Why Disha Died: Queer actress Disha Ganguly takes her own life

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On April 9th, Bengali television actress Disha Ganguly committed suicide. Known for her role in the popular sitcom Tumi Ashbey Bole, Disha’s parents allegedly pressured the talented, stunningly beautiful young woman to accept a proposal from Vivaan Ghosh, a fellow actor. However, Disha wasn’t in love with an actor; she was in love with an actress.

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“A few months back, this actress friend of Ganguly, started staying at her apartment,” explained one police official to DNAIndia. “Soon, Ganguly’s mother arrived from Nairobi (where her parents reside) and objected to their relationship. Her mother even got her friend to move out of the apartment.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Bangladesh and India. A recent survey reports that 59% of the gays in Bangladesh live in fear of being outed.

Disha couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing her girlfriend again and marrying a man. When her girlfriend found out Disha was dead, she tried to follow her by throwing herself in front of an oncoming train. Locals snatched her to safety just in time, and the woman is now hospitalized.

One last, devastating devil of a detail: Media reports that in the days and hours before Disha’s suicide, she was torn between her fiancee and unnamed female lover.

“Police reports suggest that the TV actress was drawn into a situation where she battling pressure from her parents, her boyfriend and girlfriend. Eventually, she gave in to death.” They say that she was so confused by family pressure and rival love interests, she took her own life. Yet just a couple hours before Dish hung herself, she transferred Rs.50,000 from her personal bank account to a joint bank account shared by her girlfriend. So maybe she wasn’t so torn, in the end. Maybe she knew exactly who she wanted to be with. She just thought it was impossible.

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Disha’s suicide is tragic and infuriating. This death was so preventable. If her parents, the people who were supposed to love and protect Disha, had just allowed their daughter to live an authentic and happy life, Disha might still be with us today. If homosexuality wasn’t illegal in Bangladesh, Disha might have known that suicide is not the only option when faced with homophobic pressure. If gay people were allowed to publicly be gay, without fear of government sanctioned abuse, Disha might have met someone she could relate to or sought help from an LGBT organization. Maybe someone could have convinced Disha that being gay isn’t wrong, or evil, or a sin, or embarrassing—it’s natural, and it doesn’t mean you can’t love yourself anymore. But none of those options were available to Disha, even though (and maybe even because) she was a beloved and successful actress.

Every article about Disha’s death refers to her girlfriend as a “friend.” A friend who threw herself on the train tracks when she heard that Disha had hung herself. A friend that lived in Disha’s apartment until Disha’s mother pressured her to move out. A friend Disha loved so much, so killed herself rather than marry a man. A fucking friend.

Disha was gay. She loved a woman very much, and she died for that love. When things like this happen, and gay women kill themselves rather than live a lie, do you ever wonder: “What would I do?” I do. Whenever I read a story like this, or even watch The Hours, I get this sort of melancholy, sickening, sinking feeling because I don’t think I could survive it either. I know I’m not supposed to say shit like that—shit that talks about suicide like it’s an option—or presents a bad example to young queer women reading this website. But I’m not a very good example anyway.

Sometimes I don’t think straight people understand the toll it takes to hide your sexual orientation, to fake attraction convincingly, to satisfy everyone by living in-authentically. I read everything I could about Disha, and then I closed my eyes and imagined I was her. Unpleasant memories bubbled to the surface. An empty, weightless sensation while some boyfriend thrashed on top of me. Counting cracks and stains on the ceiling. Returning his passionate kiss and thinking “This is what it means to be screaming on the inside.”

I wondered if Disha felt like that. Then I wondered how many girls will die like Disha.

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