South Asian LGBTI Conference 2018

DjLgKrjXsAAOEZVOn a Saturday in late July, our inaugural South Asian LGBTI Conference took place at the QE Hospital. Here are some pictures from the day, a summary of the day as well as full abstracts from the speakers. Follow the hashtag #SouthAsianLGBTQI on Twitter

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Anthony Cobley of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and NHS, Peta Cooper of Gaysian Faces, Siddhi Joshi of British Asian LGBTI and Khakan Qureshi of Finding A Voice welcomed delegates to the conference at the QE Hospital and Khakan asked us “are we ready as a South Asian community to talk about issues that affect us like mental health, sexuality, sexual health and domestic violence?” and asked that we find our voices. Bianca nee Martin Smith opened with her original song Broken Glasses, which reflected on the struggle of the LGBTI community and the obstacles to achieving ones hopes and dreams.

 

Laks Mann talked about the importance of visibility and positive representation of South Asian LGBTI people in the pride events and the initiatives of Gaysians to organise discussion events for the South Asian LGBT community including Pride in London and “Where are the Desi Lesbians?” Reshma Johar spoke about her personal experiences growing up to getting married to her same-sex partner and as a Hindu lesbian of Gujarati heritage, her journey to acceptance from her family (with her parents and partner in  attendance in the audience!). She ended with a beautiful video of highlights from her traditional Hindu wedding ceremony. Martin Hasani and members of London Queer Muslims then introduced intersex variations and the need for demedicalisation as well as the progressive views on intersex in Islam. Neelam Heera, who founded the  women’s health support group Cysters, spoke of the attitudes and stigmas surrounding gynecological health conditions and case studies of lesbian and bisexual women facing fertility problems and the psychological ramifications of reproductive health problems.

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Following the first break, Taimour Fazlani gave insightful personal narrative of his journey with mental health and anxiety in the early twenties and the need for the South Asian community to enhance the support structures towards a collective healing. This was followed by the sexual health panel, chaired by Makinder Chahal of Trade Sexual Health. Professor of Psychology Rusi Jaspal gave an academic perspective on representation, identity and well being of British South Asian gay men, including his research on the perceptions of homosexuality in Sikhism, Islam and Hinduism and intersectionality between South Asian cultural identities, faith and sexual orientation. Dr Jake Bayley HIV Consultant at Barts Hospital gave a medical perspective on the prevalence of HIV in England including the challenges faced specifically by the South Asian community. Dr. Rageshri, Women’s Sexual Health Consultant in Whitechapel spoke about the stigmas associated with sexual health and women reproductive rights in South Asian communities, breaking the taboos through art (including a wall of vulvas!) and the importance of getting cervical smear tests as well as regular STI testing for lesbian and bisexual women. During the following lunch break, there was opportunity to visit a number of stand including Stonewall, Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP), Birmingham LGBT Centre, Trade Leicester, Diversity Role Models, Health Lottery Fund, the Faith & Belief Forum, School of Psychology and Healthwatch Birmingham.

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The third session began with Nikhwat Marawat of mental health organisation A Delicate Mind, sharing a very powerful personal narrative of his experience of mental health problems in his family and the need to dissolute stigmas associated with obtaining mental health support. Syeda Sarwat Fatima gave a very powerful personal narrative as a Pakistani lesbian physically and psychologically marginalised and rejected as a result of homophobia in family, friends and university and finding the strength to becoming an LGBTI rights activist in the UK. “The human heart has two flames – one of anger against injustice and another of hope for a better future.” Matthew Mahmood-Ogston of the Naz and Matt Foundation gave a deeply moving and powerful keynote address, with a moving video about their story and finding the strength and wisdom within to fight religious homophobia and accepting your family member for who they are. Jaspreet Tehara then gave the academic and historical perspective of his research on bisexuality in South Asian communities. The third session concluded with Lucky Roy Singh speaking about his experiences of honour-related abuse as a drag artist and his book “Take a Walk in my Big Indian Heels: MR SINGH’S DIARY.

