Somota Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of Bangladeshi queer (1) people.
Our mission is to work with LGBTQ2IA+ (2) individuals in Bangladesh to overcome boundaries that infringe on our rights as a free citizen as enshrined in our constitution. We want everyone to live in our society with dignity and respect irrespective of their gender and sexual identity.
Increasing visibility and public awareness of the Bangladeshi queer community by supporting local queer individuals, allies and partners, and act as a catalyst for the community’s development and cooperation.
1. Decriminalizing penal code 377 in Bangladesh and bringing in queer-inclusive laws
2. Raising awareness about homophobia (3), inner homophobia (4) and transphobia (5) and documenting incidents of bullying and harassment against queer people in Bangladesh
3. Creating and promoting new queer youth leaders in the community
4. Promoting projects related to queer culture, research and higher education
5. Raising awareness about queer and intersex issues among medical and psychological professionals in Bangladesh
Queer: We are using the word “Queer” as an umbrella term to work inclusively for lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, intersex, asexual, questioning, two-spirit, gender non-conforming (GNC), genderqueer individuals and other gender and sexual minorities. Being queer is also about non-normativity, creativity, and diversity beyond heteronormative culture. The gay identity stereotypically comes with expectations around gender performance, politics, body standards, and sexual desires, and these feel oppressive to many people. So, young organizers around the world are claiming the word “queer” to talk about any kind of sexuality outside the traditional heteronormative form. Policymakers and development practitioners often use the words LGBTQ2IA+ and LGBTQ+ as synonyms for the word “queer”. Our preference is to use the word queer, but we will use the words queer, LGBTQ2IA+ and LGBT+ interchangeably.
LGBTQ2IA+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual, and other identities that fall outside of cisgender and heterosexual paradigms. This word is often used by development practitioners and policymakers as synonyms for the more activist term “queer”.
Homophobia: dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people. Like all other types of “phobias”, this fear of queer people is based on a lack of knowledge about queer people in places where they are forced to stay invisible due to fear of their life and livelihood. It forms a vicious cycle when change doesn’t happen because queer people have to hide and their society continues to be fearful of them because they do not know any queer people who are open about their lives. We hope to break this cycle.
Inner homophobia: (or internalized homophobia) happens when queer individuals are subjected to society’s negative perceptions, intolerance and stigmas towards queer people, and as a result, they internalize those ideas inward believing they are true. In other words, we start fearing and hating our own selves more than others because we start believing the lie that we learn from an early age about us. We hope to cultivate pride among Bangladeshi queer people for being good just the way they were born.
Transphobia: dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people. This is similar to homophobia but can be more dangerous in very patriarchal societies where for transwomen, being feminine is wrongly connected with being weak, and since trans folk often cannot be invisible like gay or lesbians in patriarchal societies, they face the most brutal hate crimes against them. The same goes for transmen who are not allowed to show masculine traits because that challenges traditional heteronormative gender roles. So, special focus needs to be paid to transphobia, which is a type of specialized phobia as opposed to homophobia, which is fear against any kind of gender-variant people.