Thursday, August 17, 2017

convos with ammu: gender & sexuality

during breakfast ammu asked me, "tanzi* ki?" 

she's frying eggs for my father and herself while i'm cooking turkey bacon. i look at her with a what do you mean? look on my face and she repeats herself. her asking the same question again isn't helpful but i know where she's going with it all along. 

tanzi ki? as in what is tanzi? in english. my mother is curious about tanzi's gender and sexuality. they* stayed over during the week and are spending time with me at my place more often. despite my friendship with tanzi existing for over three years now and having seen and talked to them before, today is the first time my mother asked about their gender identity. i gauged further to know what exactly she wanted to know because i'm curious about how she'll frame the questions. my mother then responded with, "well, does tanzi have periods?" i smiled at her innocence and wasn't surprised at her focus on tanzi's period, in other words, her wanting to know about tanzi's biological sex. tanzi is gender nonconforming and identifies as a trans-person. i explained some of this english language to my mother, often drawing comparisons to the third gender or hijra communities in bangladesh. i also spoke about how transitioning works and that some folks choose to take hormones to express their gender, which may stop periods but her trying to understand tanzi should not center periods. 

there are no literal translations of gender nonconforming in bangla and transgender identities hold different meanings to those like my mother whose exposure to respectful and comprehensive conversations about queer & trans identities are nonexistent. even bringing up hijras isn't valuable to this conversation because our association with hijras are their feminine, saree-clad bodies roaming the streets as dancers, beggars or sex workers. thus, while trans-folks are on the margins universally, their identities hold diverse meanings according to space and place. i can't actually talk about hijras in bangladesh to understand trans-communities in america. nevertheless, my mother only wanted to be educated and this was our first open conversation about trans-identity. during my senior thesis year (i wrote a paper on queer muslims in nyc), she was conservative about my choice to pick at the qur'an for sexualizing homosexuality and didn't ask questions. three years later we are finally talking. she then shared how when she arrived to new york in the late 1980s, there was a woman who was romantically interested in her. she recalls this memory as her introduction to queer people existing. queerness never occurred to her while growing up in chittagong and dhaka. 

my father has also been making comments, ammu added. he apparently said, "munmun now hangs out with lesbians." tanzi is an androgynous butch in their clothing style which reads lesbian to my father. he was worried that tanzi may be interested in me because we shared the same bed several times. i laughed. 

ma, sleeping on the same bed doesn't mean we're intimate. have you thought this way when girlfriends slept on my bed? you and abbu shouldn't sexualize my friends like this, lesbian or not. them being a lesbian doesn't mean they're interested in me or other women in our group. a more in-depth lesson on queer identities coming soon. 

i ended our little chat by letting her know that tanzi's not the only one. other queer, trans-identified, beautiful souls have walked and dined in our home. they are my friends. 

tanzi*: original name has been changed; gender pronouns: they/them/theirs

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


i'm having such a difficult time writing this summer. there are pieces i've started that lay unfinished. i've been feeling purposeless since returning from bangladesh and am still figuring out whether or not i want to stay in new york. i'm starting a new job, part-time at an elected official's office. i'll be more public about it in september, when i start. i'll be working in brooklyn near home with bangladeshis in the district. a part of me feels excited, but overall, i am confused and anxious about working again. i hope that when i'm back in a routine, i feel better to finish the unfinished writing. do you need a routine to feel productive? i am need of structure but am miserably failing right now.

though i'm feeling purposeless in terms of what's next for my career: should i pursue higher education? what makes me feel whole?, this year has been one of personal growth. i went through a friendship breakup, which was the most difficult emotional thing ever because i felt off balance, unworthy, and incapable of making new friends or deepening the ones i have. i was reflective about my needs in friendships alongside thinking about the ways i can be a better friend. i feel good about the breakup and where i'm headed as i build with friends. i'm learning to address those hard to talk about feelings as they come up rather than avoiding them; i'm letting go of my stubbornness and the need to hold more power in friendships by way of punishing friends for tiny issues (at times i'm quick to give silent treatments); and acknowledging that all's not hopeless, that i'm loved and so so capable of loving deeply.

this summer i'm home more (unemployment) and the only one at home with my parents. sabia and sazia live away. i was devastated with the both of them moving out and visiting on a weekend basis. their moving has actually been a blessing in disguise. i have more time for self things, feel more in control of spending time alone, and i value the quiet as well as the chaotic (when they're home). i've also learned to love them individually and look forward to their visits. i don't feel tied to existing as a group of sisters, but it feels good when we get together. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

(gossiping) aunties

(গসিপিং) আন্টিরা—
আমাদের একসঙ্গে, মিলে মিশে থাকা লাগবে
এই পুরুষের দুনিয়ায়।
আমি আপনার বেপারে খারাপ বলব, আপনি আমার বেপারে খারাপ বলবেন,
এইভাবে বদনাম চোরাইলে আমরা
টিকবো না।
কথা বলুন, বলুন কিভাবে স্বাধীন ভাবে চলার ক্ষমতা বাড়ানো যায়।

(gossiping) auntyra—
amader ekshonge, mile mishe thaka lagbe
ei purusher duniyai.
ami apnar bepare kharap bolbo, apni amar bepare kharap bolben,
eibhabe bodnam choraile amra tikbo na.
kotha bolun, bolun kibhabe shadhin bhabe cholar khomota barano jai.

(weak translation)
(gossiping) aunties—
we've got to support one another
in this man's world.
if i'm gonna talk shit about you and you're gonna talk shit about me,
we will not survive abusing one another.
talk, talk about how we'll (women will) achieve liberation.