DjMfngEWwAAdhU3.jpg large Following the break, Prince Manvendra of Rajpipla, joined us via Skype video link from Amsterdam and gave an inspiring keynote address about coming out of the “Royal Closet” and his experiences with facing homophobia and his work to open his palace doors to marginalised members of the LGBTI Community in India. Lawyer Arvind Narrain, based in Banglore, India then gave a video address about the legal happenings surrounding Section 377 in India including recent history of this archaic legislation. Poet Harry Alimo then shared a personal poem called “My Muslim.” Social media activist and an organiser Peta Cooper then shared her journey with Gaysian Faces and her personal narrative as a strong ally to the South Asian LGBTI community. Ruhul Abdin then gave us the artistic perspective of LGBTIQ identities in Bangladesh, with the largest screening of powerful film Planchette as well as his own research as an LGBTI activist in UK.

Planchette

Following this, the Birmingham premier of SISAK- India’s first silent LGBTQ love story then amazed us and the Khakan Qureshi then read out the director’s powerful statement on silence. Khakan than spoke of the journey to establishing his support group Finding A Voice and the themes raised by this conference, with contribution from Pav Akhtar of UK Black Pride. The closing song was an moving Whitney Huston song – The greatest love of all, marking the end of the South Asian LGBTI conference

Closing Song: Bianca Nee Martin Smith

Speaker Abstracts

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LAKHBIR MANN

Laks Mann is a co-founder of Gaysians; an organisation created to be a platform that promotes positive visibility for South Asian LGBT+ people. His professional background includes having worked in the corporate, charitable and public sectors, as well as over 20 years volunteering with numerous community projects, including 10+ years in the LGBT+ sector. Originally from Birmingham, he relocated to London where he is now based. In addition to Gaysians, he [is/was] the Co-Chair of Pop Brixton Steering Group, [is/was] a Committee member of Lambeth LGBT+ Community Network, and is an affiliated BAME/PoC role model for Stonewall.

TALK – VISIBILITY
Gaysians; an alliance of charities, support groups, meetups, activists, artivists and leading voices within the South Asian LGBT+ community. Created to bring together and connect leading influencers in order to improve access to resources and services, for those that seek them, as well as to elevate our collective presence at public events such as Pride marches and in mainstream media.

Three key aims: Connect, Empower, Celebrate.

Discussion about events, talks, collaborations, interventions and socials.

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RESHMA JOHAR

‘Not your average Desi girl’. (Bollywood song my Desi girl).

Reshma is a senior tax consultant that is both ATT and CTA qualified. She is the founding committee member for women in tax that helps raise the voice for women in all spheres of tax. Outside of work she enjoys exploring different cultures, travelling, learning about society and hanging out with friends and family.

Reshma is a Hindu lesbian who is married to a woman and out to her family. She volunteers and helps Stonewall and other organisations in raising the profile for Asian LGBT people.

The structure of my talk would be a timeline of me growing up as a tomboy, discovering my sexuality, having the religious chat to myself and coming out to my family, friends and work. I would also discuss my Hindu wedding ceremony and what steps are still needed to further improve situations for families.

The talk would cover – identity, gender stereo types, religion, work and family dynamics.

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MARTIN HASANI

Martin Hasani is a British Albanian community development worker & activist specialising in Intersex Visibility and Religious LGBTQI+ Muslims. Training with OII Europe, he has fought for legal and medical justice for the survivors of Intersex Genital Mutilation and Sexual Abuse and has been published by the Crown Prosecution Service in Hate Crimes as Experienced by Gypsies/Roma/Travellers in the West Midlands. He has also published language documentation materials for endangered dialects of Albanian and is a student of the Bektashi Order, a minority Shi’i Sufi Order. With a group of colleagues, he founded London Queer Muslims, a collective run by and for LGBTQI+ Sufi Muslims to address the spiritual needs of religious LGBTQI+ Muslims who are excluded from Heterosexist and Islamophobic spaces in the UK.

