2013. Vol.3, No.4, 257-263
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/sm) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/sm.2013.34034
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 257
Living with Stigma and Managing Sexual Identity: A Case Study
on the Kotis in Dhaka
Md. Azmeary Ferdoush
University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Received May 15th, 2013; revised August 1st, 2 0 1 3 ; a c cepted August 19th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Md. Azmeary Ferdoush. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cite d.
Identity as a koti in Dhaka as well as in Bangladesh has always been a stigmatized one. The study aims to
explore how the kotis in Dhaka manage their sexual identity and stigma attached with it. To do so eight-
een kotis were selected from two areas of Dhaka and unstructured face to face in-depth interviews were
conducted. The results show that the kotis in Dhaka have to face numbers of difficulties if their sexual
identity is disclosed and knowing or unknowingly they have adopted the stigma management strategies
identified by Goffman.
Keywords: Koti; Stigma; Identity; Dhaka; Bangladesh
I tried to act like a normal boy when I was young. Because
everyone told me that I was not acting like a normal boy. My
parents used to punish me for my behavior. I learned from oth-
ers that I was not acting like a normal boy and I was so humili-
ated all the times by others that I always tried to act like a
normal boy. I used to observe other boys and tried to follow
their behavior pattern. Munmun, A Respondent.
In 1963, Goffman published his groundbreaking analysis on
stigma and defined stigma as “An attribute that is deeply dis-
crediting” (Goffman, 1963: p. 6). Goffman argues that to truly
understand stigma researchers should shift their attention from
a focus on attribution to a focus on relationship (Kaufman &
Johnson, 2004). Sexual identity of a koti is also a stigmatized
one in Bangladesh and they have to manage their sexual iden-
tity through different strategies which have been termed as
stigma management strategies by Goffman. Kotis in Dhaka city
have been found to adopt different types of stigma management
strategies during different stages of their sexual identity devel-
opment. Their identity as a koti is a stigmatized one and they
always have to be very much aware of managing this stigma.
As by definition it is clear that kotis are a subcategory of
homosexuals. But they are not the conventional homosexuals or
gays or bisexuals as we are used to know. They are a type of
male who think that psychologically they are females and have
been trapped i nto a body of a male. They assume all th e female
roles starting from performing the household chores to sexual
intercourse. They never play the penetrative role but only the
receptive role during sexual intercourse. But they are very hard
to identify as they don’t dress like females in public and they
don’t reveal their real identity in front of unknown. Why people
become homosexual has been a big question. Kirkpatrick (2000)
showed that there are three major reasons behind that. Genes
are the first according to him, Individuals who identify them-
selves as homosexual or bisexual are found in particular family
lines. Monozygotict twins have concordance for non-hetero-
sexuality at about twice the rate of dizygotic twins, suggesting
some genetic influence on the findings on family aggregation.
Hormones are second factor according to him though data are
contradictory concerning hormonal and developmental differ-
ences between those who engage in homosexual behavior and
those who do not. Finally Environment is the factor which con-
tributes to homosexual identity development. According to him
homosexual behavior is correlated with social and demographic
variables. Dubé (2000) also has shown support to this argument.
Military service increases the likelihood of homosexual behav-
ior by 50%. Public school attendance in England doubles the
likelihood of ado lesce nt homose xual behavior (K irk patrick , 2000).
Kaufman and Johnson (2004) have shown that there are dif-
ferent models of homosexual identity development which vary
from four to six stages but do not concentrate on the issue of
complex social connections and stigma. According to them
many of the homosexuals may abandon their homosexual iden-
tity reevaluation in different stages as a result of failing to cope
with stigma. Social responsibilities, choices and actions are all
related to self perception and adaptation over time. Finally ac-
cording to them these models fail to sufficiently acknowledge
that managing stigma and disclosure is a life-long process
(Kaufman & Johnson, 2004).
