Amader Dawat: A Queer & Trans Pohela Boishakh Banner

Amader Dawat: A Queer & Trans Pohela Boishakh

Saturday, April 20, 2024

05:30 PM - 09:00 PM

Undisclosed Location

Come to our joyful gathering for queer and trans Bangladeshis in New York on the occasion of the Bengali New Year, otherwise known as Pohela Boishakh. For too long, the Bangladeshi LGBTQI+ community have had to discard or hide parts of ourselves to appease our family of origins’ needs. Through this 'dawat' and invitation, we would like to convene our chosen Bangladeshi queer and trans circles to take up space, eat delicious food, learn about queer/trans histories, partake in arts and cultural activities, and express the nuances of our lived experiences in an affirming environment.

The event is autonomously organized by Fabliha, Mikail, Sirajum, and Joya and is not affiliated with any collective.

Food and drinks will be provided, this dawaat will also be potluck style so please bring dishes!

$5 or more suggested donation to help us cover costs and support the organizers. If you would prefer to donate through other channels, please donate to:

  • Venmo: @queerdawat
  • Cashapp: $queerdawat

**Address will be emailed prior to the event**

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Political statement re: Queer & Trans Pohela Boishakh

Pohela Boishakh is the first day of the Bengali calendar, the official calendar of Bangladesh. This festival is celebrated on 14 April in Bangladesh and 15 April in a few Indian states by Bengalis regardless of religious faith. The festival is celebrated with processions, fairs, and time with family and friends. The traditional greeting for Bengalis in the new year is শুভ নববর্ষ "Shubho Noboborsho" which means "Happy New Year".

However, as queer and transgender Bangladeshis, the concept of belonging, and accessing/receiving love within our families of origin during such an auspicious time of year continues to be elusive. One of the first public marches that the Bangladeshi LGBTQ community conducted in Dhaka in 2014 and 2015 was to participate in the Pohela Boishakh procession called Mongol Shobhajatra under the banner of a ‘Rainbow Rally.’ Instead of a cis heterosexual society celebrating and embracing our trans and queer kin, the rally organizers encountered opposition from right-wing Islamists in 2015, including a Facebook page that called for opponents to beat up the rally participants. Four arrests were made and one of the organizers commented that events such as the Rainbow Rally are needed to help Bangladeshi citizens understand the importance of the struggle for recognition of the human rights of LGBT people.

Bangladeshi trans men, gender-nonconforming, hijra, and trans women are facing escalating levels of violence especially because the LGBT movement has prioritized the needs of cis gay men above all other identities. We’ve recently seen a slew of anti-trans attacks where a private university professor in Dhaka criticized a story on gender-diverse populations in the seventh-grade history and social science textbook and tore off the book while speaking at a discussion in mid-January. Bandhu Social Welfare Society, an NGO that works for trans and hijra people’s betterment faced protests outside their offices where Bandhu officials and others were trapped inside the building. The root cause of the protests is to obstruct Bangladeshi trans people’s chances of living fully and from undergoing gender-affirmation medical procedures that are framed to be a ‘Western import.’

As queer and trans-Bangladeshis, we condemn the insidious and endemic levels of harassment and discrimination that the community faces in the homeland daily, especially within biological family structures. We have decided to come together to observe Pohela Boishakh in a manner that centers our humanity on this culturally relevant day that is meant to celebrate ALL Bangladeshis and Bengalis. This space has been intentionally curated so that Bangladeshis from all parts of the gender and sexuality spectrum can access a cultural environment where they feel cared for and supported while being their authentic selves. The queer fight has always been against the visibility politics of Western hegemony that are inherently upheld by violent borders. We hope to shift ourselves from relying on nationalism that has violently erased Indigenous communities in Bangladesh, going beyond seeking approval from the government and nation-state, towards collective liberation.  

We also call on the larger cishet Bangladeshi society to realize that empathy and blanket statements of ‘care’ for your queer and trans family member or friend are not enough in these times. We are strongly insisting on action. If care is not accompanied by action, then it no longer qualifies as care. We hope this statement can serve as a call to action to support our more ostracized Bangladeshi community members in this lifetime. Let us honor the dead but not forget the living.

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