London Queer Muslims is a Queer led Sufi Muslim group founded in 2017 by a diverse group of LGBTQIA+ Muslims. We are a truly diverse group reflecting the full range of the gender, sex and sexuality spectrum as well as being extremely diversein ethnicity and expression of Islam. We are the only UK group dedicated exclusively to the exploration of the positive intersection of Islam and LGBTQIA+ lives. Our approach is one of zero tolerance for all forms of queerphobia and we do not engage in the topic “is it okay to be a Muslim AND …..?” Rather, our approach comes from a place of implicit acceptance, and in fact empowerment. Our genders, sex and sexuality variations are empowering and our religion must reflect this reality, we are tired of the same old dialogue with queerphobes. We are fully supported and encouraged by a traditional Bektashi Sufi order based in Turkey and hold our Zikr and Ijtihad sessions fortnightly. In May 2018 we were blessed to perform a Nikah ceremony for a male-male couple and have also hosted international groups who wish to explore a different image of Muslims. Our board of directors consists of Martin Hasani (a British-Balkan Bektashi Muslim), Moosa Lawati (an Omaani Khoja Shi’a Muslim), and Qaisar Siddiqui (a British-Pakistani Unitarian Christian-Muslim).

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NEELAM HEERA

Neelam is founder of Cysters. Cysters is a grassroots charity, dedicated to supporting women and improving the health, education and welfare of women living with reproductive health issues.

We aim to educate the public about reproductive health issues, empower women to accept their diagnosis so that they can make informed choices about treatment, encourage and support research into these issues and challenge the societal, cultural and misogyny behind women’s reproductive health. We feel that women don’t take ownership of their own health, due to the gender inequality within the community. The pain associated with reproductive health has become normalised.

Cysters are here to change perceptions about women’s health, making it okay to put yourself first and dispelling the myths surrounding the sexualized topics of gynaecological health.

On starting this campaign, as young female Asian woman, I have been met with criticism and was initially ostracised from my community. The taboos around this area are still very real. Only by coming together we can reduce the stigma.

“Cysters – Because the journey is easier with your sisters.”

My speech and talk is going to mirror the above, especially the taboo and sexualisation of women’s health.

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TAIMOUR FAZLANI

Taimour Fazlani is a writer and designer based in London. Having immigrated to the UK at the age of 9 he spends most of his time trying to positively reframe life events. An advocate for mental health in the south Asian communities, his work towards bringing change range from talks, articles and even design work. You can follow him on Twitter at @talkerbearded

Abstract – How Mental Health Affects South Asian Men

My talk will be on the effect of mental health on South Asian men. As a longtime sufferer from anxiety, I had a breakdown in anxiety 2014 which has led to my exploration of mental health and still to this drives my work for in the field.

Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, I grew up in an environment marred by mental health illnesses, however, most of the times these illnesses were brushed under the carpet. As a result, my knowledge and awareness of mental health in daily life was highly limited. It was only in my 2014 episode did I realised mental health plays and has played in my life. Not to mention the life of others around me. This is why all works I do now are borne out of empathy aimed at healing. Rooted in personal experiences the aim of my talk will be to explore, develop and reframe mental health in the south Asian communities in a critical light so that we can find and create ways to provide support to sufferers. Similarly, my talk, much like my work for mental health will be aimed at developing awareness and knowledge the subject by bringing it to the forefront so that we can talk about it openly. What I hope to achieve in my talk is to use bring forth my personal experiences so that I and the audience as a collective can realise the damage that is being done by the consistent denial of mental health so that we can move towards collective healing

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Sexual Health Panel: PROFESSSOR RUSI JASPAL, De Montfort University Leicester

Professor Rusi Jaspal is Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Chair in Psychology & Sexual Health at De Montfort University Leicester. His research focuses on identity, wellbeing and sexual health among gay and bisexual men of ethnic minority background.

