Letter from a friend

It’s been a year.

Yet there are days when it feels like we’ve just heard from Xulhaz and Tonoy, it feels as if they’ve called us yesterday to plan a community event; we must go either as a participant or take part as the audience, we must participate, somehow.  

But again, it’s been a year, and our ruthless reality is now slowly setting in.  We are compelled to accept that they are not coming back to unite our community once again, that they are not going to return from someplace unknown to share our pain, laughter, and drama. The numbness of time is now forcing us to acknowledge that Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy will no longer lead the LGBT youth of Bangladesh in finding ways to lead a loving, dignified, and prosperous life. We are now coming to terms with the realization that an era of hope for the LGBT community in Bangladesh, a chapter of our lives has come to an end.

After April 2016, our lives have changed completely. We no longer feel safe around our friends or colleagues to talk about our griefs, let alone raising our voices against the brutal murders of our friends, who stood for what they believed in. We feel threatened by our near and dear ones when they try to rationalize the killing of Xulhaz and Tonoy by saying that being gay is a distasteful sin and working for gay rights was a bigger one.

We are bound to shut our mouths for our own safety; otherwise, we fear that we will be next. Casually having a get-together like we did before seems like a challenge to us now. People are back to their own closets, fighting with their own consciences to accept their identity. We are not feeling free to live in our own country because we have a fear of being watched. Our social networking activities are limited now because we cannot let people know our whereabouts.   

We are still hopeful to see that one day, sooner or later (we hope sooner), newspapers will be publishing the news that those murderers and terrorists who were responsible for the killing of our friends have been caught and will be punished. Society will also be supportive because our friends were also a living human being. Their families deserve justice for losing their sons so early in this inhuman way. We also hope that news media will be less brutal and judgmental in publishing any news related to us. We can only hope that society and the environment around Xulhaz’s and Tonoy’s families will be supportive and will not give them questionable looks every time they see them because their son was gay and was working for LGBT rights in Bangladesh. We continue to have faith in all religions and believe that religions are for peace in this world and killing someone like this was never its intention.

We are not expecting the masses to accept us the way we are anytime soon. But we still dream of a day when each of us will be treated as just another human being with universal feelings of love, care, friendship, and accountability. We still dream of living in our society with dignity and harmony.

We are barely surviving now. We are fighting for our own existence in every way imaginable. And yes we are still alive with bruises in our heart.