The Second Puberty: A 4 AM friend for your doubts about love, sex and life
A new online forum allows users to post questions about their sexuality, gender, feelings, and other confusions anonymously
Ever stayed up half the night troubled by existential questions? Or chastised yourself for entertaining sexual fantasies that feel uniquely perverse to you? Does the idea of who you are (or may be) confuse and worry you?
In the 21st century, there is the internet and/or therapy to help you navigate such knotty dilemmas. But what if you don’t want to scream into the void of the internet, aren’t braced for the volatility of social media, or ready for the clinical and methodical precision of therapy? Sometimes only that 4AM friend will do, who is always there with a shoulder to lean on, and a (real or metaphorical) hot cuppa to soothe your jangled nerves.
The Second Puberty (TSP) promises to be that ally. Launched on 30 June, the last day of the Pride month and founded by three friends in their 20s, this online platform allows users to post questions anonymously. From confessions of feeling “virgin anxiety" to trying to understand the meaning of contentment, these queries straddle physical and metaphysical realms. Sex, friendship, self-pleasure—no topic is taboo.
“Life gets exponentially more complicated when we hit 18, and no one prepares us for it," say Venika Menon, Dale O’Connell, and Shivangi Agrawal, the founders of TSP, on email. “We hope TSP can provide a space for people to grapple with their values and internal contradictions." Especially in those times they feel lost, are unable to find a patient ear to listen to their unburdening, or cannot trust others to keep their confidences.
The idea behind the collaboration, as Menon clarifies on a video call, was to allow her life experiences, along with those of O’Connell’s and Agrawal’s, to inform the answers they posted to the questions. Menon, a queer woman, currently works at a Ghanaian grassroots organisation that fights child trafficking and slavery. O’Connell is a trans-masc person who works as a web developer and is currently studying in Canada. And Agrawal, a disabled and queer activist, works as an accessibility consultant and graffiti artist in New Delhi.
Between the three, there is a rich diversity of perspectives to tackle even the trickiest of questions. It’s early days, but TSP is already getting roughly 3-4 questions a week. Typically, the team takes about a week to post their answer. There is a lot of back-and-forth across different times zones, before a response is formulated and ready to be shared.
“Though not an exclusively queer platform, TSP’s name comes from the theory of queer-temporality which states that queer people (especially trans people) experience time differently, and often experience a second puberty when they ‘come out’ and find self-acceptance," the team explains. Indeed, self-acceptance is an abiding theme of the conversations that unfold on the platform.
Here are a few samples. Posting under the alias of “Subha", one user says, “I've found, that no matter how ‘feminist’ or ‘not feminist’ a guy is—there's still an ingrained idea of beauty and body hair (particularly pubic hair) acceptability that dudes have (of course women have it too, but I'm not having sex with them)." “Unlucky-Urchin" wonders if they are the unluckiest person alive in the world. “Was Murphy's Law made solely for me?" they ask. “Should I stop believing this? And how? How do I stop the world's constant kicks in the behind from bringing down my motivation and will to do anything at all?"
The aim of TSP, as the founders say, is to lend “an empathetic ear" to such questions for which there are no easy answers. At the same time, the platform makes no claims at all of offering "expert" advice—the disclaimer is stated loud and clear on the website. In especially difficult cases, they even direct users to reliable and accessible therapists.
“Our aim is to foster an environment where there can be healthy discussions among peer groups," Agrawal says. “We want to create an ambience where all people can speak without the fear of being judged and we can speak back to them in a language that is friendly and accessible."
In the coming days, TSP aspires to become “a cohesive resource" for people struggling with questions of identity, says O’Connell. “Hopefully, it will be seen as a compendium of human experience, eventually," Menon adds.
Visit https://www.thesecondpuberty.com/ to know more.
FIRST PUBLISHED22.07.2020 | 12:00 PM IST