Homosexuals have to face stigma from the society much
more than any other groups because of the attitude existing
against them. As a result they always have to manage stigma
and adopt different stigma management strategies. The major
attitudes existing in the society about homosexuality have been
divided into four major categories by Gallagher (1979). Ac-
cording to him the first attitude toward homosexuality is that it
is intrinsically evil because it excludes all possibilities of pro-
creation. Second is that homosexuality is essentially imperfect
M. A. FERDOUSH
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
because it violates the normal norm of love making. Third the
society evaluates homosexual acts in terms of the relational sig-
nificance and the final category is that homosexuality is legiti-
mate by its own rights and is seen as not a problem at all (Gal-
lagher, 1979). But the last couple of attitudes are not the tradi-
tional society’s attitude; these are found more in the developed
Sexual identity is also an important factor. How one’s sexual
identity is developed depends both on the social values and the
perception of the individual himself. Brekhus (1996) catego-
rizes six major dimensions of sexual identity. These are:
Quantity of Sex e.g. slut, whore, tease, stud and so on.
Timing of Sex e.g. too early, too late, pre-sexual and so on.
Level of Enjoyment e.g. frigid women, impotent men, sex-
ual compulsives a n d so on.
Degree of Consent e.g. exhibitionist, peeping tom and etc.
Orientation e.g. homosexuals, child molesters, zoophiliacs,
gerentophiles a nd etc.
Social Value of Agents e.g. rapist, virgin, perverse and many
The sexual identity of the kotis can be categorized in the fifth
category which is termed as Orientation. The kotis are labeled
as what they are only because of their sexual orientation.
No study so far has been conducted in Bangladesh concern-
ing the stigma management and sexual identity of the kotis. The
real fact is that very few persons are aware of a different ho-
mosexual category called kotis in Bangladesh. There is a Non
Government Organization named Bandhu Social Welfare Soci-
ety (BSWS) which works toward the wellbeing of the stigma-
tized individuals and sexual minorities in Bangladesh. This is
the only reliable source from which one can come to know
about the kotis. A study conducted by the BSWS brought some
important data about the kotis in Bangladesh. The study was
conducted on 108 homosexuals of different categories among
whom 25 were kotis. It showed that about 18 out of the 25 kotis
had an income of less than 6000 BDT (US $ less than 100) per
month, 17 of them had studied less than or equal to H.S.C
(Twelve years of formal schooling), 20 out of 25 kotis were
aged between 20 to 30 years. On the other hand 10 of the re-
spondents reported police harassment over them in forms of
extortion, beating, blackmailing/threatening, restriction on move-
ments, sexual assaults and others. 22 of the respondents re-
ported sexual harassments over them. 23 of them also reported
harassment by the mastans (local muscle men) and goons
(Bondyopadhyay & Ahmed, 2011: pp. 21-29; Ahmed, 2011).
The current study focuses on the stigma management with
each of the stages of sexual identity development by the kotis in
Dhaka. These stages are adopted from the model of V. C. Cass
(1984). Cass’s model consists of six stages of identity devel-
opment, but here at this study the first four stages are discussed.
The final two stages are not elaborated as these were not found
relevant by the study for the discussions of stigma management.
All the respondents were found to say that they had to face lots
of problems from the society as well as from the family being a
koti and all the time they had to manage their stigmatized sex-
ual identity through different strategies.
Objective of the Study
The major objective of the study was to find out how the
kotis in Dhaka manage the stigma involved with their sexual
identity and what the strategies they adopted to do so were.
Methodology and Sources of Data
Data were collected from 18 kotis from Dhaka. Nine of the
kotis were selected from New Palton and the rest were selected
from Old Dhaka. Two types of nonprobability sampling were
used. First of all the respondents were selected purposively
from the branches of BSWS in the study areas. These respon-
dents were involved with BSWS either as employee or as reg-
istered members. Other respondents were selected using the
method of snowball sampling. Half the respondents were se-
lected purposively and the half was selected using snowball
sampling. All of them were first told about the purpose of the
study and the ethical issues considered by the researcher and
with their permission data have been collected. To ensure the
anonymity and privacy of the respondents no real name has
been used, all the names used in the research have been pseu-
donyms. An open ended checklist was developed to interview
the respondents and all the interviews were recorded with con-
sent of the respondents by an electronic recorder. On an aver-
age an interview took 93 minutes to be completed. Then the
whole interview was translated into English and was written
down with the original verbatim. Data have been analyzed
manually from the written interviews keeping the objectives in
mind. The checklist included 23 questions. All these questions
could be divided into seven major categories which included
general demographic questions, defining own sexual identity,
details about own sexual identity, reactions of others from the
society an d family, reacti on of own self af ter recei ving all these
reactions, relationship of them with their partners and finally
questions regarding the koti community. But only the questions
listed in the checklist were not asked, as all of the interviews
were open ended, numbers of questions were asked based on
the answers provided by the respondents and based on the ob-
jective of the study.
