Coming out in inverted commas because I'm unsure as to how I feel about the term. No one should feel obligated to declare their sexuality - it is a very personal thing. However, we live in a world where people are assumed heterosexual until they assert otherwise, and as such coming out is often a practical thing you have to do. How can we expect to obtain our rights, without first asserting that we exist?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Opinion: Bangladeshis React to Gay Pride


Apparently the next march should be bombed

Update (20th April 2014): According to the Gay Star News article here, they spoke to the organisers and this was not a Pride march but rather a rally to celebrate diversity and friendship with LGBT and allied participation. Personally I think this is a good stance and a very good first step. I'm leaving this and my other blog posts as they originally were, but including this note for clarity - the assumptions about it being a Pride march were mine based on news and social media reactions.

Every year on the 14th of April we celebrate Pahela Boishakh in Bangladesh. This year was no exception, except for the short rainbow coloured rally that took place right after the main New Year's march. Bystanders may not have exactly understood the theme of the rally at the time, but people soon realised what it was given the later media reaction. Priyo.com published an article on the march, and people - just like the commenter above - have been reacting since on Facebook, Twitter and various blogs. A translation of the article can be read here.

I am very grateful to the people behind the rally as what they did was incredibly brave. I've always wanted Bangladesh to make advances with respect to LGBTQ rights, but I didn't think I would see such an event so quickly. However, there is still quite a long path ahead of us in terms of acceptance if people's reactions are anything to go by. Below are a set of thematically arranged comments, most popular in terms of likes, that people have made in response to the aforementioned article on the rally. 

Names and pictures are blacked out, and I'm only describing the gist of each comment as opposed to doing word by word translations. Feel free to get in touch if you want an exact translation of anything below. 

Religion and Islam 


As a queer Muslim one gets used to hearing the story of Prophet Lut

The above comment talks about the story of Lut, and has had the most likes on the site so far. People often like to remind queer Muslims about how God destroyed an entire population for the sin of homosexuality. But what everyone seems to forget is that (1) the context of that story is male homosexual rape and (2) the people in question had committed a number of other sins including and were ultimately destroyed for denying God. People also forget, or probably don't even realise, that the Quran also talks about accepting diversity and mentions in certain verses men who have no desire for women without negative connotations. 


Who are we to judge?


I'm glad this comment got so many likes

The above is currently the comment with the second highest number of likes on the site. Hopefully in the future more people will think like this. The commenter asks who are we to judge whether this is good or bad, and why does it concern everyone so much. Picking out the Bengali parts of the comment, the commenter goes on to say that these men are are brave for standing up to the narrow minded people in our society.

The question of why does it bother others is the one that strikes me most. First of all, no LGBTQ person is going to really want to associate themselves with a homophobe, and so I believe these people should rest a little easier. My second issue, one that I see mirrored in other parts of the world, is what harm exactly do people think we're going to do to society? Living openly and loving our partners hardly seems like a precursor for the apocalypse.



শেষের প্রশ্নটা নিয়ে আসলেই আমাদের ভাবা উচিত - এত  মাথা ঘামানোর কি আছে?

"Why are you personally so hostile towards them?" is the question the commenter asks here. Another important question in my mind. Again, why is everyone so concerned by us and do they really think we'll want to associate ourselves with people who dislike us? And as ever, when the hate is so personal I always wonder if we're dealing with a closet case. 


Awami League is to blame for everything


It's a shame I have to translate this one, takes the punch out of the joke! 

The first commenter states the rally is our current PM Sheikh Hasina's fault. The second commenter suggests that some people like to blame the PM for everything, including a bad fart. 

The third commenter is worse - they blame the rally on Bangladesh's current digitalisation campaign. Fourth commenter asks exactly what relationship do digitalisation and homosexuality have, and not in a particularly nice way. A little humour is never a bad thing!


Again, I'm pleased that the positive comment got more likes 

However, despite some commenters' ignorance there is a general sense of displeasure with the government amongst some people. And for them everything they see as going wrong in the country currently is the government's fault. But whether Awami League actually support LGBTQ rights I don't know. But I would rather take my chances with than the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami alliance (read: the second part of that alliance consists of Islamic fundamentalists/terrorists).


Comparisons with animals, addiction, peadophilia and incest

   

We've seen these comparisons our whole lives 


I am a little bored at this point. All of the misconceptions are things that I've seen before. The commenter talks about a number of things but I'm only going to address animals, paedophillia and incest. Feel free to get in touch to ask me why my sexuality isn't an addiction or why I'm not otherwise a criminal - as these are other things mentioned above.

The commenter starts of by addressing those who say homosexuality is natural as it is seen in animals. They ask whether we should really be imitating animals as animals live naked, kill their own offspring etc. I wonder if the commenter also wants humanity to give up other animalistic behaviours like sex and the search for a life mate? We happen to have quite a few biological similarities to animals, especially mammals. This is scientific fact. Homosexuality happens to be one of these similarities. Why is it being bandied as a harmful one? Again, who is being harmed here?

The comparison to paedophillia and incest follows swiftly on, with the commenter asking why should we tolerate homosexuality as it's similar to those two aforementioned evils. Paedophillia involves the rape of children. I fail to see how that can be compared to consensual sex between adults, and once more, who is harmed by this consensual sex. I ask a similar question to the comparison to incest - how is it comparable to consensual sex between to non-related adults? And surely incest can be committed by people of any sexuality? 


Threats of violence


What can I say to these? 

This is an easy, mindless section. The first comment calls for people to throw shoes at the marchers, while the second asks why no one is beating "these things" up. It's people like this who hold our country back - resorting to violence instead of reason as soon as something doesn't go their way. Just look at the violence our political strikes descend into. 


Conclusion?

Most of the comments are negative, and honestly, I knew this was going to be the case. Besides the great collection above, there are a lot of negative comments with no likes that I haven't posted here. But interspersed within those are a few good comments, and then there are the few good comments with lots of likes. And it's these small pieces of positivity that give me hope.


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