TV Shows History Pop Culture

I love history, but I can’t stand historical TV shows

I’m a big history nerd. I’m not only a history major, but someone who collects and wears historical clothes, who owns figurines of historical figures, who collects books on my favorite parts of history, and who played history games throughout my entire childhood. Studying history has always been a huge part of my identity, and one I’m still happy to include in my life today. But it’s probably time to admit it: I hate historical TV shows. As a history geek, I should love them, but it’s hard for me to stomach a single one.

These shows forget that people in the past did, in fact, have fun.

I have one main reason, and it’s that these shows are straight-up boring. The lighting is too dark, the costumes too beige and ugly, and every word of dialogue is spoken in a raspy whisper. Everything is so bleak it’s almost impossible to follow. Try watching The Medici or The Tudors. I have difficulty figuring out anything that’s going on. And don’t get me started on the lighting in The Crown. 

A disheveled white man with a beard and a loose top.
[Image Description: A dark-haired white man in a dark shirt] via BBC. This is how Da Vinci’s Demons dresses its protagonists — in dull, disheveled, and downright ugly clothing.
And trust me, I won’t hear the excuse that real life was just as bleak back then. As a keen student of historical costuming, I know that a lot of historical clothing was bright, extravagant, and sometimes just ridiculous. I admit it’s not the biggest issue, but it still rubs me the wrong way. I feel like these shows forget that people in the past did, in fact, have fun occasionally. You rarely see any entertainment or festivities in these shows, unless they’re doomed to go horribly wrong. You almost never see any characters genuinely laugh in these shows. Sure, living in the past was terrible in a lot of ways, but people still retained a sense of humor.

I’ll give you an example. I once made the horrible mistake of attempting to watch Da Vinci’s Demons, which loosely follows the life of Leonardo da Vinci, and encapsulates everything I hate about historical television. The show portrays Leonardo as a tortured, edgy womanizer, despite the fact that he was almost certainly gay and, by all accounts, a very pleasant person. Throughout the show, he almost exclusively wears dark, tattered shirts and dusty trousers, whereas the historical Leonardo wore brightly-colored tunics and tights. It might sound ridiculous to the modern viewer, but personally, I think we should acknowledge the absurdity of history. And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s easier to relate to people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

A brightly colored Renaissance painting of a wealthy, finely dressed family.
[Image Description: a Renassaince painting showing a group of people dressed in beautiful costumes.]This is how people in the Renaissance actually dressed! Short tunics, leggings, bright colors…it may not be as sexy, but it’s way more fun!
There’s also a lot of unnecessary drama in historical TV shows. I’ll admit, this trend strikes me as odd because there’s already so much drama in real history. Shows like The Tudors, The Borgias, The Last Kingdom, and The Medici like to make a big deal out of political battles and sex scandals, and rarely imbue these plot lines with any humor or humanity. Drama is important for entertainment’s sake, but we can still try and make the drama seem somewhat human. Most relationships aren’t built on stolen glances and steamy affairs. Why not portray these love stories with affection, awkwardness, and a tiny bit of down-to-earth humanity?

History isn’t all epic battles and heaving bosoms, a lot of it is everyday life.

Even the grand, epic battles are a little too dramatic for my sake. They ignore the disease, the squalor, and the sheer tedium of real-life battles. It might not be fun to acknowledge the unglamorous parts of history, but it makes for better television. If we’re going to relate to these historical figures, we need to at least see them as human.


Most historical TV shows seem totally unwilling to have any fun with history. They refuse to acknowledge that along with the drama and sadness of history, there’s also comedy and absurdity and awkwardness. Historical people were real human beings. Sometimes they wore ridiculous outfits, joked around with each other, and made awkward mistakes. History isn’t all epic battles and heaving bosoms, a lot of it is everyday life. I certainly don’t think these shows are evil, but they do make history feel so much more distant and detached than it really is.

We should remember that history has plenty of dimensions, some good and some bad, some funny and some serious, some totally normal and some downright weird. It doesn’t help to glamorize or romanticize history, but it doesn’t help to dull it down either. Historical figures were people too, and our television should at least recognize them as such. Besides, it’s more fun that way anyway.

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LGBTQIA+ Lookbook

This founder is creating LGBTQIA+ merch, but with discreet designs

This is a story of pride, passion, unicorns, and an Instagram ad that led me to something wonderful.

Heckin’ Unicorn is a Singapore-based brand that designs unique LGBTQIA+ merch. According to the website, all products are designed by their “resident Singaporean unicorn.” I was lucky enough to get to interview the unicorn himself, Heckin’ Unicorn founder Teo Yu Sheng.

Teo Yu Sheng founded Heckin’ Unicorn a little over two years ago. He had a few motivations to start this project. Some years ago, Yu Sheng traveled to San Francisco on a short university trip, where he visited the famous “gay capital of San Francisco”, Castro (the neighborhood that elected Harvey Milk to office). He was excited to buy pride merchandise but was left disappointed. “Most of them were quite boring,” he says. “A lot of them were just the rainbow flag pasted on different shapes and media. Tote bags with rainbow flags, square pins with rainbow flags… just like permutations of rainbow flags. I later realized that lots of amazing and cute pride products exist — just not in brick and mortar shops.” Yu Sheng was a product and UX designer – he knew he could do this too. 

Puns and Discreet Designs

So began Heckin’ Unicorn – first as a side project. Yu Sheng started off by designing six pins. As in the Instagram post above, they could not definitively be identified as pride pins, unless you looked closely and already knew the lingo. “A lot of the designs are inspired by puns or inside jokes.” He points to the bicycle pin as an example. “If you are an outsider, the bicycle just looks like a bicycle. But if you are within the community, you realize that the bicycle has the bisexual colors.”

He conducts research on inside jokes within the LGBTQIA+ community and gathers his ideas for discreet designs from there. “The idea behind that is, in Singapore, the acceptance is just not there yet,” he explains. “A lot of people are closeted to some extent.” In this regard, Yu Sheng considers himself lucky. “I am in quite a privileged position. Not really financially, but more in terms of my existence as a queer person in Singapore.” Yu Sheng is out to his family, friends, and colleagues, all of whom have accepted him.

Not everyone in Singapore is as fortunate. This was another motivation behind Heckin’ Unicorn, the desire to use his position and skills to push for change and make people feel proud about themselves. Yu Sheng thinks that closeted people are the ones who most need to feel self-pride and self-love. The discreet designs are a way for the most vulnerable members of the community to feel pride and acceptance. 

