Roopbaan is a non- political, not-for -profit Bangla magazine for the LGBT community in Bangladesh. The title ‘Roopbaan’ is taken from a popular Bangladeshi folk-tale character which also means a beautiful and fabulous person in Bangla. The publication was initially conceptualized as a quarterly lifestyle and fashion magazine for the Bangladeshi men who love men with its key slogan ‘right to love’. A group of five members, including one editor and one publisher as key decision makers, formed a core management group in early 2013. This team put together almost fifty individuals who volunteered on various levels including content contributors, designers, illustrator, proofreaders, distributors etc. The first issue of Roopbaan was launched on January 18th, 2014 which was also the country’s first of its kind. The grand launch in the capital Dhaka was attended by more than 130 allies and community members. This event was extensively covered by more than 300 local and international medias and the news of the magazine became viral on social media. No Bangladeshi media covered LGBT issue so extensively before this magazine. Roopbaan soon became the premiere LGBT venture in the history of Bangladesh. Numerous articles, op-eds, blogs, social media discussions, and research articles were written followed by the creation of the magazine. Roopbaan magazine and LGBT issues in Bangladesh became a major debate in spaces like office, college, university, and home. The backlash after the launch of Roopbaan served the purpose of visibility by bringing out the issue on the table.
The publication had to overcome multiple challenges including financial constraints, lack of manpower, hunting for publishers, security challenges and gain acceptance within the very LGBT community it wanted to represent so that they would come forward and volunteer to tell their stories. The motivation which kept Roopbaan going even after the post publication backlash is the idea that after years of being silenced, the existence of LGBT community was finally being noticed. Despite all these challenges and new ones including losing its earlier printing press, the team behind the magazine were able to put up a more political and inclusive second issue in August 2014.
Roopbaan printed 600 physical copies in January, 2014 and 700 copies in August 2014 for its first and second issue respectively. The only two published issues have been funded internally and sold at a heavily subsidized price of 100 (issue l) and 150 (issue ll) BDT. Since the publication, Roopbaan have had an enormous nationwide response, built a strong network of readers across the nation, managed to reach non-urban areas (40% of our readers were from these areas), accessed female customers (30% of total customers), established strong relationships with allies (national and international human rights organizations, cultural groups, activists etc.), and most importantly, manifested our existence to a wider range of social actors.
Xulhaz Mannan, the co-founder and publisher of Roopbaan, remodeled the magazine as a community based platform in January 2015 and became its first elected president. The third issue of the magazine was supposed to publish under this platform. Xulhaz Mannan was brutally murdered in his residence on the evening of April 25, 2016. Roopbaan temporarily ceased publishing the magazine since the terrorist attack. We hope to resume publishing the magazine in near future.