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Breaking The Binary: Answers To Your Questions About The LGBTQIA+

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Image Credit: Itti Mahajan

Written by: Saairah Mehta

As we revel in this pride month, we often tend to forget that pride month is more than just a way for big multinational companies to express support towards the LGBTQIA+ community. It is more than a market gimmick rather than showing allyship. Adding rainbow-colored profile pictures and giving discount codes for the minority community is not a symbol of great support. Pride month goes way beyond what is visible on social media.

It’s a way to celebrate the struggle of the LGBTQIA+ minority and celebrate their right to live a dignified life. And it’s a way the minority community struggles to get representation and a reminder of what is left to be achieved. It’s a month to celebrate unfiltered, uncensored, unadulterated love.

If you’re wondering how you, irrespective of being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, can support and celebrate pride month while sitting at home, I have a way for you. Learn about the community. Two of the most pertinent struggles the community members face are the struggle of not being understood and their struggles being unrecognized. At Pratisandhi, we believe knowledge is power.

Therefore, we wish to provide our little community with as much knowledge as possible to be supportive allies or even informed members of the LGBTQIA+ community! I have answered some of the most frequently asked questions here.

The History Of Pride

1. Where does the word pride come from? What’s the history of pride?

The term “Pride” to represent the community goes back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969. A bisexual woman, Brenda Howard is known as the “Mother of Pride” as she organized the first Pride March, which occurred on a Sunday in June. Along with her peers and supporters, Howard created many activities to be done for a week to celebrate gay rights. The word pride was associated with a feeling of dignity and unapologetic ownership of one’s identity. In addition, pride is a word used to stand up to the bigotry and hatred against the minority community.

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Perfecting your pronouns

1. What is the importance of putting pronouns in the bio?

Many people think one’s appearance or physical attributes indicate their gender, and I don’t blame them. We’ve been brought up in a world where we are made to believe in the binary. As the world becomes more inclusive of all transgender people and non-binaries, it’s our duty to battle the bigotry snd provide them with support and affirmation. So let me break this down. If I see a transwoman (an individual whose sex assigned at birth is male and gender is female) on my social media page who appears a lot like a male, it’s instinctive for me to refer to her with he/him.

However, by doing, I am disrespecting not only her but her gender identity. To help make her identity clearer, she puts the pronoun “she/her” in her bio to help her followers know and address her with the right pronouns. Irrespective of one’s sex and gender aligning together (cisgender), putting pronouns in your bio is an act of solidarity, a way of supporting the non-binaries and trans community by normalizing telling your gender identity instead of assuming it.

2. What do the pronouns (she/they) signify?

The pronouns (she/they) or (he/they) means that the person uses both she/her/hers pronouns as well as they/them/their pronouns. This means that an individual using (she/they) pronouns take account of her womanhood and femininity but is also comfortable being addressed as a non-binary. The two pronouns may be used interchangeably or as per the preference. Hence, if you’re ever talking to someone with the pronouns mentioned above, it’s a good idea to ask them if their pronouns.

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An Important Glossary

1. What do we mean by sexual orientation, biological sex, and gender identity?

Sexual orientation: A person’s sexuality or sexual orientation is what one feels romantical or sexually towards another person. Heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual is the most common sexual orientations. There are currently 15 sexual orientations or more presently.

Biological sex: It’s the sex assigned to an individual at birth, based on the chromosomes, hormones, and external and internal genitalia (gonads). Example: Male or female.

Gender identity: Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s gender. It may be the same as that assigned at birth, maybe opposite or maybe non-binary, i.e., neither of the two genders of male and female. There are many types of genders, including genderfluid, bigender, etc.

2. What is gender fluidity?

Gender fluidity refers to when gender expression shifts between masculine and feminine, or and can be displayed in one’s dress, express, and describe ourselves. These changes may take place in hours, days, or months and can be reversible. A gender fluid person may identify as a female today but a male tomorrow. Genderfluid people tend to fluctuate their gender identity over periods.

3. How do I know if I’m bisexual or pansexual?

Being bisexual means, you’re attracted to both men and women, whereas being pansexual means you are attracted to all genders. (irrespective of they being cisgendered or trans). Many pansexual people define themselves as being attracted to the personality rather than the gender.

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Miscellaneous Questions

1. Do men menstruate too?

Yes! Trans Men are men who have not undergone gender confirmation surgery (which is a choice), do menstruate, and can even have a baby. However, trans men often find it uncomfortable to talk about these experiences because menstruation is normalized as a cis-female experience.

2. Do straight people question their sexuality?

Yes, it’s completely okay to question your sexuality at any stage. Sexuality is fluid in nature, and it can be confusing. Many people learn that they are homosexual later in life, while some may learn of it in their teenage years. There is no fixed timeline for you to identify with a particular spectrum. The best way is to keep exploring your sexuality through experiences to get to understand yourself better. Irrespective, there is no timeline to sexuality.

3. I haven’t masturbated or had any sexual experiences yet; am I asexual?

There is no particular test to diagnose you of asexuality. And if you’re young, there is no need even to put a label on your sexuality. If you’ve never been aroused thinking of sexual activity or felt sexually attracted to anyone, chances are you might be asexual. However, asexuality is a spectrum.

Many people don’t describe it as zilch libido but rather a low libido. If you are in your teenage years and haven’t had experiences to affirm your sexuality, your best bet is to explore a little and then come to a conclusion. Either way, there is nothing wrong with being asexual. Demi identities and grays also fall on the spectrum. And I personally suggest exploring your body and your sexuality to get clarity.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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