LGBTQIA+ Laws in Singapore

Singapore is a very conservative country – Section 377A of the Penal Code in Singapore prohibits sex between consenting male adults. But is it illegal to be queer in Singapore? According to Yu Sheng, not really, but kind of. It is important to understand the local culture and nuance when talking about the law and the LGBTQIA+ community in Singapore. The law still exists, but people are not really penalized under it. The law in its direct form seems to cause less harm than it does in its indirect form, which is why activists in Singapore are fighting to get it repealed.

“This law is sort of the foundation of all the institutionalized discrimination,” says Yu Sheng. The Heckin’ Unicorn website has a blog in which Yu Sheng addresses issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in Singapore. I ask him how it works running the blog and running a queer company in Singapore – does he censor himself anywhere? “You can be critical, but you just need to be very careful with how you word things,” he replies. “That’s the thin line that I’m trying to walk.” 

As a queer person growing up in Singapore, the culture makes it such that you don’t really know what it is to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many politicians in Singapore have asked that society be allowed to naturally progress on LGBTQIA+ issues in its own time. But how can this happen if society’s eyes and ears are closed to their struggles? “That’s the main idea behind the blog,” he says. “To write more in-depth articles about queer issues.”

The Unicorn Library

The Unicorn Library is a completely free online library by Heckin’ Unicorn, featuring LGBTQIA+ characters and writings by LGBTQIA+ authors. Yu Sheng got the idea to start this when he read a book called Peculiar Chris by Johann S. Lee. It was the first time he ever saw himself, a gay Chinese man in Singapore, represented in literature – and this was just a few years ago. The book made him realize just how important representation was. Most people who borrow from the library tend to be younger people who don’t have access to LGBTQIA+ literature in their schools or homes. Yu Sheng wants them to know that even if they have not seen representations of themselves when they were growing up, such representations do exist. “It’s important for them to know that their stories are being told and that they are not alone.” 

The Future

Yu Sheng thinks it will be interesting to see if he can run a business that pushes for change to happen faster. Although he loves it, the work can get exhausting at times. “Now my whole life is about queer identities,” he says, laughing. “I think one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s okay for me to take a break. And it’s okay for me to not respond to everything that happens because I’m just one person.”

He may be just one person, but I can see that he is doing a lot for the LGBTQIA+ community in and outside of Singapore. I, for one, am really excited to see new designs and hear more from this creative Singaporean unicorn.

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Shopping Under $25 Style & Beauty Last Minute Gift Ideas

5 queer-owned make up brands to support beyond Pride Month

Pride is a beautiful time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. And to support queer friends and family in all their endeavors (which we should do year-round). So much beauty and creativity flow through the rainbow, and it’s a shame they are lost in the current of huge corporations doing rainbow washing Pride campaigns. Today I want to tell you about some of my favorite make-up products from small, queer-owned businesses that I think you should know about. Let’s get started!

1. DandyLionsCreations’s Dirty Martini Vegan Pressed Matte Eyeshadow Chartreuse

[Image description: a mustard-colored matte eyeshadow.] via Etsy
Dandy Lions Cosmetics produces beautiful, vegan eyeshadows: your eyes will feel like they’ve been kissed by nature. And your pets will definitely want to wear it, too( it’s vegan).

Get DandyLionsCo Products here!

2. MichaelFoxit’s Natural Liquid Foundation Free Cosmetic Sponge No dye

[Image description: beige-colored foundation.] via Etsy
Harmonize your skin with these foxy foundations! Michaelfoxit products have your skin glowing: feel like a celebrity from the 1960s. Hairspray we’re coming!

Get MichaelFoxit Products here!

3. Moonrise Comestics’ Natural Mascara Botanical Blend Black or Brown Earth

[Image description: a black mascara and a sunflower backdrop. The sunflower has yellow petals and black pollen.] via Etsy
Make everyone howl at the moon in these illuminating natural products. No flakiness, no clumpiness.

Get Moonrise Comestics Products here

4. FinalGirls Comestics’ A horror-themed beauty company by FinalGirlCosmeticsUS

[ Image description: an eyeshadow palette with the colors blue, green, gold, and pink.] via Etsy
Because we’re always ready for Halloween. FinalGirls Comestics offers highly pigmented eyeshadow palettes that grace the world with unconventional colors. And more after the credits!

Get FinalGirl Comestics Products here!

5. Diamanté Cosmetics’ Melting Rich Matte Liquid Lipstick

[Image description: a shiny, reflective lipstick covering.] via Etsy
Transport yourself into the world of diamonds with Diamante Comestics. Rihanna would be proud: you’ll shine bright like a diamond. All of the products are of high quality.

Get Diamanté Cosmetics Products here!

Makeup is a beautiful form of art. And you deserve high-quality products. Shop at these lovely queer-owned businesses!

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LGBTQIA+ Gender & Identity Life

Why labeling can be a double-edged sword for many within the LGBTQIA+ community

This is a bit of a trick question because there is no right or wrong answer. In truth, there are both positives and negatives to labeling your sexuality, gender identity, or expression. However, society has not yet broken up with the idea of assuming people are straight and cisgender unless otherwise stated. This collective, societal assumption often makes queer-identified people feel they should come out and explicitly label themselves to change the narrative of heteronormativity. 

Notably, though, the automatic presumption of someone’s sexuality and/or gender is the real problem in this conversation. For many reasons, no one should feel pressured to adopt a label, especially because labeling could have life-threatening consequences for many BIPOC queer folks.

At the same time, as younger generations become more vocal about the injustices they face, different cultures reflect progressive change through policies and public consciousness. Unlike older generations, more young people have the privilege of being open about their sexualities, gender identities, and expressions. In fact, a survey done by Gallup demonstrates one out of six zoomers considers themselves a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The amount of openly queer individuals and communities have only increased as time progresses, thus re-normalizing queerness within white supremacist or colonized societies. So maybe labeling isn’t so bad after all, right?

For one, labeling can be beneficial as people can establish their own chosen family consisting of people who better understand their personhood and have the ability to empathize with their struggles.

