Photo courtesy of The Gay And Lesbian Review
A few months ago, the author had the misfortune of being introduced to a video of a YouTuber and apparently a “psychiatrist” by the name of Ama Dissanayake. Having never heard of her and her work, the author was indeed (morbidly) curious to know what her work was about and how her work was related to the LGBT+ community.
To the author’s horror, it was one of the most disgustingly homophobic videos that they had seen in a long time. In the video, Ama spoke about how the Sri Lankan culture and queerness simply did not go hand in hand, that it was sometimes “possible to cure gay men” but “not lesbians”. It was an open advertisement for conversion “therapy”, a cruel malpractice which leaves people unable to feel any sexual desire or taking their own lives.
More recently, a video through the Daily Mirror surfaced, and showed Ama conducting a session for the Kandy police that made the author sick once more. The video had Ama parading around as usual, asking the question from the assembled police, “What if your parents were all gay?? Will any of you be here?” and worst of all, “What if your child is preyed on (sexually) by a homosexual? Will you as parents like it?” Honestly this is…not at all surprising. The same ideology as other highly conservative commentators. Just that now, it is from the mouth of an egoistic and pretentious Sinhala Buddhist puppet, advertising her toxicity to the state’s violent lapdogs.
The frightening reality us queer and transgender people have to face is clear: Homophobia and transphobia are a part of police training and are baked into the institution. The report All Five Fingers are Not the Same was published in 2016, and is now available to be read publicly. It addresses police violence against queer individuals (transfeminine sex workers are among the most at-risk) and the direct opposition between the state, and sexual and gender diversity. This is not a series of isolated incidents.
This relationship is historical and has been an integral part of LGBT+ resistance since Stonewall. The author repeats that this is not simply a series of one-off incidents limited to Sri Lanka, where reports of abuse and police torture have been openly documented for several years, with several counts of assault filmed in the open. Regardless of whether one is queer or not, the police is a brutal and cruel institution that should by rights have no place in any society.
As a tool of state power and oppression, the police “femme-washes” in the author’s words, coating its violence with a veneer of “femininity” with its promotions of cis women as deputies and into places of power, and still carry out the fascist collective’s agendas of racism, ableism, their hatred and disgust for the working class, and anti-LGBT+ attitudes openly in their tortures. Simply having a cisgender woman in a position of power in the state’s most oppressive organizations does not make it progressive and feminist. Instead, it makes them pandering and insecure, and transparently so.
Ama frames sexual and gender diversity as being a mistake and a mental illness, an attitude that LGBT+ youth from conservative backgrounds internalize for years through their homophobic and transphobic peers and family. The author has met quite a few such individuals who seek “help” with the assumption that they are wrong for existing. We have been failed since we were first shuttled off to school and had to rely on pornography to identify and locate ourselves.
The unfortunate truth is that Ama Dissanayake seems to have always been poised for this kind of position. She already has an enormous coverage thanks to her familial connections to the Sin-Bud fascist collective ruling the country. The nasty comments under her videos and any queerphobic Sri Lankan social media memes and even harassment the author has received online are only telling of the level of safety the majority of LGBT+ folks have in this country. Regardless of (suspicious) tweets by the bloated current head of the collective, the author will roll their eyes at the goon in charge, his empty platitudes of “support” and then wonder how the spread of homophobic hate speech just goes by and is mandated by the government with nary a blink of an eye.
The grossly unqualified, misogynistic and queerphobic Ama is perfect for Sri Lanka’s conservative media personnel and their dedication to brainwashing. She is an older Sinhala woman with “traditional” values and presents herself as such, in a Kandyan saree while disguising a well of hatred beneath. Physical presence is key for delivering a message, and state media knows how to tap into its largely self-hating, nationalistic and Sinhala Buddhist audience. She plays the part of amme and aunty, an elderly guardian and bastion of “traditional Sin-Bud culture” and its bigoted values.
If the misogynistic mother fetish shoe fits Ama, wear it all the way to the grave.
The author will end this with a mixed series of emotions. Anger. Disgust. Fear. Losing hope is the least they can do now. We are here, we are queer but you cannot always see us through your hatred.