite some time to get there. For a long time, I have loathed and cursed myself. I wasn’t even hesitant to put the blame on The Almighty! I have tried many times to ‘be like a man’. At the end of the day, I realized that I only discovered a false self; there was no respite.

I found an existence within my writings. To unfold my emotions and burden, writing proved to be miraculous. I did what I wanted to do, and I stopped paying heed to my surroundings; perhaps that is the only remedy!

There was a time when I couldn’t cast myself into any mould; I thought myself inhuman. But now I can do it because I have realized my own mould now.

However, no matter how exciting these words may sound, the situation is still quite deviant. Even today I have to face questions about my ways of being. Trying to avoid it may not always succeed. People expect to find out why I am “like this”; sometimes I think I should reply but don’t. I don’t feel like.

Photo credit: Shaeekh Shuvro

When will people stop throwing their inquisitions towards me? How long will this continue?

Things will stop someday. At some point in the future, people will forego problematic politics and accept people the way they are. I spend my days looking forward to such a future. A societal change cannot happen overnight; sometimes it takes years, millennia! If we do not remain persistent, there cannot be a societal alternative.

I should be able to dwell in my own mould. After all,every person should be able to live like themselves .

You must be to comment.
  1. Chiranjit Nandy

    I realised a verisimilitude to my personal condition before I ventured into my professional arena. Great write up. Thanks to the author.

    1. Tanveer Anoy

      Most welcome and Thank you so much!

More from Tanveer Anoy

Similar Posts

By Tania Mitra

By Kunal Gupta

By Ritushree

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below