What does Eid mean to you? For most people, it is being with family and friends, enjoying their company and sharing your happiness. For us, Eid symbolises togetherness and good-will, but unfortunately, the reach of this festival do not stretch as far as we think. Much like their isolated existence in society, happiness is absent on the doorsteps of the hijra community in Dhaka, even on the day of Eid.
Pervin was attempting to collect money at a busy intersection of Dhaka city. Throughout our conversation, she talked about a struggling childhood with her sisters, when they would pass almost the entire day sitting on a sheetalpati on the courtyard of their simple, clay house - until their father would return with Eid dresses for them. According to 17 year oldPervin, “leaving my family three years ago and now standing on the verge of adulthood, you know what I miss the most? The hugs and cuddles from my family members. These feelings haunt me the most when the days of any festivity come around. I’m not allowed to visit my parents anymore. I can only send them money through Bkash. ” This is the story of most of the transgender population in Bangladesh, according to Bobby from Sustho Jibon, a organisation working for the betterment of the community. She said, “even though we live in the same society, every aspect of our life are dealt with differently. Neither can we live our life as men, nor as women. The feeling of having such an existence is so painful that it is beyond words.” Bobby left her home when she was 15 years old. After her parents deaths, she hardly got the chance to see any other members of her family. “On the occasion of Eid, I used to send money and clothes to my parents and often visited them during festivals. Though I couldn’t continue visiting my home, I have kept alive the practice of sending gifts to my siblings.”
Her experience portrays how the pressure from society, and its existing norms, are inducing the entire community to live in isolation. “I don’t even go outside, and neither do my other acquaintances,” she added. On Eid day, Bobby spends most of the time lying in bed, remembering the happy days of old, or sometimes paying visits to other rooms to console each other. “I have seen young souls suffer the most, since their memories of their families are still so fresh.”
Kotha from Shocheton Hijra Shongothon refers to herself as a member of one big family of around 150 transgender people who live at an undisclosed area in Dhaka. On Eid day, she makes a point of going to a mosque to pray, and of taking other members of her community with her. She said, “After namaz, I always visit my parents' home to be blessed by my mother. I get the chance to meet my 11 siblings there, together with their families. However, the moment I step into my home, I realise that I have left it for good, and I can feel the whispers all around me and the judgmental eyes on me.” Even her nieces and nephews welcome her with warm hearts, yet they demand she change her appearance so they don’t feel ashamed. “Maybe I wouldn't have had to face this situation if my mother could have accepted me for who I truly am. So I think there is a need to orient parents and make them understand in the first place, in order to change the existing situation,” she added. After returning to her transgender family, Kotha visits the others rooms to taste their food and have a chit-chat. However, everything happen inside their bubble. “It's not like we don’t go outside. We go to watch movies as a group, yet on such occasions,we can feel people's judging eyes digging into us like spears.” Echoing Bobby, Kotha also attested that most transgender people are not able to visit their families. However, “thanks to modern, mobile technologies, now at least they can hear the voices of their loved ones over the phone.”