This definition of stigma cited at the beginning is adopted by
the study to define homosexuality as a stigma. Thus a koti is a
stigmatized person in the society according to this definition.
Goffman (1963) categorized stigma into three major categories.
1) Abominations of the body or the various physical de-
2) Blemishes of individual character perceived as weak will,
domineering or unnatural passions, treacherous and rigid belief
and dishonesty, these being inferred from a known record.
3) Tribal stigma such as race, ethnicity, religious minority
and so on (Goffman, 1963).
Goffman’s analysis of stigma also showed four patterns of it
based on the process of socialization. According to Goffman:
“One pattern involves those with an inborn stigma who be-
come socialized into their disadvantageous situation even while
they are learning and incorporating the standards against
which they fall short. For example, an orphan learns that chil-
dren naturally and normally have parents, even while he is
learning what it means not to have any. After spending the first
sixteen years of his life in the institution he can later still feel
that he naturally knows how to be a father to his son.
A second pattern derives from the capacity of a family, and
to a much lesser extent a local neighborhood, to constitute itself
a protective capsule for its young. Within such a capsule a
congenitally stigmatized child can be carefully sustained by
M. A. FERDOUSH
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 259
means of information control. Self-belittling definitions of him
are prevented from entering the charmed circle, while broad
access is given to other conceptions held in the wider society,
ones that lead the encapsulated child to see himself as a fully
qualified ordinary human being, of normal identity in terms of
such basic matters as age and sex…
…A third pattern of socialization is illustrated by one who
becomes stigmatized late in life, or learns late in life that he has
always been discreditable—the first involving no radical reor-
ganization of his view of his past, the second involving this
factor. Such an individual has thoroughly learned about the
normal and the stigmatized long before he must see himself as
deficient. Presumably he will have a special problem in reiden-
tifying himself; and a special likelihood of developing disap-
proval of self…
…A fourth pattern is illustrated by those who are initially
socialized in an alien community, whether inside or outside the
geographical boundaries of the normal society, and who then
must learn a second way of being that is felt by those around
them to be the real and valid one.” (Goffman, 1963: pp. 29-32).
The third pattern of stigma is very much important for the
current analysis. This is the pattern by which the kotis realize
that they are being stigmatized in the society. All the kotis at
their childhood learned that they were different from other boys
and at their adolescence or at teen age, they started to realize
that they have always been a discreditable. At the very begin-
ning of their childhood they already had learnt the difference
between a normal and a stigmatized. It was long before they
realized their true sexual identity, they found themselves being
stigmatized by the society.
Goffman (1963) also differentiates a couple of states of a
stigmatized person. These are:
1) Discredited: A discredited person is one whose stigma is
obvious or well-known to others. His biggest concern is the
management of tension of that stigma.
2) Discreditable: A discreditable person is one whose stigma
is not obvious or known. His biggest concern is the manage-
ment of information about his stigma. He does not want to let
others know about his stigma.
A koti is simultaneously both a discredited and a discredit-
able individual. Sometimes when his behavior pattern reveals
his identity as a koti in front of others he becomes a discredited
person. On the other hand he always tries to control the infor-
mation about his sexual identity and wants to remain as a dis-
creditable individual. These two categories are very much im-
portant in analyzing the sexual identity of a koti in Bangladesh.
Goffman (1963) also discussed about some strategies of s ti gma
management. Stigmatized individuals adopt different strategies
to manage their stigma. But when they fail to manage stigma
and fail to adopt these strategies they become a discredited in-
dividual. Thes e str ategies are discussed below.
Visibility is the first management strategy discussed by Goff-
man. If a stigma is very much visible the person becomes dis-
credited. For example: a handicapped person. On the other hand
if the stigma is not easily visible the person is a discreditable
person and he always wants to conceal his stigma. For example:
a homosexual or a bisexual.
