“I used to like coloring my nails. My mother used to appreciate it but my father didn’t. He forced me to play cricket. I was confused about how I should act. I started feeling isolated. I studied in a renowned boys' school but couldn’t mix with anyone there either. I even didn’t know why. I used to stand silently under the tree during recess hours. I felt different from my friends. I was not discovering myself the way they were doing. And that’s why I fell in love with my 14-years-old male classmate!”
This is how Ali Asgar Tara discovered herself as a transgender. Tara is a Bangladeshi transgender female artist, researcher, and social activist. Currently working as an assistant professor at Pace University in New York. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works on transgender people’s thoughts, desires, and surviving factors.
Tara completed her academic degree from the faculty of fine arts at Dhaka University. Later she pursued higher studies in fine arts from the school of the art institute of Chicago.
“I didn’t know about homosexuality, transgender, queer, or anything. I started to feel like a female. When I got into university, I started writing on communities. Movies by Rituparno Ghosh touched me a lot back then. As if I got my voice. Before then, I had to hear that being like a female is odd and funny. But I never like to be introduced as male. When someone from customer service calls me ma'am I really like it”, Tara says.
Tara uses writing, photography, video, architecture, performance, etc as her medium of work. She shares her own real-life experiences through her works and creates a platform for social discussion.
As a transgender person in Bangladesh, her experience of being brought up in our society is reflected in her works. She questions the narrow mentality of society.
From 2008 to 2016, her artworks were exhibited at the National Art Museum, Shilpokala Academy, and at Dhaka Art Summit, Bengal Foundation, Goethe Institute, British Council, Dhaka Art Centre, etc. in 2014 and 2016.
Since Tara had migrated to the USA, her artworks were exhibited and she’s been delivering speeches in Maine, New York, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Toronto, San Francisco, etc. different states. Her presence and struggle inspire a lot of other transgender people around the globe.
“It’s not easy to break a social taboo. But transgenders are leading and nailing it in many sectors and proving their worth. This is a good sign. We must fix the definition of trans identity first. A Bangladeshi trans can’t easily utter what I can say sitting here in the USA. Nobody wants to understand that gender is associated with thought and feeling. However, the scenario in Bangladesh is changing. Thus the ultimate change will come”, she said.