The Forbidden Love

Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

2021 - Ongoing

In Bangladesh, having been abandoned by family and friends, transgender people are subject to extensive daily abuse. The existing and continuously growing transphobia and homophobia in society are obstacles in the trajectory of enlightenment for an individual. The featured individuals of the LGBTQ+ community share a wide variety of such life narratives.

As a photo story, “The Forbidden Love” seeks to elevate and celebrate love, portraying their desire to live with and within love. The vividness in their expressions, their enchanting bonding with partners, and the simplistic honesty made these photographs possible, catalyzing the compartmentalization of the existing stereotypes. Perhaps this project is a leap to explore the infinite and beautiful gradient of the representation of love; it attempts to redefine love beyond the gender identities and stigmas through the true reflection of their personas. The photographs and interviews in “The Forbidden Love” have been used as photographic tableaux.

“The Forbidden Love” is a collaborative photo project with the LGBTQR+ community in Bangladesh. They have been fighting for their fundamental rights of loving with chosen ones and rights to live with equal rights. Using interviews with the LGBTQR+ community in Bangladesh as source material to recreate their memories into photographic montages.

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  • “I grew up in terrible loneliness. I wanted to talk to someone, but no one was there to listen to me. It was about my body and mind. So I left home knowing no one would come to take me back. So I have never lived a normal life. And love has always been a forbidden venture for me” – Lara, a twenty-three-year-old transwoman, and a professional dancer

  • “Every day, we fear to lose each other. Being a trans-couple in a transphobic society is hard. We cannot do simple things outside what a normal couple does. We have no ties with our biological families. Our families abandoned us. For almost four years, we have been in a relationship. I felt fragile when I heard how many people were dying from coronavirus. If something happens to my partner, I will be no longer bearing the grief” – Sonia, a twenty-eight-year-old transgender woman living with her partner

  • “My husband said I am the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. I trust him. Because he deeply loves me. His love has changed my life, healed my wound, and poured my heart. In the past four years, we made a beautiful home together. When he came to our guru to ask my hand, my guru questioned how long he would stay. He said till death and beyond. I never cried in front of him because he could never see me sad. I am a transwoman, I have been through heartache, and I was ridiculed, tortured, and mocked. His love made me believe I am a human being too. Last year my husband went to Kuwait. He wants to build our future; he does not want me to work in a way that could humiliate me in any way. He brought me back to my guru and begged her to keep me safe till he returned. I never knew how beautiful life could be before I met him. His father calls me and visits me with big fish. He calls me daughter-in-law. I have lived all the happiness that was reserved for me in this world. Now I want my husband never to return to me. He should marry a normal girl and have a child of his own. I cannot deprive him more. I have decided to leave. To let him enjoy the life any normal man could live, with no judgment, with a gaggle of small children and respect from the society. The love I already have is enough to spend one life” – Karishma, a twenty-eight-year-old transwoman

  • “I have learned to love myself in a hard way. Every door I knocked was closed for me while my identity was revealed. No one wanted me or accepted as a woman. When I left home, no one tried to stop me, no one chased me, and no one wanted me to come back home. I was all alone in a city, and it was a strange feeling of not being wanted by anyone. Then I found my community, the people who always stand beside us. They are like me, and they are my original home. But still, my heart bleeds when my past family asks me to go back to them, but as a man. I cannot betray myself” – Lara, a twenty-three-year-old transwoman who works as a professional dancer

  • “For us, love is fleeting, temporal, and complicated. Perhaps this is the destiny of a transgender person. Many girls from my group overbreak up to kill their hearts. I have been in love many times. It’s always new, always precious, but it’s always transient. And every time I lose someone I love, I have to accept it; you can never deny the harsh reality of a society where being a transwoman is considered a curse in families. Although there are memories of love and agony that no one can erase, not even I, love is magical” – Lara, a twenty-three-year-old transwoman with her partner

  • “It was love at first sight. We stared at each other and knew there was something. I was hurt, betrayed, tortured in the past. For a transwoman, love is like poison, killing the heart. But my partner left his world for me. We have been together for one year now. I know there are days when he misses his family who stops talking to him. He says someday they will accept us. I do not hope for anything. As long as we are together, life is beautiful.” – Ash is an eighteen-year-old transwoman who had to leave home at the age of nine due to societal humiliation

  • “Love is a disease. It almost killed me. After seven years in a relationship, my boyfriend disappeared, I searched for him everywhere, but he finally married another woman. He could have told me the truth. Love is not about robbing someone. I was hurt and about to kill myself. It was not because of the betrayal but for the feeling of being unwanted and unloved. I have met many men since then. But none of them conquered my heart anymore. The door of my heart is now closed forever” – Bristy is a twenty-five-year-old transwoman

  • “It could be our last embrace, our last meeting. We might never see each other again. We live with this fear. My partner is leaving for the village. His family asked him to move with them. He has a wife and a child. I do not want to hold him back. But I knew well, no matter how far he stays, he will miss me every time he breathes” – Sakira (25) and Robin (27), a trans-couple in their last embrace

  • “I feel free when I am in nature. I haven’t spent a single day without abuse. People bullied me, hurt me, betrayed me. I was always strong, always. Some days some clients would take me to the jungle for sex and use me badly. I have no complaint to anybody. It is my life, and it’s a way of killing my heart in humiliation and isolation. When I feel alone, devastated, I come to this place. I come here to cry loudly. I cry the loudest cry. I feel free; I feel I can live another day” – Bobita, a twenty-one-year-old transwoman

  • “Sometimes, I feel like a bird. My feathers fly in the air, so light that it never touches the ground. Or is it my heart that feels like a bird? Yes, my heart moves from place to place, sometimes in transit from present to past. And I have no barrier to cross, neither I have a home to choose. I only stay where my heart wants to belong” – Konok, a transwoman


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