Labeling can also bring advancement and provide other queer people the hope that they can one day be “out” as well. Although queer people have long existed throughout history, being able to openly be yourself without legal persecution (depending on where you live), is due to the work of LGBTQIA+ activists as well as individuals who were brave enough to advocate not only for themselves but for others.

On the other hand, a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or expression is their own business. See: how Ariana Grande approaches her own queerness. Ariana didn’t outright say she was queer in a public capacity until it was mentioned in her song “Monopoly” with Victoria Monét and perhaps implied in the music video for her single “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.”

However, both Ariana’s audience and some critics thought she was queerbaiting.

In a BBC article, Professor Julia Himberg of Arizona State University says “Our identities have been used over and over again in pop culture to establish an edgy identity.” So when high-profile celebrities tease around their gender or sexual expression without explicitly stating what their labels are, it can come off as performative. Fans may then feel lied to and see the person as disingenuous for showcasing deceitful representation.

Correspondingly, Ariana’s fanbase contains many people who identify within the LGBTQIA+ community, so her slight “hints” around her sexuality seemed like pandering. Except, it’s Ariana’s choice whether she wants to disclose personal information or not because, ultimately, she’s not obligated to share private aspects of herself with the public. 

It’s understandable fans want to see themselves in their idol, as it makes them feel closer to those they support. But it’s unfair to put pressure on a stranger you have a parasocial relationship with to do something they aren’t yet comfortable with. Ultimately, forcing celebrities to label themselves is not the kind of queer representation we should want.

Moreover, as great as it is to be within a community amongst others who share the same identity, there are still limitations. The LGBTQIA+ acronym itself is frequently argued as being exclusive to other identities that aren’t represented with a letter. Some feel that excluding certain identities and denoting them as only a “plus” is insulting.

The LGBTQIA+ community is one that encompasses inclusion and intersectionality; however, by not highlighting all the possible identities within the acronym, the community may be doing the opposite. Activists and community members alike are unsure how to go about rectifying this issue. People should be excited to see themselves within their chosen family, not be hidden behind a small symbol or be disregarded completely. Why should some people go through the trouble of labeling themselves if they can go unacknowledged within their own community?

Perhaps, though, this is a matter of other queer people being unaware of the entire spectrum of gender and sexuality and not out of intentional negligence. For others, this can be seen as a petty problem when the acronym should be praised for how much progress it has created so far.

Despite my own hesitancy, I label myself because, for me, openly claiming my own queerness and bisexuality feels like an act of resistance. In some Black households, families are unaccepting of those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is because many Black people are conservative Christians and harbor idealized family dynamics based on the social structures from the Bible. 

Additionally, there are many within the LGBTQIA+ community who stereotype or ignore bisexuals, despite us having the highest percentage of members within the community. Biphobia and bisexual erasure are constant issues bisexual people face.

People often question the validity of our sexuality and think bisexuality is a “stepping stone” for either deciding you are completely straight or completely gay. For these reasons, I continue using my label because it’s my way of fighting back against the marginalizations placed upon me while being Black, woman, and bisexual.

Personally, I consider myself as a “somewhat out bisexual.” My significant other, close friends, cousins, and Twitter followers are aware of my sexuality but not the majority of my family. It may seem cowardly to not be fully out, but I’m doing what feels comfortable for me at the moment while still combatting people’s negative perceptions surrounding my identity by just being myself. 

All things considered, how you choose to identify will always be your choice. Labels can provide comfort and help you better connect with others who share similarities with you. On the other hand, labels can make you feel as though you have to live up to certain expectations instead of being your true self. 

Labeling wouldn’t hold so much conflict if we stopped assuming everyone is cisgender and straight if they haven’t stated otherwise with a big announcement. We need to be more open-minded, including other queer folks, for the way sexuality and gender can fluctuate because the two exist on a spectrum and were never “fixed” concepts to begin with. 

Gender and sexuality are aspects of your identity that can be shaped and molded to fit the best versions of you. No one needs to tell you how to present to the world and you shouldn’t be forced to confine yourself within any societal, cultural, or community standards not set by yourself. After all, only you can truly define who you are. 

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Shopping Clothing Shoes Accessories Outfits Lookbook

19 spectacular statement pieces to wear at Pride this year

Pride events take place throughout the summer all over the world. It’s a celebration of queer sexuality and identity in a world that abhors it.  Queer people get decked out in Pride gear and display self-love in the most beautiful form.  This list is for everyone attending: get ready to show the world you’re here, you’re queer and you’re not going anywhere.

1. A Pride Backpack (Etsy)

[A Pride Backpack with the colors of the rainbow: blue,purple, red,orange, and blue.] via Etsy
Carry your pride in a fun and colorful backpack.

Get it here for $58.07+

2. A Pride Brooch (GAP)

[A pride brooch. It is silver and says the word love and the letter  ‘O’ is replaced with studded and rainbow colored-heart.] via Banana Republic
Don’t be afraid to be aBROOCHable throughout the day.

Get it here for $$38.00+

3. A Pride T-Shirt (ASOS)

[Image description: a T-shirt that says they/them, she/her, he/him and we with a rainbow background. the rest of the t-shirt is white.] via ASOS UK
Because we can’t let anyone forget our pronouns at PRIDE, right?

Get it here for $35.00+

4. A Pride Hat (ASOS)

[Image description: a green hat that says ‘Reclaimed’ in rainbow colors.] via ShopStyle
Reclaiming queerness, reclaiming style.

Get it here for $20.21+

5. A Pride Rainbow Bow Tie (Etsy)

[Image description: a rainbow tie.] via Etsy
Because who wouldn’t want to be choked by the rainbow?

Get it here for $22.95+

6. A Pride Anklet (Etsy)

[A  rainbow pride anklet.] via Etsy
 Pride runs from the feet to the head.

Get it here for $8.86+

7. A Pride Scrunchie (Etsy)

[ A rainbow scrunchie.] via Etsy
Rainbows lie above the head after all.

Get it here for $5.18+

8.  A Pride Headband (Etsy)

[Image description: a mickey mouse themed Pride headband. It is white with colorful mickey mouse imprints all over it.] via Etsy
Because queerness isn’t just in the head.

Get it here for $8.00+

9. A Pride Ring (Etsy)

[Image description: a gold ring with star and bead rainbow designs.] via Etsy
You can’t go wrong with rings as the perfect Pride accessory.