2) Personal Identity
Personal identity like a driving license, an identity card, or
even the name is also a management strategy of stigma. For
example a cri minal assumes pseudo name to hide his identity.
3) Biographical Others
For every individual there is a circle of known and unknown
persons. The known persons have the biographical information
about the individual and knows him deeply than others. To
these circle the individual cannot hide his stigma. On the other
hand there are other individuals to whom the person is none but
a stranger. It is easy to hide the stigma from them. But the
known persons who are termed as biographical others by Goff-
man (1963) constitute the social recognition of that individual.
Passing is an important stigma management strategy for the
stigmatized individuals. They try to pretend as normal in front
of others which is called passing. For example: A homosexual
pretending to be heterosexual in front of others is a strategy of
5) Information Control
Information control is somehow related to passing. The indi-
vidual tries to conceal the information about the features which
are labeled as stigma in a society.
Covering is related with the known and unknown. This is the
process by which an individual becomes discredited or discred-
7) In-Group Alignments
To manage stigma the stigmatized individuals create a group
of their own categories. This is called in-group alignment by
8) Out-Group Alignment
Out-group alignment is the situation where a stigmatized in-
dividual attempts mixing with other normal individuals and
their groups. In this normal group of people sometimes the
stigmatized individual may have to do the ice breaking and
mix with them. It happens when the normal individuals fail
to ignore the stigmatized individual (Goffman, 1963 : pp. 42-97).
The major findings of the study can be categorized under two
sub categories. The first one is “stigma management with sex-
ual identity development” which discusses about the manage-
ment strategies adopted by the kotis during their sexual identity
development stages. The second one focuses on the problems
encountered by the kotis in Dhaka because of their stigmatized
The findings of the study are arranged in conformity to the
first four stages of Cass’s (1984) model. All these stages are
At this stage no one is ever sure about his own sexual iden-
tity and is in a doubt whether he is a homosexual or a hetero-
sexual. He hardly tells any one about his feelings and expresses
himself in front of others. It is a painful stage of identity con-
struction and at this stage previously held identities come into
question (Cass, 1984). Almost all the cases studied in this study
conform to all these characteristics of the first phase of identity
For example Misti explains this stage of development as:
M. A. FERDOUSH
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
I came to know the term Koti after a long time in my life. But
when I was in class two or three I found that I liked to play with
dolls with my sisters, do household chores, cook, and all the
girlish types of games. Seeing these types of behavior my par-
ents used to ask me “why don’t you play with boys?” “Why do
you use to play with girls all the day long?” I told them this is
how I liked it. I didn’t play with boys; I always played with girls
and with my sisters. I loved it. And when I got into class V, I
started asking myself why am I different or why is it happening
to me? Then when I got a bit older I discovered that passing
time with boys made me feel good, touching them, holding their
hands made me feel excited. Started to feel the urge and desire
of sexual contact with boys, when I was at class VII or VIII.
(Seventh and eight h y ear in formal school ing ).
Misti, A Respondent.
In Misti’s experience he was not sure about his identity at his
childhood and he used to ask himself questions like why he was
like that and why is it happening to him, which is a conforma-
tion to some of the major characteristics of the first stage of
identity development like not being sure about own identity and
asking own self about his own identity.
There is another distinct characteristic of this stage which has
been shown by Cass as not to tell anyone about the feelings and
desires felt by the individual at this stage (Cass, 1984). This is
also found in many of the responses among which the response
of Shammi is cited below.
Aaaaa…when I was a kid, I thought I was a girl and I always
behaved like a girl. I used to say that I am a daughter of my
father. I have two brothers and a sister, I used to say that my
father has two daughters and two sons, that is… I thought I was
a daughter of my father. I did not try to hide what I was think-
ing of myself when I was a kid. But when I grew a bit older and
started to understand that what I was thinking was not accept-
able and was wrong, I started hiding my thoughts, feelings and
behavior from others. I realized that what I was thinking was
not acceptable. Shammi, A Respondent.
