I’m a Bangladeshi lesbian (in my early 20s), living in the United States. I discovered that I wasn’t straight when I was 8 years old (although I’ve since realized, after watching home videos of myself, my gayness was evident from as young as the age of 3).
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about homophobia: IT’S EVERYWHERE! The unfortunate truth is: whether you live in the east or the west, you’ll come across some form of bigotry or another (it’s more subtle in the States than it is in Bangladesh, however).
As for my own personal experiences with homophobia, I grew up with an unfathomable amount of it. This, of course, caused me to become homophobic myself (which later transformed into self-hatred). Back when I was religious and used to pray five times a day, I remember ending every prayer with “Allah, please take these unnatural feelings away.” Safe to say, my prayers went unanswered and I’m an atheist now.
My best friends were the first people I came out to and their acceptance and love was my saving grace. Soon after I left home for college, I began a relationship with an American girl. Everything was great at first but the vast differences in our upbringing and culture tore us apart. I must admit that the relationship ended because of my struggles with accepting myself. Despite living in a very liberal college town, I refused to show any sort of affection in public which led her to believe that I didn’t like her. The straw that broke the camel’s back however is when I turned her down every time she wanted to have sex. It’s not like I didn’t want to; I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (I blame internalized homophobia).
I went back to Bangladesh for summer break that year extremely depressed. Mothers (more so than fathers) have a sixth sense when it comes to their kids. My mom could tell that something was clearly wrong with me (even though I tried my best to hide it). Mom and I were watching a movie one night and she asked me out of nowhere if something was bothering me. “I’m your best friend, you can tell me anything,” she said. In a moment of weakness and emotional vulnerability, I broke down and came out to her; BIG MISTAKE.
My parents were very strict with me and always had me on a tight leash (in typical Asian parent manner). Most importantly, my parents were always concerned about our family’s image (in fact, even after moving to the States, they still are). Naturally, if people find out that I’m gay, it will tarnish our reputation in Bengali society. The first thing my mom told me that night was that she wasn’t going to tell my father. The second thing she said was that my “condition” was fixable, I just had to stop thinking this way and she was going to take me to a specialist (the kind that prays the gay away and gives you “holistic” medication). None of this worked, the only thing it did was worsen my depression.
I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve accepted myself but I’ve also accepted the fact that my parents will never accept me. As much as I love my parents and as much as I’ve always tried my best to make them proud; the minute I realize that I’ve met the woman I’m going to marry; I AM WALKING AWAY. I’m going to leave behind my family and my culture because these aspects of my life cannot coexist with who I am.
Does this make me a bad daughter? Some people may say so. And to those people I say: I maybe a bad daughter, but I’ll make up for it by being the best partner I can be; the type of person who isn’t afraid to hold her wife’s hand in public. Most importantly, I will never do to my children what my parents and family did to me.