Get it here for $24.65+

10. A Pride Mask (Etsy)

[Image description: a black mask with the inscription ‘Be Gay, Do Crime.] via Etsy
Because the gays need a chic mask moment.

Get it here for $11.23+

11. Pride Earrings (Etsy)

[Image description: rainbow beaded earrings.] via Etsy
Because studs are never a dud.

Get it here for $32.00+

12. Custom Pride Flag (Etsy)

{Image description: custom LGBT flags to represent the spectrum of sexuality.]

Different flags. Same mission.

Get it here for $15.00+

13. A  Personalized Pride Water Bottle (Etsy)

[Image description: a white water bottle with the name Poppi on it.]
It’s important to come prepared. And to keep your water bottle safe.

Get it here for $26.64+

14. A Pride Bracelet (Etsy)

[Image description: A beaded rainbow Bracelet.] via Etsy
 In my opinion, bracelets and are the easiest way to show off your sexuality and identity.

Get it here for $5.61+

15. A Pride Pin (Etsy)

[Image description: A Pride Pin.] via Etsy
These are perfect on purses and backpacks. And on your mailbox, because the queers have an agenda, of course.

Get it here for $7.00+

16. Pride Heart Stickers (Etsy)

Image description: rainbow stickers in the shape of a heart.] via Etsy

You never know when you need to stick it to a homophobe.

Get it here for $4.25+

17. Pride Shoes (Etsy)

[Image description: white running shoes with a heart filled in with a rainbow.] via Etsy
Run away from homophobes in these cute sneakers.

Get it here for $59.99+

18. A Pride Scarf/ Bandana (Etsy)

[ Image description: a Pride Bandana.] via Etsy
Live out your Bridgerton fantasies in this scarf.

Get it here for $12.99+

19. Pride Sunglasses (Etsy)

Because the sun won’t leave Pride.

Get it here for $12.99+

Pride means solidarity. The louder you are, the more people hear you. Everyone deserves to be heard and experience a safe support system —that’s what Pride means. Have a safe one!

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Book Reviews Pop Culture

“Meet Cute Diary” is the happy trans love story we’ve all been waiting for

Let me begin by saying – if you like cute love stories and popular romance tropes, this book is for you. Meet-cutes, fake dating, friends to lovers… if you have an itch for romance, Meet Cute Diary will definitely scratch it. The book by Emery Lee follows Noah Ramirez, a 16-year-old trans teenager who runs a blog named ‘Meet Cute Diary’. It features meet-cute love stories and is something of a haven for trans people on the Internet. It gives the community (and Noah himself) hope that one day, they too will bump into someone special at an ice cream shop and have the perfect love story

The problem? All the stories are fake. 

An Internet troll figures this out and decides to come for the blog, picking apart each post and pointing out inconsistencies that prove the lie. Noah becomes determined to do anything to save his blog.

The majority of the book is set in Denver, Colorado, where Noah is visiting his older brother, Brian, at college. He has to spend his summer dealing with Brian’s annoying girlfriend, the looming threat to the Diary, and missing his best friend Becca whom he has left behind in Florida. Luckily, he meets Drew, who is willing to fake date Noah to lend legitimacy to his stories. (Summer romance? Check! Fake dating? Check! Friends to lovers? You’ll have to read to find out!) 

Noah has a very firm idea of romance, down to the steps every perfect relationship must have – from the meet-cute to the happily-ever-after. I loved the fact that the book chapters actually follow his plan – each chapter is named after a relationship milestone. But as the summer goes on, Noah slowly realizes that life doesn’t really work like a romcom, and things don’t always go according to plan.

Meet Cute Diary is a cleverly written book. It combines classic elements of romance with unexpected twists and turns. Every time I thought I could predict how a particular chapter would end, I was wrong. Emery Lee subverts the classic tropes while still maintaining the essence and cute romance of it all. 

The characters are incredibly well fleshed out. Noah is romantic, idealistic, and a little bit selfish. He is interesting and deeply relatable to anyone who has dreamt of finding true love. Through the stories on his blog, he is a source of comfort to many people – a beacon of hope that says “you deserve to be loved as you are”. But he himself is yet to internalize this message. 

A main thread throughout the book is the need for happy trans love stories. Noah wants his blog to be a haven for trans people, a place where a community can see themselves in the narratives and tropes normally reserved for heteronormative couples. The book Meet Cute Diary itself accomplishes what the eponymous blog sets out to do.

It is also interesting to see the main characters’ lives being distorted in the eyes of the Internet. Each chapter begins with messages or posts from people online reacting to Noah’s blog. The juxtaposition of these comments with his life offline highlights just how precarious online fame can be.

It outlines a cute, coming-of-age story, with a trans boy at its center. The book does not erase the very real struggles of the trans experience, but these only serve as a backstory to the main plot and do not overshadow it. I’ve read classic lighthearted YA romances for years, and although I love them, I can’t really make a case for them in terms of diversity. It was all mostly white, heteronormative stories.

Meet Cute Diary finally gave me common tropes I recognize, but with LGBTQ+ protagonists. The representation is truly heartening. I think it is important for us to have stories where we can see LGBTQ+ protagonists live normal, enriching, funny, and of course, cute lives. As Noah eventually discovers in this story, everybody deserves to be loved.

In the end, Meet Cute Diary ended up being a story that I had both read a million times before, and one I could never have predicted. This itself was enough to make me a fan. Throw in the inclusivity of a POC trans protagonist, meaningful character development, and laugh-out-loud moments (this actually happened, I startled the people in my house), and you’ve got yourself a great YA read!

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Shopping Gift Guides Under $50 Last Minute Gift Ideas

21 gifts to get your queer parents this Mother’s Day

Queer individuals should be celebrated on every holiday, including Mother’s Day. It can be hard to find personalized gifts, books or jewelry that center gay relationships, but LGBTQIA+ family members deserve to feel special on important occasions. I did some digging and found the perfect purchases tailored for queer folks.

If you’re looking to show your queer mother, grandma, aunt or any maternal figure in your life you feel pride they’re in your life – this list is for you.

1. Pregnancy Keepsake (Personalised Pregnancy engraved keepsake for two mums)

[Image description: a pregnancy keepsake for a lesbian couple.] via Etsy
This personalized engraved keepsake will remind you of the beautiful journey that is motherhood.

 Get it here for $36.35+

2. A charm  (Lesbian Moms Sapphic Charm)

[ Image description: A charm that displays two lesbian moms and their child.] via Etsy
Everyone knows keychains and phone charms are the best way to show your love for your family.

