Monday, 24 October 2016

Delhi: Let’s UnGender :-)

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies”

We have been working at Sahas for close to 5 months with adolescents from different slum communities sitting in the circles, sharing stories, discussing and building knowledge around identity, puberty, gender ,sexuality and child sexual abuse. But at the same time, I thought that it is equally important to engage with young people around gender sensitivity so we collaborated with ‘UnGender’ to start the Delhi Chapter. Interestingly, the way we facilitate workshops is exactly opposite to UnGender way of delivering gender sensitivity through lecture mode. 
Mona sharing about 'UnGender'
Though the things appeared different but the intention and the objective was same, that motivated and inspired us to support and become part of UnGender.
The Delhi Chapter of UnGender began with 20 students of St. Stephan College.  The session began with “Walking game”, we were little skeptical as to how it will work with young people, but it turned out beautifully, they not only enjoyed the game but got energized for the training session. 
Walking game

After coming back to the hall, we shared about UnGender, the objective of this training and also gave a sneak peak of what we do at Sahas. We screened two videos where people that included man, girls and boys were asked to ‘run like a girl’, ‘throw like a girl’ etc. and then adolescent girls were asked to do the same. Contrary to what man, boy or women did, adolescent girls did the things as they would do because they were still away from the conditioning! We explained how this structuring actually inhibits their expressions, abilities and strengths.

Through Traditional Gender Model, we discussed “How Gender is understood in our day to day life and what our society dictates us about gender role, gender identity and gender orientation” Following which, we talked about ‘Authentic Gender Model’ by Samuel Laurie that explains gender beyond the socially accepted binary and follows gender continuum. The idea here was not to teach them but to gauge their understanding and explain the wide spectrum of gender. 
Purvi Yadav explaining "Authentic Gender Model"

One of the most interesting activity was the Picture Quiz, where in two sets of pictures were shown and the participants had to identify the gay couple in first and heterosexual couple in second. As anticipated most of them said ‘the two guys kissing each other are the gay couple’, only one girl said that she can’t say who the gay couple is! In the second picture, man and woman sitting in intimate position were identified as heterosexual couple. For the first picture, the girl hit the objective rightly; we really can’t judge people by seeing what they are doing- the people in picture may be kissing to prove a point, for a cause etc. To elaborate more, we showed them the picture of Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair kissing on a public platform, they kissed to fight homophobic prejudices and denounce violence against LGBT community though they are known to dislike each other. Similarly for the second picture, it is not necessary that they would be heterosexual couple just because they are in intimate situation!

This quiz grabbed their attention and made them question as to how we judge people by just looking at them! Then various terms like transgender, transsexuals, gender expression, gender identity, transvestite and others were explained with apt examples from real life like;  Gaurav, a reality show contestant has undergone gender reassignment surgery and now identifies as Gauri Arora, movie Chitrangadha tells the story of a choreographer who is struggling with his gender identity, he shares a passionate love affair with a guy and then to feel complete with each other they decide to adopt a child and for that the choreographer (played by Rituparno Ghosh) undergoes gender change surgery. 

What followed next was a very hard hitting movie that talks about a world where same sex relationships are norm and heterosexuality is considered as sin (exactly opposite to our world). I remember the first time I saw the movie, it hit me really hard and the feeling took time to sink in. I could feel the same silence in the hall, so we thought to leave the participants with the same feeling! 

I was feeling happy and also grateful that I had this opportunity to engage with young people around gender sensitivity along with my work at Sahas. I used to love sitting in circle as facilitator as well as participant but this training session challenged me and also helped me to look beyond circles. I experienced openness, flexibility and freedom to experiment at the same time, what more I could have asked for?
So Delhi, what are you waiting for? Let’s UnGender!

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