Engaging British South Asian gay men on sexual health and wellbeing: The Sholay Love Project

British South Asian gay men can face multiple layers of stigma and prejudice on the basis of their ethnic, religious and sexual identities. This can lead to a fragmented sense of identity and decreased psychological wellbeing. Some individuals internalise the homophobia that they face from others and may come to express shame in relation to their gay identity. Research shows that decreased psychological wellbeing associated with homophobia and racism is associated with greater engagement in sexual risk-taking behaviours and with less engagement in self-care behaviours. In this presentation, we will outline data from research into identity and wellbeing among British South Asian gay men. We will discuss some of the challenges associated with engaging this population on sexual health and wellbeing. We will outline the newly launched Sholay Love project, conducted in collaboration with NAZ Project London, which aims to raise awareness of sexual health and HIV prevention among British South Asian gay men. We will conclude by outlining some of the ways in which other organisations, charities and community members can contribute to efforts to improve sexual health and wellbeing in this population.

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Sexual Health Panel: DR RAGESHRI DHAIRYAWAN FRCP

Dr Rageshri Dhairyawan is a Consultant Physician in Sexual Health and HIV Medicine at Barts Health NHS Trust. She has worked in east London for 10 years and specialises in looking after marginalised communities and raising awareness of sexual health issues amongst people of colour. She has been a member of the NAZ Medical Board for 5 years, is an Honorary Consultant at the Mary Seacole Centre, De Montford University and has written for Media Diversified. She is also an elected Trustee of the British HIV Association and chairs the steering group of the 4M Mentor Mothers project for women living with HIV. Her previous research has focused on intimate partner violence with regards to sexual health and HIV.

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Sexual Health Panel: DR JAKE BAYLEY
Dr Jake Bayley is a HIV and Sexual Health Physician based in East London, UK. He looks after a cohort of 200 people living with HIV and is clinical lead for a large sexual health clinic in London. His interests are in HIV prevention, researching BME gay and bisexual men and how faith can affect sexual health outcomes. He also leads on national several digital sexual health projects.

Chair: MAKINDER SINGH CHAHAL

Makinder Singh Chahal has been working in the LGB&T voluntary sector in the East Midlands since 2012. He currently works for an LGB&T health charity based in Leicester called Trade Sexual Health as one of their health promotion workers. He also facilitates a group through Trade Sexual Health called Dosti, a social and support group for South Asian and Middle Eastern LGBTQ people. Prior to working in the voluntary sector, Makinder has been involved in LGBT activism since 2008 whilst he was part of the LGBT society at Keele University, two years of which where he was the co-president. During the final year where Makinder was co-president in 2011-12, the society was awarded LGBT Society of the Year by the National Union of Students (NUS). Makinder also volunteers for Stonewall on their LGBT school role models programme.

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NIKHAT MARAWAT

Nikhwat Marawat, 25, Birmingham City University Student, East Midlands Time To Change Coordinator/ Co-Founder of The Delicate Mind a mental health organisation focused on examining the role of masculinity, faith, identity and how these impact mental health. We encourage submissions from all backgrounds asking people their thoughts on these questions and ask them to submit their ideas to us accordingly through art, poetry, writing or any way in which they feel comfortable expressing themselves. We wish to work with the local Muslim community in educating them on issues around mental health and will be doing this through lobbying, working with local community groups and workshops and seminars.

A brief outline as to my talk will be mental health within the South Asian community and examining how attitudes to mental health in the Muslim community are perceived as well as discussing facets of identity of minorities within minorities such as LGBT south Asians and how this affects mental health.

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SYEDA SARWAT FATIMA

My full name is Syeda Sarwat Fatima. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan and studied at Christ the King School, the University of Karachi and Leeds Metropolitan University.