The second stage of identity development according to Cass
(1984) is the stage of identity comparison. At this stage the
confusion about self identity seems to be lessened and the indi-
vidual feels that he might be a homosexual. As a result, some of
them start alienating themselves from others and from the soci-
ety. Sometimes they also prefer to act like homosexuals and
seek for group identification (Cass, 1984).
All the cases studied here also conform to all these charac-
teristics of this stage. For example, Shabnur states:
When I became an adolescent I found that I don’t feel any
attraction to the girls. Even touching their hands didn’t create
any reaction into me. Rather I found that I like boys than girls
and their company made me happier and excited.
Shabnur, A Respondent.
There is another important characteristic of this stage ac-
cording to Cass and that is the feeling of being different from
others and feeling alienated from the society. This is also very
conforming to the experiences of the respondents. Regarding
this characteristic, the case of Selina seems to be highly rele-
vant. According to him:
And when I was in class six or seven I started to feel sexual
attraction to the boys. I fall in love with a teacher in my school
who was a male, but I never could tell him, actually never
could tell anybody. I kept asking myself why am I like this? Why
am I not like the other boys? Why don’t I feel any attraction to
the girls? Why I can’t do like all other boys do? Why I feel good
when I touch a boy, when I am with a boy? Why not with a girl?
I always used to think that I am a girl, somehow I have been
trapped in a body of a boy. I could not share all these with
others... I realized one thing clearly that I was a boy and what I
was thinking is not accepted by others. If some others get to
know that I was feeling this way and I was thinking this way, I
would have to face problems. That’s why I always tried to hide
my feelings and behavior from others. Selina, A Respondent.
Selina stated that he started to realize from the very child-
hood that he was not like the other boys surrounding him and
when he realized that he might be a koti, he started to feel dif-
ferent, alienated and scared. He was scared of facing problems
from others and from the society. That is why he tried to hide
his real feeling and behavior.
The third stage of development is identity tolerance and at
this stage the individual becomes fairly sure about his own
sexual identity. He accepts his sexual identity as a homosexual
for the time being but he is not sure about the future role. He
tolerates the identity of a homosexual for the time being and he
seeks for persons who are like him (Cass, 1984).
Shammi stated clearly that when he became sure to some ex-
tent that he was a koti he tried to find other guys who were like
him. In his language it was:
Gradually I discovered that I started to dream about boys at
nights, I dreamt of beautiful boys and felt sexually excited. Then
one day one of my class mates told me that he wants to be
friend of mine. Then I had the first sexual experience of my life
with that friend. I was very much excited to do that and I
wanted to have someone who would penetrate me. But I used to
hide my feelings. Later I met with some other boys who were
kotis and they told me that what I am is called a koti, not a boy.
From them I learned that I am a koti. Shammi, A Respondent.
On the other hand the case of Ritu states much more clearly
about the fact that he wanted to find out and mix with some
other individuals who were like him. He explained this as be-
…then I met a boy in my school who was in class X (the te n t h
year of formal schooling) then. Actually he identified me and
we had a good friendship. He was also like me and he told me
that what I actually feel inside me is not abnormal anyway. He
also felt the same way and he knew some others who were like
me. I met with some other boys who were like me through that
friend and they were much more senior to me. They were about
twenty to twenty five years old then. They taught me the term
koti and through them I got to know BSWS and came here.
(Explanation added) Ritu, A Respondent.
Both Shammi and Ritu said that they became fairly sure
about their sexual identity gradually when they became older.
But at that moment they were not fully sure about their future
identity. As well, both of them tried to find some other indi-
viduals who were like them and they felt comfortable with them
rather than with their known persons.
M. A. FERDOUSH
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 261
After the identity tolerance, comes the fourth stage called
identity acceptance. This stage is marked by acceptance of the
identity and being totally sure about one’s sexual identity. At
this stage the individual is ready to tell others about his identity
and does not think that he should hide his identity as a homo-
sexual from others. As a result he starts passing more times
with homosexuals. But at the same time the individual is still in
doubt that others may create problem for him if they know
about his identity as a homosexual (Cass, 1984).
Regarding the acce pta nce of ide ntity all the respondents were
very confident. All were asked about their identity and all the
eighteen respondents identified themselves as being koti with-
out any hesitation.
