Colombo Telegraph

Dear Mr. President: Letter From A Sri Lankan Queer Woman

By Aloka Wijesinghe

Aloka Wijesinghe

Mr. President, 

As I was going home after lectures yesterday [Monday 5th November 2018], I had to wait in Malabe from 12.45 PM to 8.00 PM, because of your rally at Diyatha. On social media, I noticed a couple of friends of mine being boldly and bravely vocal about remarks you made during your speech. When I browsed through a couple of articles, I just said to myself, “Wait, I’m just an 18 year old and I never had a thing for politics unless it affected my right to live, I mean I’m neither a fan of Ranil Wickremesinghe nor of Mahinda Rajapaksa, I’m done with all these useless rallies where people from far away towns have to come to Colombo on buses and block the roads so students like us have to forget going home or worse, find a place to stay in the road, but in hindsight I bet homeless people have it better”. 

When I read a couple of articles I just saw that you, Mr. President, had referred to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as “සමනලයා”; now we all know that this is derogatory language. With this kind of dialogue, you, Mr President, have sunk deeper than the titanic. You also referred to politicians working with Mr wickremesinghe as “සමනල කල්ලිය”. 

When the most powerful man in the country takes issue with people like me on private matters, Mr President, I, for one, will not remain silent. 

Mr. President, 

Your presidential term is best-known for soundbites such as calling upon people to stop drinking Milo, and about the cashews served on board the national airline. But despite all that, there was some respect towards you, somewhere. And that is what you have now lost. For good. 

 Mr. President, 

You decided to degrade the lives of millions, who still do not have their basic human rights to love who they love, and simply to live in peace. You used our lives to insult your political opponent. 

I’m an 18 year old cis lesbian woman who was severely bullied at school, for which, in most cases, the teachers took issue with me and in most cases they themselves were my bullies that I couldn’t stand up to. Dear Mr. President, I am a Lesbian cis woman in Sri Lanka and for people like me, our siblings give up on us, in most cases. People like me are homeless because of their sexual orientation. People like me are forced to enter heterosexual marital ties at an early age without our consent, and in some cases, are raped by family members to turn us straight.  People like me are continuously mocked because people like me are not seen as normal.  

Many queer youth are scared to talk out loud because of the fear of cis-hetero-normative stigmas and backlashes. 

 Mr. President, 

Have you not yet been briefed [other than cashews and Milos], that people like me attempt to commit suicide a lot more than people like you? That many of us face precarious situations, of homelessness and joblessness, simply because of systemic discrimination that mercilessly targets us. Basic rights, such as the right to love the person we love, or hold their hand in public and walk around, are denied to us, Mr President, because of intolerant, ill-informed, prejudiced, uneducated dinosaurs like you. 

 Mr. President, 

Our lives are at stake. Our queer lives were always hanging on a ceiling. Some queer Sri Lankan citizens have been beaten to death, or banned from their native towns and villages. Some are addicted to drugs because people like you and your hateful language mess them up so bad. Queer youth often keep to themselves, or find solace in such destructive addictions, Mr. President,  precisely because people like us are animals to “respectful” people and powerful politicians like you. Because someone waving a rainbow flag hurts your ego. Because seeing actual සමනල කල්ලි – who have taken nothing from you or done to you and yours no harm – hurts your small ego. Whenever we shout “we need our rights”, your political colleagues keep telling us “Bring bigger crowds, vote for us and then we will give your rights!” Haven’t all of us who were born and bred in this motherland of ours stood up in silence on February 4th at Independence day celebrations, because that day does not mean much to us, as our fundamental freedoms are categorically denied to us by our political class? You have shown, Mr President, that this hatred is sanctioned by the Head of State of our motherland.  

Mr. President, 

If you have any respect towards people, the next time you want to blame Ranil or anyone else, please do not insult Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Sri Lankan citizens. Because of people like you, even the most high-profile amongst us face constant insults and marginalization. We are often forced to sacrifice our entire lives, because of a socially conservative and intolerant “[non]culture” and “[non]traditions”. 

By the way, Mister President, next time you want to blame your colleagues or political opponents, why don’t you merrily deploy your own sexuality instead of zooming on ours? [if a tip is needed, Mr President, you may ask your old friend Mervyn S. of Kelaniya!]. 

*Aloka Wijesinghe is a writer, undergraduate student and LGBTQI+ rights activist. She is the co-founder of Lesketeers                    

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