Get it here for $8.49+

3. A lesbian family print (Lesbian Family Lesbian Moms Gay Baby Shower Family Print)

[Image description: a lesbian family print.] via Etsy
This simple black and white print will adorn your wall with all the colors of pride.

Get it here for $20.25+

4. A watercolor print (Two Moms Watercolor Print Same Sex New Moms LGBT Family Love)

[Image description: a watercolor print of a lesbian family.] via Etsy
This watercolor print will make hearts explode.

Get it here for $12.21+

5. A mother’s day ornament (Our First Mothers Day Ornament Lesbian Two Moms And Baby)

[A mother’s day ornament.] via Etsy
Ornaments for every holiday because our moms deserve Christmas every day.

Get it here for $33.37+

6. A Mother’s Day Mug (Gay Moms Club Mothers Day Mug Gay Mug Lesbian Mug Lesbian)

[ Image description: a mug that says Gay Moms Club.] via Etsy
Because every mom needs a mug, right?

Get it here for $22.46+

7. Matching Couples Shirt (I’m Mama She’s Mommy I’m Mommy Shes Mama)

[Image description: a couple wearing matching t-shirts.] via Etsy
Pronounce your love for your family in these adorable t-shirts.

Get it here for $51.33+

8. A fantastic beret (DYKE LIFE beret)

[Image description: a beret that says ‘dyke life.’] via Etsy
Because we all want to be the gay version of Emily in Paris, right?

Get it here for $35.00+

9. Lesbian Mothers Day Sign (Two Moms Are Better SVG / Gay Parents Lesbian Mothers Day Sign)

[Image description:’two moms are better than one’ sign.] via Etsy
Because framed signs with cute sayings  are neccasary for every household. The astrology experts on Tik Tok said so.

Get it here for $1.25+

10. Bisexual Flag Candle (Bisexual Candle)

[Image description: a candle with the bisexual flag colors. the colors are blue, purple and pink.] via Etsy
Because what home is complete without a beautiful candle that reminds you of the warmth of family.

Get it here for $12.50+

11. A children’s book (Lesbian Family Book / Lesbian Children’s Book / Teach)

[Image description: lesbian family children’s book.] via Etsy
This lesbian family children’s book is perfect for the whole family to read on Mother’s Day. Isn’t this the representation everyone’s advocated for?

Get it here for $29.00+

12. A Pronoun Necklace (They / Them Preferred Pronoun Engraved Silver Bar Chain)

[ Image description: a gold necklace with the inscription’ they/them’] via Etsy
There are adorable necklaces for everyone on the gender spectrum on Etsy. It’s the perfect way to show off gender pronouns.

Get it here for $40.00+

13. Mama, Mommy, and Me Onesie (Mommy Mama and Me Onesie for Two Mom Kids or Baby’s)

[Image description: a onesie with the inscription ‘ mommy, mama and me’ with a rainbow.] via Etsy
This onesie will make everyone in your life smile. And the baby will touch the rainbow.

Get it here for $18.00+

14. A stained glass rainbow suncatcher (Stained Glass Pride Flag Suncatcher / Gay Pride Flag / Rainbow)

[Image description: a stained glass rainbow suncatcher.] via Etsy
 Because we all want to capture the rainbow. Pride cannot escape our clutches.

Get it here for $35.00+

15. Lesbian Vintage Remake Buttons (Lesbian Vintage Remake Buttons LGBT)

[Image description: vintage remake buttons that having sayings including ‘lavender menace’] from the 80’s-90’s activist movement.] via Etsy
These are perfect for 80’s and 90’s mamas. Tell homophobes to eat your shorts.

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16. Lesbian Flag Earrings (Lesbian Earrings Pride Earrings LGBTQ Jewelry Lesbian Gifts)

[ Image description: Lesbian pride earrings. It is orange, purple, pink and white.] via Etsy
These lesbian pride flag earrings will show your mom you have taste.

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17. A bisexual pride flag knot bracelet (Bisexual pride square knot bracelet or anklet LGBTQA)

[ Image description: a Bisexual Pride Bracelet. The colors are blue, pink, and purple.] via Etsy
Because pride seeps through the veins.

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18. A  Pansexual Pride Necklace (Pansexual Pride Flag Necklace Pan Pride LGBTQ Jewelry)

[ Image description: a necklace with the pansexual pride colors: pink, yellow and blue.] via Etsy
 Pan pride but in GOLD.

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19. Lesbian Mother’s Day Card (you can literally never go wrong)

[Image description: a lesbian mother’s day card with an animation of two lamas and an inscription that states ‘ you’re the best mmamas.’] via Etsy
Because the lamas are always bringing the drama, am I right?

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20. Personalized Mother’s Day Graphic or Painting (Custom lesbian mom mothers day gift Personalized gay mothers)

[ Image description: a graphic of a lesbian couple and a rainbow.] via Etsy
Wouldn’t a painting of the whole family light up the entire house?

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21. Proud Parents (Buy Proud Parents by Nicola Hill With Free Delivery |

[Image description: the cover of Proud Parents by Nicola Hill features a Teddy Bear wearing a Pride scarf.] via Wordery
Do you know any queer couples interested in adopting or fostering? This book features many heartwarming stories related to taking care of a child. It’s the perfect Mother’s Day Gift for those interested in navigating queer  parenting.

Get it here for $24.54

We wish queer moms a wonderful day surrounded by loved ones. Every parent deserves to be seen, heard and loved. Happy Mother’s Day!

This day is for every person who has a role in raising a child.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

Dating as a queer brown woman is hard in a country that demands you to be invisible

Celebrate Spirit Day and support queer youth against bullying with us here at The Tempest.

The first time I fell in love, my best friend had shown me a printed still from Sailor Moon, I stared at the picture wide-eyed as I went over all ten of the Sailor Soldiers. Each girl was more beautiful than the next and as my eyes travelled over the different hair shades, it stopped for more than a minute on two women – Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, to my sixth-grade self, they looked like everything I wanted to be as an adult. Feminine, attractive and dripping with big lesbian woman energy (I’d think years later). 

“Who are they?” I asked my best friend as I peered at them with interest. 

“Oh, they’re Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. They’re lesbians.” she said, as if my eleven-year old self knew what the meaning of lesbians were. 