Look I am a koti and I don’t have any doubt or confusion
about it. But the society does not recognize this identity. I my-
self think me as a koti. I think about myself such a way because
of my feelings, thoughts, behavior and my lifestyle.
Misti, A Respondent.
Sumona also clearly defined himself as a koti in the follow-
I think I am a koti and I don’t have any doubt about it.
Though I have to face a lot of problems and difficulties because
of my identity, I am a koti. I have no problem to acknowledge in
front of others that I am a koti, but I can’t do it always because
it creates problems for me. Nobody would have been happier
than me if I could shout and say that I am a koti. Sometimes I
wish to do so, but you know, I can’t. Sumona, A Respondent.
On the other hand Mousumi says:
I am a koti, and I don’t think of myself anything except a koti.
Mousumi, A Respondent.
At this stage as Cass said, the individual becomes sure about
his identity and accepts it. All the respondents studied in this
study had accepted their identity as a koti and they did not even
hesitate to talk about their identitie s .
While answering questions about revealing sexual identity at
a later period of life and telling others about own sexual iden-
tity almost everyone conformed to the theory of Cass (1984).
The case of Selina is well elaborative of this stage.
Selina explained this event as below:
Well my parents did not know that I am a koti at the begin-
ning. I also tried to hide my thoughts and feelings from them.
But when I was in Class IX or X, I told them that I was not a
normal boy. I told them everything about me and told them that
I have nothing to do in this matter. They were shocked. Then
my parents tried a lot to change me, they took me to the doctor,
to the kabiraj (traditional healers) but nothing happened. (Ex-
planation added) Selina, A Respondent.
Problems Encountered by the Kotis
Being a koti and living in a traditional society like Bangla-
desh the kotis have to face a lot of problems. Every one proba-
bly took the longest time when asked about the problems they
face being a koti to reply. The major problems faced by the
kotis are discussed below.
The behavior pattern of the kotis is itself a problem for them.
No one accepts the way a koti behaves. A koti behaves like a
girl, talks like a girl, walks like a girl and plays the role of a girl
during sexual intercourse. They cannot always hide their be-
havior pattern from the outsiders. As a result of their behavior
they face problems from the society, because the society ex-
pects him to act like a male, not like a female.
The biggest problem for a koti probably rises from his family.
In most of the cases the parents can’t accept it. Sometimes they
totally cut off their relationship with him, brothers and sisters
also don’t want to recognize him as brother. He becomes com-
pletely a rootless person. Sometimes they are not even allowed
to participate in family decisions and marriage ceremonies of
Relationsh ip with Relatives
It is obvious that if the parents don’t continue any relation
with their child then the relatives would not do so. All the rela-
tives also don’t want to keep any relationship with the koti. As
a result the koti becomes totally a lonely person who has no-
where to go except his koti friends.
There are instances also that the koti is being deprived of his
inherited property. Sometimes his father does not allow him to
inherit any property and someti mes his siblings ch eat him. Ma ny
of the respondents told that they were deprived of their inher-
Distinction between Hijra and Koti
Almost all the kotis said that the major problem for them is
the common people’s inability to distinguish between a hijra
and a koti. Most of the people don’t know about kotis. As a
result when they see a boy is behaving like a girl, they catego-
rize him as a hijra commonly and treat him like a hijra.
Another major problem for the kotis is harassment by the po-
lice. They can’t go to the police for any support. Because they
know most of the times the police will harass them, they will
sometimes take bribe from them instead of helping them. Not
only that, sometimes the police takes bribe from them only in
exchange of the guarantee of free movement.
A large proportion of the kotis are sexually harassed both by
the police and the local mastans (muscle men). There are sev-
eral examples of being raped and to have sexual intercourse
against the permission and will of the koti by the local mastans
Teasing and Abusive Comments in Public Place
All the kotis are victim of teasing and abusive comments in
public places like bus, public gatherings, streets and so on.
People make fun of them and insult them by throwing filth,
bottles and stones to them.
M. A. FERDOUSH
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Recognition by Others
Not being recognized by others is a major problem for the
kotis. Their parikh (relatively permanent partner), friends and
colleagues even don’t want to recognize them in front of others.
As a result self hatred and frustration develop within them.