I was an only child and came from a middle class educated family. They were quite liberal towards religion but not toward sexual orientation. I lived in a very isolated environment where, as a child, I was not able to discuss my school life problems or other kind harassment which affected me.

I stay here out of fear
Fear of judgement, fear of ridicule
But most of all, fear of abandonment.
I’m afraid that if I come out of this lonely little closet
What waits beyond will be a much greater peril
Or perhaps it will be the release I’ve been looking for
So I’ll take a chance.

They say the truth will set you free. When I told my family I was lesbian, I wound up in the hospital. I would like to share all my fears , threats , struggles , ignorance, emotional roller coasters with all of you, which I faced because I am lesbian. I will share how my sexuality became more important to me than what I had lost, which is most of the important things in my life, like my parents, my relatives , my friends , my job. I was not a robber nor am I a terrorist. I will talk about how my religion came in between all my decisions I made.

I am born as a Muslim and I will die as a Muslim but I am labelled as a disobedient Non-Muslim because of my sexual orientation.

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MATTHEW MAHMOOD-OGSTON, Founder & Trustee of Naz and Matt Foundation

In 2001, soon after coming out to himself, Matt met his soulmate Naz in a nightclub in Birmingham. Naz was 21, Matt was 23. They quickly fell in love and ran away to London to be themselves and escape the intense pressures of not being out to family. They had to keep their relationship a secret for fear of what might happen if they were found out.
After 13 years together and engaged to be married, Naz (Dr Nazim Mahmood) sadly took his own life, just two days after being confronted about his sexuality by his deeply religious family during Eid. It was the first time they had heard that their son was gay, in a long term relationship with another man, in love, and planning to get married. Their solution was to tell Naz that he needed to see a psychiatrist to be ‘cured’ for being gay. For ‘shame’ not to be brought on the family.

In memory of Naz, Matt set up “Naz and Matt Foundation”, a now award-winning registered charity that tackles religious and cultural homophobia. The organisation helps families learn how to accept their LGBTQI+ children for who they really are – for who they were born to be.

The Foundation’s mission is to “Never let religion, any religion, come in the way of the unconditional love between parents and their children.”

For more information visit
https://www.nazandmattfoundation.org

Finding inspiration and never giving up

We all face challenges on our journey through life, but sometimes the road becomes so steep that we start sliding backwards. We lose control and we lose hope.
In July 2014 Matt lost his soulmate, fiancé and love of his life, Naz. Battling with grief Matt was about to take his own life and climb over the same balcony edge. But in the darkest of all moments something happened and a chain of events unfolded that would save his life, and start giving others hope.

Matt would then go on to found a charity in memory of his darling Naz. Winning multiple awards for its work, the organisation has now helped people from all around the world be themselves, and is helping parents go on a journey that will one day allow them to accept their children for who they really are.

In this session, Matt will share techniques and ideas for inspiring ourselves to take positive action, regain control of our mental space and ultimately be the person we were born to be.

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JASPREET TEHARA

Jaspreet is a counselling psychology doctoral candidate based at the University of Roehampton, currently in the process of completing a research thesis entitled “British-Asian and Bisexual: A study of the male experience,” which is a study focused on understanding the experience of second and third generation British South-Asian males who self-identify as Bisexual.

Jaspreet has over seven years of experience working in mental health in various settings; He has worked for Rethink Mental Illness as a Mental Health Recovery Worker as part of their Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) service. He has worked in the NHS for five years as part of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) in acute psychiatry, and for over two years in NHS psychological services. In addition to this, Jaspreet also a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

ABSTRACT

Jaspreet is currently researching the experiences of British Asian males who self-identify as Bisexual, or Bi-curious. This research is in it’s preliminary stage of analysis, as Jaspreet has been able to speak to six individiuals who have come forward to discuss their experiences of life. Preliminary findings have indicated that experiences share common themes of displacement and thoughts about being from the diaspora, positive support from social circles, positive affirmation from social media, and thoughts about what sexuality means for these participants. Findings have also shown that these participants have found issues with being able to express sexuality and thoughts around sexual fluidity with family members for various reasons.