“What does that mean?” 

“It means when women like other women.” 

“What? Really?? You can do that??” 

I sounded mystified. It was an unheard concept to me – no one had ever told me growing up you could date women and that was an actual thing. I assumed everyone was like my parents.

Then, I settled on Tuxedo Kamen, a.k.a, Chiba Mamoru – Sailor Moon’s main squeeze. He looked like every Disney prince but even better with his beautiful midnight blue eyes, tanned skin and an ugly green sweater that would become the running joke in all the fanfictions I would read in secret years later when I was supposed to be studying for my finals. 

He was lovely, he was the knight in shining armor, and he was the perfect man. 

The only problem? 

I didn’t know what to make of him and my mind kept going back to the image of Sailor Uranus’ hand wrapped around Sailor Neptune’s neck in the photo.

Was that love? 

I’m in tenth grade when I start to understand that something about me is different. High school was a confusing time for me and everyone I knew – we kept so many secrets from each other and we pretended to be something we were not.  It was a terrible time to discover you were maybe a lesbian woman. 

Classmates magically had secret boyfriends overnight and I would be asked ad nauseam who I liked (it was always Tuxedo Kamen or some new anime man I discovered during my many YouTube binge watching sessions). People thought I was childish and when pestered if I had a crush on anyone – anyone at all, I vaguely admitted I liked a childhood friend (a boy I went to church with). Everything was fine, I was alright, and they left me alone. 

It was only months later during a trip to India for my grandparents wedding anniversary, I would hear that my third favorite teen celebrity Lindsay Lohan was dating a lesbian woman and my life would change completely. 

I don’t know how many women can claim that Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson were their queer awakening, but I would like to think that I was one of the few. I spent that whole summer secretly using my sister’s Wi-Fi connector to look up lesbians, especially queer women in pop culture, singers (K.D Lang, Melissa Etheridge, Tegan and Sara), The L Word and this word – “bisexual.”

She would become the blueprint for every woman I would ever be attracted to.

My dreams began to morph into me imagining relationships with women who I belatedly realized I was attracted to. I didn’t know how to navigate it. I spent the next two years denying every lesbian woman-themed wet dream, everything I noticed about a woman that I found attractive. I shifted schools but would secretly pine about high school crushes through my Facebook account and years later I would develop a very embarrassing crush on a girl in my high school friend circle. 

She would become the blueprint for every woman I would ever be attracted to in the future. A few months leading up to the finals when I was revising for my exams, I wrote her a poem filled with all of my feelings for her. I tore it into pieces later because I couldn’t bear to see it written down in front of me – could I be a lesbian woman?

 I would stop going to church (I was a very religious growing up), I would fight with my parents and God. I would make small compromises but mostly I would hide because I knew that the country and the family I grew up in would never understand nor accept me. 

Dating as a bisexual and possibly pansexual woman is like playing a game of Russian Roulette.

I would only come to terms with my sexuality in my university years and then also, spend the rest of my college life having to answer homophobic questions from well-meaning friends (and not so well-meaning) in attempts to fit in. Every woman I felt a little attracted to or even suspected I was batting for another team – I would deny my feelings and pretend I wasn’t a lesbian woman. 

It was lonely. Some days I didn’t know how to deal with my fluctuating mental health. When I was feeling particularly isolated, I would watch the few LGBTQIA+ movies I would find online copies of or lurk on in the Gulf section for leads on where I could meet more sapphic-adjacent people like me.

For all the people who hate dating apps and spend time deriding it – I get it but also, I’m grateful that because of those Godforsaken apps, I’ve had my share of good, bad and ugly experiences with men and women.

Dating as a bisexual, pansexual and possibly a lesbian woman is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. You don’t know what you’re getting each time you swipe right. I’ve had propositions by couples looking for a threesome (“We just want a unicorn!”), catfishes (“If you’re really a girl, send me a photo of your boobs.”), women looking to experiment (“I just want to have fun”) and to date. 

My dating experience was abysmal, I barely got a chance to do anything due to having a strained relationship with my parents. We frequently fought because I was too much and if they questioned why I went out (the few times that I did) – they would need a running order of the evening and what I was planning on getting up to while out. The few men I did date – well, mostly just be in situationships with, ended up being emotionally unavailable and I hurt.

Men were very different from women; I had decided after spending three years in university with them. I didn’t particularly like them, but they were widely accepted, after all if I was caught with a man – I wouldn’t be immediately deported or jailed. But men were comfortable, easy – it was much harder to match with women on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Most of the women I ended up matching with, ended up becoming friends and I would simply pine in the stereotypical way that all us sapphic  girls do when they couldn’t be honest about their crushes. 

But these apps gave me an Invisibility Cloak and let me live my truth. 

I learned to embrace who I am, I learnt to fall in love, fall in lust and take caution when I felt I was unsafe. It also taught me that despite the way things are here, I wasn’t alone. There were other women like me – queer, lesbian, bi and pan – other people who were trying their best to live their truth, survive in the land of opportunity till they could truly be the people they wanted to be. 

After all, without the rain there’s no rainbow.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

Does not having a hymen mean that I’m not a virgin?

When I say the phrase “losing your virginity”, most people think of a virtuous woman having penetrative sex with a man to get her “cherry popped”. It’s painful and there’s blood on the sheets from her hymen breaking because she has now lost her innocence and is somehow impure. By breaking a thin piece of tissue in her vagina, a woman’s whole life is changed and now she’s a completely different, “dirtier” human being. Per these standards, a sexually active lesbian is a virgin because her hymen is ~untouched~. All of these aforementioned statements are just a few of the examples of ways in which virginity is a social construct imposed upon society to uphold patriarchal values. It also assumes that everyone with a vagina is a woman and that a man has to be involved for sex to be considered legitimate. 

The idea of virginity reduces a person’s worth to the integrity of a piece of tissue in their vagina. Often, the hymen is used as a pseudoscientific justification for virginity being a biological concept. If it breaks during sex and every vagina has it, there has to be a biological reason for the tissue to be intact. This “biological” reason disappears after that person is married because they are suddenly all clear to have sex. 

Per these standards, a sexually active lesbian is a virgin because her hymen is ~untouched~

In reality, the hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue that covers part of the opening to the vagina. It isn’t a magical cloak that is only broken when a vagina is penetrated for the first time. By the time an individual that is assigned-female-at-birth reaches puberty, their hymen is usually already broken to allow for menstrual blood to come out. Using tampons, playing sports, and riding a bike also cause the hymen to break throughout childhood. 

