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'Bangladesh's first lesbian comic strip heroine gets more global than local attention'
Priyanka Dasgupta, The Times of India, TNN | Sep 9, 2015
Boys of Bangladesh
Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) is the oldest and the largest platform of self-identified Bangladeshi gay men. It is a non-registered, non-funded and absolutely volunteer-based organization working to create a safe space for sexual and gender minority community of Bangladesh.
Lesbian comic character, Dhee
Boys of Bangladesh (BoB) has launched Bangladesh's first-ever lesbian comic character, Dhee. The event, held at the British Council, was addressed by Ann McConnell, director of the American Center.
The comic character has been developed as an advocacy material as part of "Project Dhee", a new initiative of BoB aiming to advance the nascent movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Bangladesh.
Dhee, through her stories of growing up, longing and belonging, will address the silence and taboo around gender and sexuality in our society. Fashioned more like separate flashcards rather than a comic book, the stories of Dhee will be used to conduct 15 countrywide campaigns to impart knowledge and information about gender and sexuality.
The Bangla word, 'Dhee', means intellect, knowledge, wisdom, cognition or comprehension. Dhee makes human beings curious, innovate and seek out the unknown.
Shakhawat Hossain on Project Dhee
Shakhawat Hossain, the project manager of Project Dhee said:
This comic, done in the format of 10 flashcards, was conceived as an advocacy material for the countrywide campaign that Boys of Bangladesh is conducting as part of Project Dhee. When we thought of preparing unique, attractive and effective advocacy material to talk about gender and sexuality, creating a comic character deemed to be the best solution. And that's how Dhee came to be. We wanted a Bangladeshi, middle class girl who is just like anyone else but at the same time also stands out. We envisioned Dhee to be an empowered, knowledgeable and easily relatable character. It was also very important for us to think of the gender stereotypes and not glamorize Dhee. So, she is not fair, has curly hair and wears glasses. She does not really fit in to the typical definition of beauty but it is her inner glow (Dhee means wisdom in Bangla) that makes her who she is.
The storyline, along with the whole concept, was conceived by our content developers who themselves come from the LGBT community. Moreover, they had multiple community consultations, listened to individual stories and took feedback from experts. This was truly a community and cooperative effort. The story of Dhee can easily be relatable to many middle class, Muslim, Bangladeshi lesbian persons.
One of the young, talented illustrators of our country has worked on the comic. The person does not want to be named due to security reasons.
It's very interesting that the Dhee received more international than local attention. Only a handful of local newspapers picked up the story and most of them have been positive. So far we saw only two negative reporting. Moreover, the launching event was the largest ever LGBT event in the country with a huge turnout. We received immense support from the community, civil society and development workers. However, we faced the most backlash from social media where homophobic posts, comments and verbal abuse have been observed. But no incidents in real life as yet.