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LUCKY ROY SINGH

Hi my names Lucky Roy Singh, I’m the author of Take a Walk in my Big Indian Heels, I’m a LGBT+ Activist and a Indian drag queen.

So I go around to professionals hospitals the police force and schools and I educate them on there lack of understanding about honour based abuse and forced marriage from a person from the LGBT+ Gayasian community. I use my personal experiences and how I felt when under these circumstances and the lack of support I was shown from professionals. In life before we are classed as a member of the LGBT+ community we are human beings we are people just like you. We want the same things as you. A carefree Life, kids, marriage… you may think well how is that going to happen your gay… there’s a great many way all of them can happen today if people wouldn’t be so ignorant to things around them.

What ever your entitled to the LGBT community should be entitled to. Also the Indian community need to be more aware that there are gay people trans people in the Indian community and we have a right as British citizens to live our life how we want.

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PRINCE MANVENDRA SINGH OF RAJPIPLA, INDIA

The only openly gay prince in India – where same sex relations are illegal – who has throwing open his palace doors to lesbians, gays, transgender and other Indians shunned for their sexuality. The prince is building a center for LGBT people on the grounds of
his ancestral palace in Rajpipla, Gujarat, India. Spoke by Skype.

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ARVIND NARRAIN

Arvind Narrain of ARC International is a founding member of the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, India, a collective of lawyers who work on a critical practise of law and was also part of the litigation team, which argued the constitutionality of Section 377 before the High Court and the Supreme Court. Spoke by Skype.

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HARRY ALIMO- Poet

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PETA COOPER

Founder of Gaysians Faces Queer Anthropology project @GaysianFaces Our project is inspired by the anthropology book called “Part Asian/100% Hapa” we will take your headshot and you write a message of who you are. It doesn’t have to be linked to your sexuality, but whatever you’re feeling. Our goal is the showcase the beauty and individuality of the Gaysian community.

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RUHUL ABDIN

Ruhul Abdin, BA Hons Architecture (Kingston), MSc Urban Development Planning ( UCL )
Ruhul is co-founder of the architecture and research studio – Paraa, which is based in Bangladesh. Founded in 2011, the studio has worked with UNDP Bangladesh, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Save the Children – Bangladesh, The Gandhi Foundation- UK, and many other organisations in creative and participatory research projects along with built architectural projects. He has been based London and Dhaka since 2009, and has recently been awarded an architectural prize in Bangladesh for their Bamboo Playscape project for LEEDO Children’s Peace Home in Dhaka. His interests include social justice, urbanism, right to housing and shelter, and vulnerability. As an artist, his practice mainly focuses on life drawing and portraiture – with a series of portraits on Dhaka’s Kamalapur Railway Station community due to be released in 2018. He is also involved in the Oitij-jo Collective, a UK based organisation focused on presenting and showcasing works of the Bangla Diaspora.

Links:
www.ruhulabdin.wordpress.com
www.paraa.org.uk
www.oitij-jo.org.uk

The Queering of Spaces in Dhaka: The possibility for Modernity to help shape a new discourse?

This paper seeks to explore the emergence of queer spaces in the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh through a lens of experiential narratives. The paper will present findings from interviews conducted with creative practitioners – writers and artists that are involved in social and cultural activism (poetry, fine art, music, literature, theatre) in Dhaka in April-June 2017, and look to understand the porous identity of the LGBTQI community in relation to a particular socio-cultural idea Bangladesh. It will relate to the wider discourse on needs for a safe space for the LGBTQI community, and more importantly, identity politics and whether a space for the queer community is possible again due to the recent political developments in the country?

