Gay as an identity is yet to be developed in Bangladesh. The community is highly class based in the sense that only the educated and middle income group men will identify themselves as gays whereas the underprivileged class would identify with koti, MSM etc. Heterosexual marriage is compulsory in our society which is very family oriented. You can be anything you want to be as long as you get married. So lots of LGBT folks get married at one point of time. The concept of the ‘sense of belongingness’ or ’mutual understanding’ is still not very common among the mass gay community. I think still people here can’t imagine that two men can live happily under the same roof as they never saw this in reality. But the number of visible gay man is increasing remarkably in Dhaka and Chittagong
It’s not easy to come out here in our society as mostly the families are extended and people are too dependent on each others values and norms. The environment is still not very comfortable for a gay to come out and speak of his sexuality in his family or educational institute or work place. There is hardly any discussion about this in the media but in the very few instances the issue comes out as a fun/mockery.
Gay scene is still very discreet and thriving in Dhaka with an increase in the visibility in last 5/6 years. Still people want to keep their gay friends and straight friends in a different list. People believe that his best friend will not remain a friend anymore if he comes out. Other than Dhaka, there is a very feeble gay scene in Chittagong, Sylhet and Khulna.
The educated people in the society or the people who studied in the west accept homosexuality as natural but often it happens that in a class or in a work place not everyone accepts homosexuality. In that case people don’t feel comfortable to come out and it holds back the whole process of acceptance a step back. Lesbians are invisible in the society though there is a small group working for a long time. Transgender are visible but people and media often make fun of them which is actually very sad. In my view, bisexuals are increasing in major cities but there is no research data so far on this. Overall, society tolerates it as long as you are keeping it private and following the social obligations i.e getting married!
In my view Bangladesh is a secular country and middle class people in Dhaka are not much concerned about the religious leaders any more. Religious practice in Dhaka is more like a ritual that people do because the last generation also did. I don’t think Islam can play a major role in shaping social attitudes rather media can play a vital role to sensitize the mass people for their attitude. Nevertheless, due to contradiction with religion and sexuality, some people do suffer from internal homophobia/guilt and tend to seek affirmation from religion.