Relations h i p between a Koti and a P ari k h
The parikh is a relatively permanent partner of a koti. A koti
develops a romantic relationship with his parikh and perceives
him as his husband. A parik is like a boy friend to a koti. It’s a
relationship of loyalty and love. A koti and his parikh some-
times live together in a rented house or room like a husband and
a wife, sometimes they don’t live together but their relationship
remains the same. A parikh while having a relationship with a
koti is not permitted to have any other relationship with another
koti or another female. The koti plays the role of a female in
this relationship. He maintains the household, does all the house-
hold chores like cooking and washing. Sometimes the koti help s
his parikh financially also. But the major problem in this rela-
tionship is that it is not permitted by the society as well as by
the law. As a result the parikh can leave the koti whenever he
wants to and the koti can do nothing about it. Moreover, the
parikh, most of the times, don’t want to recognize his koti part-
ner in front of others only because they are not accepted and
stigmatized by the larger society.
The first stage is identity confusion and at this stage the koti
is not even sure about his sexual identity. He sometimes ques-
tions himself why he is so different from others, and why he is
like this. But he does not even think that he is a homosexual. A
doubt can cross his mind but he does not approve it within
himself. At this stage there is nothing which is related to stigma.
But he falls in the third pattern of stigmatized individual ac-
cording to Goffman (1963) at this stage. Because he starts to
realize that homosexuals are stigmatized in the society and if
his feelings and thoughts are identified as homosexual he might
be stigmatized. As a result he becomes much conscious and
scared of his sexual identity and never wants to reveal it in front
Identity comparison is the second stage of identity develop-
ment as a koti. At this stage the koti’s confusion about his sex-
ual identity seems to be lessened. He feels that he might be
different from others and begins to alienate himself from others.
A couple of stigma management strategies work here, these are
covering and information control. The koti does not want to
reveal his thoughts and behaviors in front of others and thus
alienates him from others because he does not want to be dis-
criminated before he even is sure about his sexual identity. At
the same time he starts searching for people who are like him
and searches for a group alignment. This is the strategy of in-
group alignment. The koti also acts like a normal heterosexual
at this stage which involves the strategy of passing. These are
the strategies used at this stage of identity development to man-
age stigma by a koti.
The third stage of identity development as a koti is identity
tolerance. At this stage the koti becomes quite sure about his
identity and tolerates it, though he is not quite ready to reveal
his identity in front of others. The identity tolerance is a strat-
egy of stigma management which is called information control.
Within himself he now knows that he is a koti and he is differ-
ent from others, but he hides this information from others as a
strategy of stigma mana geme nt . He also acts like a heterosexual
that can be termed as passing to manage stigma. He acts like
this so that nobody could know about his real identity and the
stigma attached with it. He remains as a discreditable person at
this stage. In-group alignment is also used as a strategy to
manage the stigma because he keeps searching for groups and
people like him.
Identity acceptance is the fourth stage of the development of
a koti identity. At this stage the koti accepts his identity as a
koti but still he does not reveal his identity in front of all others.
He still remains as a discreditable person. At this stage he is
ready to reveal his sexual identity in front of few selected per-
sons. These may be his friends, his relatives or some other kotis.
He does this as a strategy of stigma management which is the
in-group alignment. By revealing his identity to only a selected
others he wants himself to be added in a group and feels secure.
But the selection is very important. He only selects those whom
he believes. He also starts passing more time with them as a
result of the in-group alignment. But the strategy of passing
continues to be adopted to hide his real identity from others. He
also is in an insecure position at this stage as he thinks that
others may create problem if they know that he is a koti, thus
the strategy of covering is also adopted by him at this stage.
The objective of this study was to find out how the kotis in
Dhaka manage the stigma involved with their sexual identity
and what the strategies they follow to do so are. What the cur-
rent study has found is that the kotis in Dhaka have to pass
through different stages of identity development as a koti and at
all these stages they have to manage stigma. The identity of a
koti is a stigmatized one and they knowingly or unknowingly
have adopted the strategies to manage the stigma shown by
Goffman (1963). Koti identity is a stigmatized one and a koti
has to live with stigma. But what he does is that he tries to re-
main discreditable rather than discredited to his best.
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