This paper will be the basis for a framework of better understanding Dhaka’s multiplicity of roles in shaping the debate for the LGBTQI community in Bangladesh. The urban discourse is often aligned closely with ideas of Henri Lefebvres’ Production of Space. This paper will take his triad – space as perceived, conceived and lived –to argue that queer space in Dhaka is a fundamental part of the cities identity. The Modernists’ discourse of the urban has often aligned to disentangle the identity of the city from its colonial pasts, and posit itself into its own future that unpacks history, identity, culture and social values. Using Lefebvres’ approach to understand Queer spaces in Dhaka through the people that use it, imagine its potential and its pitfalls and are involved in its political activism and right to queer spaces in the city. I will explore the role of power throughout this paper as defined by Foucault – a matter of complex relationships rather than as a property inherent in a particular individual or class, and how individuals and groups have and are navigating this in the discourse in relation to queer space.

In Bangladesh, The Section 377 (1860) still exists – recent incidents have put back developments to the potential abolishment of this archaic British colonial law. Although Modernity in Europe and elsewhere saw a rise to eradicate such laws, Modernity’s influence in South Asia, especially in Bangladesh remains limited with regards to Queer studies. The murder of Xulhaz Mannan in his home in Dhaka in front of his mum in 2016 – Xulhaz was a leader in LGBTQI rights, and a co-founder of the magazine Roopban in Dhaka and was involved in the first Pride event in the city (2014), and the arrest of a group of young men holding a party in the outskirts of the city in a Community Centre’ which was raided by police and Rapid Action Batallion are the beginnings of a cultural shift in the way LGBQTI community is being treated. This paper sees both the State apparatus and religious fundamentalists as stumbling blocks to realising the right to the city for the LGBTQI community in Dhaka. The first safe space, a gay cafe, Cafe M in Mohammadpur, was opened and closed down very quickly (2015). It leaves the LGBTQI community to themselves to develop tactics at their own risk, and to challenge a State, which has in recent times been responsible for many disappearances of political dissidents.

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Director’s statement

Silence is the most piercing sound. Silence is something that so underutilized in our lives, in the films we watch and the films we make, silence barely exists. However, when Sisak was born, I knew it right from its inception that it has to be a silent film. I had so much to say that words were falling short. Why silent? Well, other than being a political statement about the state of the LGBTQI community in India, there exists a state of immense need to be heard by the community – we take out Pride marches, almost every LGBTQI film is about people’s struggles with their families, with themselves, about coming out, etc. As a filmmaker and a storyteller, I feel we use too many words to convey what we feel. Sometimes, I feel, words are poor comforters. People need to feel what you are feeling and when there are no words to support the visuals, by default, the audience wants to get into the minds of the character, we observe them more closely, we feel more closely and that indirectly, makes the loudest roar that the community needs. We want people to know that “Hey, we are just like you!” and I feel that with Sisak, that has somewhere been achieved. We are all the same. What binds us all together is our similarities, our likings and that is how we understand each-other. What I am attempting to do with my cinema is to blur the lines that have been created between all of us – why can’t a heterosexual person understand what a homosexual feels? All emotions are universal and that is the only truth. We all feel the same. Yes, growing up as a homosexual, one has bigger demons to fight – the struggles are more absorbing but don’t we all suffer? I feel unity and the sense of binding us all together is how I feel the community will get the acceptance it has been looking for. Dividing ourselves is not the answer. The answer lies in unity. We are you and you are we. Once that barrier of difference is broken, we shall flourish.

Report by Barfi Culture

barficulture

Full Article in Barfi Culture here

A blog post by @RaveetaWrites about the conference can be found here

Report on BBC Asian Network:

 

Report on BBC Leicester

Following on from the South Asian LGBTI Conference, we would like to take this opportunity to carry forward to important conversations made on the day and ask for your input. Please send us your thoughts and suggestions of how to respond to the needs of community and to take things forward following this inaugural conference.