The pandemic has put us through interesting times, to say the least – of reflecting, learning, realigning, thinking about what really matters, a time to pause and care for ourselves with kindness. At TARSHI, we’re just delighted to have been able to do the same – while also sharing something of what we’ve learnt with you.
I know that the lives of many human rights defenders are under continuous threat, that sometimes it is impossible to sleep or to enjoy a moment of peace because of the harassment coming from the outside. What I address in this text is our internal disposition as activists, and the ideas that stop us from taking care of and holding ourselves together.
My self-care journey has only just begun and I have a long way to go. I do have bouts of self-doubt, anxiety, and panic, and I still go through periods of feeling overwhelmed. However, more than anything, I have learnt that self-care, for me, is a subversive act, and caring for myself gives me the strength to challenge the status quo and play my part in social justice movements.
What does it mean to hold space and extend compassion to ourselves and our communities? Rachel Cargle reminds us to ask ourselves: who would we be if we weren’t trying to survive? Similarly, what would care and vulnerability look like if we weren’t trying to survive? The anarchy of queerness constantly and necessarily resists the capitalist engineering of the Survival Myth: one that wants us to endure an isolated life instead of embracing it with the radically transformative joy of togetherness. Caring for yourself precedes, succeeds, and exists alongside caring for the collective.
In a country like India where both mental health and non-binary identities are topics that are neglected despite being essential parts of an individual’s identity, it can be quite challenging to navigate through issues regarding the same. Accessibility to affordable and quality mental health services is a serious difficulty that the queer Indian population faces.
In a time when reason is more valued than emotion, unravelling and understanding the politics of self-care becomes all the more fundamental for us, and the movements we seek to develop and build. When our bodies, our emotions and our needs become weapons to be used against us, acts of defiance become rooted in thinking about your self and how we practice it. I find I am faced with more questions than answers, but I also know that asking the questions is the first step to finding the answers
This question of appropriateness is, for me, at the heart of all questions around sexuality. Each of us carries within us our own private benchmarks for which expressions of sexuality we find appropriate, and which ones, in turn, have crossed an invisible line. The ones we believe belong across the border, in the land of the inappropriate, of the too much.
The virtual world allows me to challenge the hold of patriarchy on my ‘effeminate’ body; in a sense, it allows me to evade the policing of desire that my body shares with another, its flows and slippages, the messy and the unkempt. While virtual sex offers a window to revisit the sensual, it is also not immune to limitations and insecurities.
Dalit women are primarily viewed as victims and survivors of various kinds of violence. Reification of the Dalit identity has led to the boxing of our existence whose dimensions are solely defined by the savarna (dominant caste) gaze. Our self-assertions of identity are commodified to create a warped limiting of our lives, creating an image that is voiceless in the minds of our potential suitors. We are not seen as being capable of desire, love or happiness; we don’t exist as individuals outside of violence.
While we are struggling with the vicissitudes brought on by the pandemic we are also forced to spend more time online, to look for resources in terms of health care or caregivers, to reach out to people and build a communities of care, to take a break, or to try and hook-up online for a while.
You see, numbers are tricky, data is tricky. More importantly, data is dehumanising. Add sexuality and intimacy to this and the waters get even murkier. Maybe it’s good to leave a few things unaffected by too much data. Maybe we do not want to talk about data and sexuality. Maybe we instead want to talk about why data around gender and sexuality must not be recorded, and instead, maybe focus on why we should honour every kind of sexual preference which is within the purview of the safe and consensual.
Online dating can be great fun but it comes with some risks. This quirky and in-depth Digital Security Guide by Access Now on How to Date Online Safely tells us how we can engage with fellow dating-app users while making sure we are safe from harm.
Japleen Pasricha, founder of Feminism in India, lays bare the violence women, LGBTQIA+ folks, and historically marginalised communities face in online spaces, ranging from identity theft, bullying, trolling, to having our private photographs and details disseminated without our consent and being blackmailed.
On the other hand, in Abhay’s newly discovered wonderland, everything seemed to be awfully right. Soon, he began receiving proposals for sex-dates. Initially such proposals shocked him; for it took him a few months to get used to the fact that sex with men was only a click away.
As advocates of safe, inclusive and sexuality-affirming spaces, we can explore different ways to ensure that the people we are interacting with on dating platforms are legal adults and are not merely wearing a mask of adulthood.