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?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Coming Out to...the Closest Cousin

My Thoughts

If I can claim I ever grew up with someone, it would be her. Just two years apart in age (she's older), we spent our very early childhood together. My relationship with her is one that colours my impressions of Bangladesh quite strongly. We are, in my mind, part of the original set: the firstborns and the trailblazers. As such, I've always felt solidarity with her, and we've been each other's intermittent confidantes whenever our lives have intersected. She's taught me a lot about our religion, starting with the rules of prayer to various other aspects overlooked by mechanised religious education. She always was and continues to be my gateway to contemporary Bangladesh - a world which my parents, my father especially, have never been able to connect me to. She was one of those people I took so long to tell because it had to be done face to face. I finally did it the summer after I finished university, during those last few months of freedom at home before I left to start my job in the UK. 

I knew she had no qualms about LGBT people - in fact my first stories about LGBTQ Bangladesh came from her. There was the story of the butch lesbian at her school, for example, who's sexuality was apparently an open and unremarkable secret. All she ever told me were snippets rather than complete narratives, but they were all woven into our daily conversations without malice or condemnation. I would lap it all up, the stories of a world that back then was closed to me. Fast forward a few years though, and those few non-judgemental snippets seemed like shaky ground to stand on as I told her. I feared her rejection - not an outright rejection but the not-in-my-own-backyard kind of rejection. Just because she's cool with a classmate's sexuality doesn't mean she'll be cool with mine. It hits harder when it's someone close.

The sources of my worry were the usual - any religious condemnation and possibly some cultural misunderstanding. I wondered if she'd take the "it's okay but" line of thought, and try and encourage me to be "better" by dating women. She didn't. Instead she did a comical and over-exaggerated imitation of a robot freezing, before telling me she needed some time to process and I should check back with her later. My little brother, who was there for support, laughed at her reaction and gave it all of five minutes before asking if she was done. She smiled and let him know she was at 33%. I could see that behind the comedy she was taking this seriously, and I got a little worried as she decided to leave me in suspense with this tactic for the rest of the day. 

Thankfully, by nightfall she was at 90%. Not all there, but enough for us to start talking about my love live and what my sexuality meant for the future. She told me she'd always known that I wasn't like the other boys - apparently I was interested in too many things outside the gender stereotype. Her advice to me was straightforward and similar to what I get from most Bangladeshis. She warned me that people, including my parents, would probably think of my bisexuality as an illness. They'd find it very difficult to accept, if indeed they ever did. She questioned my ability to settle down in Bangladesh in the long term, and brought up the issue of safety when I said I wanted to be out and open one day.

That day was probably the last day we talked about my sexuality in any detail. And our relationship hasn't really changed since. I tell her about the other halves that have come and gone as I've always done, except I include the men too now. When we talk about Bangladesh, the local politics and society, we sometimes touch upon queer issues too. I have from her, if anyone is interested, a few very amusing anecdotes to share about Bangladeshi people's reactions to LGBT lives. She's been very busy with university and her thesis recently so I try not to bother her too much. I am, however, really looking forward to seeing her again at the end of this year. I've come so far since that day and those conversations. After all, I owe quite a bit of that progress to her.

Her Thoughts

LGBT - never actually paid attention or even thought about this term. To me…it was irrelevant. Well, until I found out that my own cousin brother is bisexual. 

We grew up together, me and my brother. All that time, he always acted different from other boys of our age. I am a Muslim; also a Bengali. So, it never occurred to me that he was the one who is different; rather I wondered why the other boys were not like him. Commenting on dress up and get up, interested in cooking. Until a certain age, I thought that all boys should be like him. As I grew older, I thought he just acts like that because he is my brother.


He told me very firmly “I am bisexual”. And to me, it was like….. okay…whatwhat is this supposed to mean?? What?? He is not joking. My brain flinched…I had nothing to say…I just froze. Not in fear but I was shocked. How is this even possible??

Well that was my first reaction.

It took me a whole day to realize that I was not dreaming. Then I thought about the whole situation, over and over - for some days. Then I realized; it is just waste of time. No matter what, he is and will always be my brother. And that’s never going to change, anyway. So, why bother. 

I heard that our religion does not support LGBT. But it also says to respect relationships. We are told that those who cuts ties with their relatives are banned from heaven. Many parents or relatives throw away their responsibility from a person just because they are not straight. It’s not a choice people can make; it’s who they are, deep inside. 

I respect my brother, for the courage he has shown. And no matter what, I will definitely support him. Also those, who are frightened and hiding their true desire. May be some day there won’t be existence of the term LGBT; rather everyone will be considered as equal human.

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