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10 Questions You Need To Stop Asking People From The LGBTQI+ Community

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Written by: Manya Arora

Image Credit: Vijaya Srivastava

The LGBTQIA+ community has been facing social, communal, and economic discrimination for decades now. For this community to gain momentum and popularity, it has taken a great amount of effort and energy. A community so diverse and strong should be respected and treated equally. A person who doesn’t belong to the community is less likely to know the basics. When we contact someone from the community for the first time, we tend to have an insensitive approach even when we do not have such intentions. The right thing to do is to be prepared and be insightful at all times. Here’s a list of questions you shouldn’t be asking.

*Trigger warning – some questions may come off as offensive or hurtful. We don’t intend on any of it. We are here to help decode a lot of misinformation the Indian population has around the community. Feel free to stop reading at any point if you feel triggered.

Image Credit: The Conversation

1.  Are You Sure You Are *Insert Reference*?

Okay, we are all curious to know but asking someone if they know what they are is like doubting their sexuality. Definitely hurtful. Everyone has the liberty to own up to their likes and dislikes, and we shouldn’t be cross-questioning choices.

2.  How Did You Come Out?

Not all people have it easy. The experiences differ greatly. For example, when Kurt Hummel in Glee told his father he is gay, his father welcomed him with open arms, but when Siddhartha Pakam in Grand Army told his parents, they reacted as if it were nothing but a misunderstanding.

So, asking someone about their journey isn’t always the right thing to do. Memories might come rushing in, which may sour. I want to add that the phrase coming out is losing preference; many people don’t wish to use it anymore. Quoting Karamo Brown from Queer Eye, “I believe that the term ‘coming out is a bit antiquated and outdated in a sense [that] it gives the power to someone else to accept or deny you when, in actuality, what the process is, is that we’re letting people into our lives.’’

3.  Were You Born A “Girl” Or A “Boy”? What Part Do You Have Down There? Did You Get Your Surgery Done?

What’s in someone’s pants is no one’s business. Asking someone about their at-birth biological identity is offensive. Particularly asking Trans people isn’t just rude but also inappropriate. It is nonetheless an invasive medical-oriented question to ask about one’s surgery. Also, it is a popular misconception that all transgender and gender-nonconforming want to get the surgery done. It is up to them if they feel secure in their body or not.

Image Credit: Michigan Health Lab

4.  So, How Do You Have Sex?

Asking people in same-sex relationships and transgender people how they have sex is – i) a personal question ii) not open for the assumption. We shouldn’t assume, and on the whole, asking what a person does with their parts is just creepy.

5.  What Bathroom Do You Use?

For many people, this is a touchy issue. For example, sometimes, people are forced to use a bathroom with a label they don’t associate with due to strict laws. Hence, one mustn’t ask such questions.

6.  Who Do You Prefer More? (Asking A Bi-Sexual)

Some bisexuals may be okay answering this, but it isn’t the same for everyone. As the attraction is subjective, bisexuals have their opinions of it. If a person identifies as bisexual, it means they are attracted to both men and womxn hence asking who is more favored is just vague. Subsequently, people ask lesbians, “did a man hurt you?’’. But no, lesbians have their own reasons to be interested in females, and bringing a man into the frame isn’t always the best thing to do.

Image Credit: Feminism in India

7.  You’re Not Into Me, Are You? (Amongst Friends)

This is a ubiquitous question pansexuals/gays/bisexuals/demisexuals get to hear in a friend circle. It not only makes one feel uncomfortable but also conscious of their actions. If such a question is asked, the person from the community may not express themselves completely or be free. They will have to consider other’s interpretations of their actions instead of being open themselves. It hampers their social wellbeing.

Nevertheless, just because I am pansexual doesn’t mean I have a crush on the entire friend group. People don’t understand this. We are at fault when we automatically think that the other person is interested in us. Barring from the question, it is important to know the misunderstanding can lead to adverse consequences. For example, Kevin Keller in Riverdale became a victim of beating when a stranger misunderstood his intentions due to his friendly nature.

9.  Isn’t It Just A Phase?

Umm NO. It is not a fashion trend that comes and loses popularity after some time. It is not a phase, nor a choice. Just like asking a person if they are “sure’’, this question too invalidates a person’s identity. Also, if a person is questioning, it is still not okay as sexuality is not synonymous with a “phase.’’

10. Who Is The Man In The Relationship?

Yes, the orthodox norms say only a man and woman make a couple but using this idea to judge someone’s character in their relationship is plain insane. Not only is the role being judged, but we are also going by the physical appearance. We expect that even if the relationship has two females, we think one of them is likely to be more “masculine’’. LGBTQIA+ parents get to hear this too, such as who is the father figure? Or does the child address both of you as “mom’’?

What the parents want their children to call them is their decision and not something for others to care about.

These questions are a mere extract. There are so many more questions the community is asked, in schools, at home, in the workplace and in other social settings. Yet, this gives an idea as to what is inconsiderate. Even if you are not sure if something you are asking is offensive or not, ask yourself, how would you feel if someone is interrogating you with the same questions? It for sure feels like someone is popping your privacy bubble and invading personal space.

The wisest thing to do is let the other person open up at their desired pace.

Feature image is for representational purposes only.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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