Some people are born without a hymen or with little amounts of hymenal tissue. Other people (like me), are born with abnormally thick hymenal tissue and have to get their hymen surgically removed as I did.

It assumes that everyone with a vagina is a woman and that a man has to be involved for sex to be considered legitimate. 

Does not having a hymen mean that I am not a virgin? Absolutely not. My virginity is not defined by the presence of a piece of tissue because virginity is an idea that was created in an era when women were legally defined and treated as property. 

The bizarre societal obsession with hymen has led to the legitimization of “virginity tests”, a form of violence, as a medical procedure. Gynecologists are often asked by parents and in-laws to perform the “two-finger” test on their patients to prove their virginity. This form of testing has no scientific or medical merit to it, yet it is still performed. 

In fact, the idolization of virginity has led to a market for fake hymens. HymenShop, a company that sells fake hymens, has sold thousands of units of artificial hymens that ooze out fake blood (red medical food dye) when penetrated. The fake blood staining the sheets is then used as proof of virginity being lost. 

Virginity is an idea that was created in an era when women were treated as property. 

In addition to insertable fake hymens, the idolization of virginity has also led to an increased amount of requests for hymenoplasties i.e. hymen restoration surgeries. This procedure is usually performed for religious or cultural reasons.

It can also be formed as a form of therapy after sexual assault. A surgeon will suture the hymen back together or will graft tissue over the opening of the vagina by taking tissue from another part of the vagina.

The social pressure to remain a virgin until marriage, especially in traditionally conservative countries, has forced people to go under the knife to conform to such outdated gender roles.  

Delegitimizing virginity starts by understanding it for what it is, a concept that varies from person to person. Definitions of virginity can vary across people of different genders and sexual orientations. A lesbian may consider engaging in foreplay to be losing their virginity while a straight woman may consider penetrative sex with a man to be losing her virginity.

In any case, it is best not to define what does and doesn’t count towards virginity on a societal level to be more inclusive of differences in background and experience. 

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Sexuality Dedicated Feature Love + Sex Love

Even experimenting with my sexuality seems like a step too far

My whole life, not being straight wasn’t an option I allowed for myself. I knew it was just so much easier to what was expected by my family, friends, and society. A remnant of my upbringing, sexuality in general carried a lot of stigma and pressure. But now that I am on the cusp of adulthood, I wonder how different everything could have played out if I allowed myself to explore. 

I can’t even recall the first time a girl had caught my attention, that’s how far back it was. I must have immediately justified it as liking her hair, or the way that she dressed. Perhaps, I reasoned that I just wanted to look like her, and maybe I did. But then, as I went through my teenage phase, I would often fantasize about girls. I didn’t develop any crushes on anyone I knew, but I wondered what it would be like. 

Scrolling through Tumblr, a haven for young people questioning their sexuality, I found myself wandering over to those pages with the artsy nudes. Appreciating them just for their artistic merit, of course, I would say to myself. But afterward, I would feel such shame that my chest grew tight. What was I doing? Who was I? I never brought it up to anyone else, but I remember being on the verge of tears as I reasoned to myself that all girls were like this. I was just young and curious. From then on, my sexuality became a tough cycle of self-denial and censorship. 

But it didn’t always feel that way to me. Even after I started questioning my sexuality, I was still okay with moving on as I always had, being straight. I normalized it to such an extent that for a while, I stopped questioning it. I pursued relationships with guys and it felt normal, if still controversial to the conservative community around me. When I got older and went on an exchange program for a year, I did the same. On the dating apps, I didn’t hesitate to click ‘men’ as my preference. During my last week there, I swapped phones with a friend to swipe through a dating app for fun. On her screen, a woman’s profile popped up. I knew that she was bisexual, but for a second, it felt like the world was playing tricks on me personally. “She’s cute,” my friend said, peering over. She was.

I felt regret. It was my last few days away from home, so I felt that I had missed my chance to try going on a date with a girl. Although even the thought made me feel nervous, I still regretted never trying and now the door to experimenting with any of that seemed firmly shut. I already planned in my mind how I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends, how I could downplay it if they found out. It was crazy, that I was already prepared to keep it a secret. It struck me that day that I was afraid of experimenting because what if I really was bisexual? Just placing that term anywhere next to me felt earth-shattering.

Perhaps it was fear, or just a desire to avoid conflict. I had always been a non-confrontational person and would rather choose to avoid tension even if I have to give some of myself up. Already in a precarious relationship with my cultural identity and family because of my so-called liberal ideas and forward-thinking when it came to feminism and gender, I didn’t want to seem even ‘stranger’ in their eyes. I didn’t want to be rejected. Every move I made caused ripples, even that year away from home was a scandal. If I dared to experiment, who knew what would happen? It seemed like whether or not I was bisexual, just experimenting had the potential to complicate my life. 

I was afraid of that uncertainty. So I never put myself out there. The fact is that I might have tried it out and found that I actually wasn’t romantically or sexually attracted to women. I could find out that I was. If I had known then that sexuality could be fluid, that it could change over time even without the pressure of labels, would experimenting have been any easier of a choice to make? 

But I still wonder, what if? I think I’ll always wonder about that. I also think about other things I am afraid of exploring because of culture, family, friends, and other external factors. Hopefully, as more awareness is brought to experimenting and sexuality, things will change for the better, and more people will feel comfortable exploring important parts of themselves. As for me, I’m not sure where my life will take me. I wouldn’t rule out anything in my future. This is only the first step, confronting my internal ideas of ‘normalcy’, and I suppose it’s okay to not know if and what comes next.

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LGBTQIA+ Gender Inequality

Transgender and intersex people in Bangladesh have recognition on paper, but their lives haven’t been made any easier

Trigger warnings: Mentions of transphobic comments/incidents

Disclaimer: The word “hijra” is commonly used in reference to the South Asian transgender and intersex community. In Pakistan, the word takes on a derogatory connotation and much of the community does not approve of its use. However, in Bangladesh, many members of the community are proud to consider themselves hijra. While it can be used in a derogatory way at times by non-transgender people, like how the word gay is used as an insult in America, many people have gradually begun to reclaim the word and its meaning. 

