Being a homosexual woman in a patriarchal society
I was minding my own business when my mother rushed into my room. Bursting with excitement, she thrust a paper in my face.
“We got a new proposal for you! Just have a look at the bio data. You will not be sorry.”
“I told you I don’t want to get married before I complete my Masters!”
“One look at the picture and you will change your mind just like that.”
I glanced over the passport-size photo stapled on the paper, but I was adamant. “Okay I agree that the girl is indeed very beautiful. But still my studies come first, Ammu!”
She almost cried out, “But her family have two flats in Dhaka!”
Daydreaming about my mother being aware of and accepting my sexuality is one of my favourite pastimes. Wouldn’t it be swell if she helped me decide which girl I should choose as my life-partner? Asking me to go for a girl because her father is a rich businessman? Of course, that is not an attribute that will make me fall for someone. But you know how deeply entangled in patriarchy our elders can be. Some facts are just facts.
I love weddings. I love the symbolic gestures of life-long commitment that define weddings. I love pre-wedding get-togethers, dance rehearsals, shopping, deciding on the menu. I am overwhelmed with the idea of friends and families coming together to celebratepeople in love. I am always blown away by the wedding ceremony itself. The couple look their best in their beautiful attire, with the brightest smiles and glowing cheeks. Everyone seems to bask in the couple's happiness while rushing to the stage for a selfie. I adore the small gift-opening ceremony after the day of the wedding, and I adore those relatives who quarrel over who gets to have the first dawat for the newly married couple.
I don’t remember if I have ever attended any wedding without thinking even for a bit that I might not be having any of these.
I surely can though. My parents are already looking for that perfect guy. I can just get married to him and get a wedding where everyone I care about would come to wish me a happy life. But what comes after that? A life of lies?
When I tried to come out to my family at the tender age of 16, they were devastated
I think they would have been less devastated if I told them I had AIDS. They were out of their wits and after much discussion behind closed doors, they decided to take me to a well-renowned psychiatrist. As a “cure” to the “disease”, she prescribed me multi-coloured pills which I had to take almost after every meal. Till now I don’t know what those pills were for; they surely did not turn me straight. They just made me sleep a lot and cry for hardly any reason. She also made me take hormonal tests to see my testosterone levels. I had to explain the hormone specialist, whose interest was much more than required, the reason for my being there - that I liked girls and if there are chances I could “grow” a penis. Unsurprisingly, the tests came out fine. Still, my family wanted second opinions, so I was taken to two other psychiatrists after her. Anyway, after consuming more pills for absolutely no reason, I told my family that I was “cured” and now I found boys irresistible.
Today, as someone with a full-time stable job, I am independent enough to live by myself. But the idea of an unmarried girl living separately from her family is so alien in this society we live in that I cannot even propose this to my parents. So here I am, sitting in my room in my parent’s house, pretending to be straight. I hate hypocrisy, but I really have no other choice.
My friends have been a blessing. I have come out to those who are closest to me, and they have been wonderful handling it. I always thought if my friends got to know the truth, especially the girls, they might feel uncomfortable around me. But it seems they do get the simple point that just because I’m a lesbian does not mean I am attracted to every girl there is. I have wonderful support from the small but strong community of people who are breaking the norms in their own terms. I have a wonderful girlfriend who shares her strength with me, so that I can face every new day with a bold heart.
My love for life is fuelled by all the people who are important to me. I may never be able to remind my parents of my truth, but this is something I will have to carry with me for them to be happy. It is fine. Life is still beautiful. Many people who are reading this may think that I do not deserve to live in this society. Well, it is true. And it will continue to be true till this society realizes you cannot dictate who you are and who you should be with.
The author is one of thousands of people in Bangladesh who do not identify as straight