I was first introduced to the hijra community in Bangladesh when I was 15 years old. It was 2009, and I was at my uncle’s wedding. They arrived unannounced to the front yard of my family’s home to perform dances and songs, and asked for payment. I was fascinated by them – growing up in the United States had robbed me of the lived cultural experiences my cousins who grew up in Bangladesh had. But I also noticed how some of my family members were uncomfortable and angry at the arrival of the hijra. Some even yelled at them to leave. I became uncomfortable with those reactions; I didn’t understand why they reacted so negatively.

That day, I learned that hijra is an identification category for a third gender. In South Asia, the term, hijra, refers to a subset of transgender people. They do not associate themselves with the sex and culturally correlated gender assigned at birth; in fact, they do not identify as either male or female, man or woman. Thus, they categorize themselves as hijra – a third category. Many intersex people also identify as hijra in South Asia. It is a widespread notion in South Asia that most hijra are born biologically male and assigned a male gender category at birth, and later identify with what is culturally perceived as feminine gender roles. Thus, the dominant view also in evidently overlooks the recognition of trans men.

My mother explained to me that hijra will often show up at large celebratory life events, like weddings and the birth of babies, to sing, dance, and pray for the families. Afterwards, they ask for payment because it is one of their only avenues of income. She also told me the hijra community is severely discriminated against – they are excluded from “normal” society because they do not fit into the culturally accepted (mythical) binary of gender and sex. They are a neglected and segregated people.

And that’s when I understood those negative reactions I witnessed. Those guests and family members, like many in Bangladesh, were prejudiced and bigoted against the hijra community. And that’s what spurred me to educate myself and others about this community as much as I was capable of.

On January 26, 2014, the government of Bangladesh announced the legal recognition of hijra with the following statement: “The Government of Bangladesh has recognized the Hijra community of Bangladesh as a Hijra sex.” This recognition was a huge victory for the hijra community – they held a celebratory Pride Parade later in the year 2014 – but there’s so much more that needs to be done, and it starts with the very terminology.

Academic circles and Western narratives refer to hijra as a third gender, but the terms gender and sex are conflated in South Asia. Thus, there is little understanding of what it means to identify as hijra – that is a major disadvantage to the community because while recognition of them exists, knowledge of this identity category does not. Because hijra are considered social outcasts, there is not enough developed discourse that allows their voices and lived experiences to become common knowledge. As a result, people have varying degrees of knowledge of what hijra means. Some believe being homosexual and transgender are the same things (this, of course, is completely incorrect – sexuality does not equal gender identity); some believe hijra are only trans women; some believe they are only intersex people. This lack of understanding is extremely problematic and further marginalizes hijra.

Without providing proper guidelines and explanation of who hijra are and solely going off of the widely varying personal understandings of what hijra means, this recognition does not mean much.  In December of 2014, the Ministry of Social Welfare in Bangladesh allowed hijra to apply for jobs within the government – a large step forward for their community. But measurements were taken to find proof that those lining up to interview for these positions were, in fact, hijra. Candidates were not only asked questions about their gender identities and sexuality, they were also stripped down while doctors examined their genital areas to make sure they were “authentic” hijra. This humiliation and harassment come from both bigotry and the lack of attempts to publicly define the term “hijra.”

Furthermore, solely recognizing this third category did not establish stable constitutional rights for the hijra community, such as being able to own and inherit property. Rape laws were not changed to include hijras; they still do not have easy access to medical facilities; there is no official government database as of yet to count their population to assess their needs and demands; and laws that implicitly enforce heteronormativity in Bangladesh are still interpreted in ways to harm and punish non-heteronormative behavior.

Hijra are socially marginalized to the extreme and their frustrations and vulnerabilities have been historically overlooked. Because of their outsider status, they have essentially created their own sub-society with their own language (Ulty), ritual ceremonies, and families (because they are often excluded from their own).

Yet, the hijra community has existed in South Asia for over 4,000 years. They are celebrated in Hindu texts and had high status during the reign of the Mughal Empire. They worked as performers and bodyguards and were an active part of the Mughal Empire’s success.

When Britain invaded and colonized South Asia, they began an active attempt to eliminate hijra communities in the area because the hijra identity challenged Western morality and conceptions of gender. British colonizers classified hijra as eunuchs rather than trying to understand their identity, and stripped them of their status by only allowing them to work as domestic workers or farmers.

Colonization has had a long-lasting impact on how current South Asian societies view the hijra community. But now, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, is increasingly turning a blind eye to the violence and injustice the hijra community faces in order to pander to rising Islamic ideals. The government’s failure to take action is, in large part, the reason hijra suffer such prejudice.

As of now, hijra do not have equal and equitable employment opportunities. They are economically exploited. Even though the government has taken rudimentary steps to provide them with jobs, they are met with discrimination. Many live in poverty and are forced to beg for money or become sex workers, further demonizing and dehumanizing them in the eyes of society. The public stigma about hijra is that they are uneducated and immoral, yet the underlying problem – the fact that they have extremely limited access to jobs and educational opportunities in the first place – is unaddressed. Their status as an extreme form of “other” has disenfranchised them most. Their social exclusion has led to their economic exclusion.

Only as recently as 2018 were hijra allowed to vote under this third gender category and in July of 2018, Bangladesh’s government appointed Tanisha Yeasmin Chaity as the first hijra official in the National Human Rights Commission. These are great steps for Bangladesh to take in securing rights for the hijra community, but there is still a long way to go.

Hijra are, essentially, the oldest transgender community in the world. Since first being introduced to the hijra community at 15, I have done research and written academic papers to call attention to the injustice of their status. Othering groups of people, punishing them for being different from the mainstream, and economically subjugating them for that difference is something I cannot reconcile with my conscience and morality. From afar, I have attempted to educate Bangladeshi communities both within the United States and Bangladesh. There are not many advocacy groups to help hijra in Bangladesh, but one notable group is called the Bangladesh Hijra Kalyan Foundation has been around for quite a while. I keep up with their advocacy activities such as bringing attention to the hijra community’s economic state and providing communities with food. In August of 2016, an NGO named Uttoran Foundation began efforts to better the social and economic statuses of hijra. Like all impoverished and segregated communities in the world, the hijra deserve allies and advocates to fight alongside them for their rights. The attitude and mindset of society has to change. We must decolonize our minds and view hijra as human beings.