LGBTIQ is an abbreviation used to represent people with their gender identities as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer. Nepal was considered one of the leaders to lead the LGBTIQ rights movement in South Asia. More than a decade ago, Nepal became the first nation in South Asia to recognize LGBTIQ rights as fundamental rights. Some of the countries are still struggling to have an open discussion about those issues and some even have implemented harsh punishments to the ones who disclose oneself as belonging to LGBTIQ. Let us limit our discussion within the country we live in.
While I was in my college, I heard someone say “History is the outcome of civilization” and I couldn’t agree more. Human beings have evolved in the changing times and histories have been made accordingly. However, in the present context, I do not find a correlation between human evolution and how history is being constructed. One of the prime examples I have been witnessing recently is the attitude towards LGBTIQ people.
Even though we claim that Nepal has very progressive laws when it comes to gender identity issues. But the paperwork is lost somewhere in the imaginary bubble and the people are only left with trouble.
Rukshana Kapali, a transgender student was denied to get admitted in Tribhuvan University because of her gender identity. Even though she had all the necessary documents including the official letter from Lalitpur Metropolitan City Office mentioning the changes in her name. She had to face a lot of hardship during that time. Running the controller’s office on a daily basis and the insensitivity of the officials there added more misery.
This is one of the numerous reported instances faced by the LGBTIQ people and that too on a daily basis. I am surprised by the attitude of so-called educated people. A few months ago, I was attending a short course. Once a teacher was being very inconsiderate and was giving examples which were demeaning to LGBTIQ. After the class was over, I talked to the teacher in front of all the students and asked him to be more conscious regarding such issues. He admitted “Oh yes, if there were any students representing LGBTIQ, it could have been a problem for them” and moved on. I don’t know if you are convinced of what he mentioned. Some might feel that it’s great the teacher admitted his mistake. But I am not convinced. Just because there is an absence of LGBTIQ people, you are not free to humiliate them.
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I wonder, how on earth can the people who are labeled as “educated/literate” be so ignorant about such issues? Just because someone mentions “I am just kidding!”, is it okay to mock someone with foul languages relating to LGBTIQ? WHY? It simply doesn’t make sense. We talk a lot about humanity. “We all are equal” and things like that. But why are we not treating everyone equally? Why are our jokes based on LGBTIQ issues? Why are the physically weaker people regarded as the ones representing LGBTIQ?
My Personal Experience of Being Bullied!
I am not a Gay or Bisexual. But my friends (even whom I used to consider close friends) have bullied me calling gay/bisexual. Some of them (who are well aware of such things and advocate in those issues) even have talked about me being a gay/bisexual behind my back. When I came to know that, I was disheartened.
I am neither a Gay nor a bisexual. And it’s not about whether a person is a gay/lesbian/trasngender/bisexual. It’s about how one person treats another. I used to be bullied in this matter and it saddened me. I wonder how would someone from LGBTIQ feel if s/he is continuously bullied and vulnerable to verbal/physical abuse on a regular basis. How far has humanity gone? Maybe a question we all should ponder upon.
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LGBTIQ Legal Status in Nepal
The constitution of Nepal approved by the constituent assembly in 2015 guarantees the following:
- Right to include preferred gender display as their identities.
- No discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation by the state as well as anyone.
- The right of access to state process and public services for gender and sexual minorities.
Some of the other progressive actions which were enacted since 2007 are as follows:
- Same-sex sexual activity.
- Equal Age of Consent.
- LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military.
The issues of LGBTIQ which are still not considered by the constitution of Nepal:
- Same-sex marriage.
- Marriage equality.
- Joint adoption by same-sex couples.
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Here’s an extract from a conversation with Bibek Magar (activist and advocate) about LGBTIQ. Here it is:
Why did you choose to identify yourself as a part of LGBTIQ?
I vividly remember the time during my teenage years when I was very confused about my sexuality and gender expressions. I had started to hate and was agitated with myself. Every night, I couldn’t stop thinking for hours and used to question; what happened to me? What kind of disease or stage is this? Am I being abnormal? And things like that.
I remember, many times I had wished god to change my sexuality and gender expressions but it’s did not happen (obviously). Some natural things can never be changed and maybe God wanted me to be like this the way I am.
So this is the main reason why I want to aware people and want to be a role model among them. Still, many of the gay friends are confused and hate themselves. Many are of them are hiding their identities and living life full of sadness and confusion in the closet. So it is very important to come out openly and tell them; Yes we EXIST and you are NOT ALONE.
What are the main challenges you’re facing as a part of LGBTIQ?
I have faced many challenges before openly identifying myself as Gay. Self-acceptance was the biggest challenge of all.
After I came out, I am still facing so many challenges. People stigmatizing and discriminating me indirectly and talking behind me is agitating. Sometimes, I am directly ignored by the people and tend to distance from me. My so-called educated friends, YOU are the reason for discrimination I have been facing.
My family members (mother and aunt) know my sexuality and funnily they still believe that it’s a momentary feeling and is soon going to be over. Family acceptance is a major concern as well. Because of my body image and size, I have been facing discrimination too.
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In what ways you feel blessed to be a part of the community?
I feel so blessed to be a part of LGBTIQ. I am not shy and hesitant to introduce myself and openly talk about these issues. Now, I have witnessed my understanding level has increased and I feel that God has made me extra special than others. Every-time I feel so blessed from these things.
How do you plan to contribute personally and professionally?
I have always made the first priority to contribute to my community as much as possible. Since 2014, I am engaged in the LGBTIQ movement. I want to work for the citizenship right or marriage equality, prevention and awareness of HIV and STDs. I always speak loud and advocate for our rights.
Now I am a USYC member leading the “Acceptance” project which is funded by the US embassy. The project aims to work with LGBTIQ youth (targeting the ones who are still in the closet and scared). I am also an initiator of Initiative Gay Youth Group which is a first gay group in Nepal. Through this group, we are doing many activities LGBTIQ orientations in school, college, telephone counseling, gay visibility workshop, etc. Talking about my future plan, I want to represent the LGBTIQ community at the government level as well.
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What is your message to young people?
We are not criminal and corrupt people. We are not doing anything shameful and criminal things so we don’t have to hide ourselves. So we need to come out with real identity and live life with dignity.
“Thankfully, we don’t have hate rallies against LGBT+, and there aren’t any political oppositions to sensationalize & uprise hatred against them, but it is still a sad truth that ‘visible’ discrimination against them still has a big place in our society. Labeling them with names like “Chakka” still happen even in the public sphere, and it isn’t rare either.
But discrimination against the LGBT+ isn’t just about calling names against them. It has more severe and perhaps broader consequences. Its true that members of LGBT+ are still rejected from job interviews, rejected from social settings, discouraged for political representation, and even rejected by family members just because they chose to identify themselves differently from the mainstream. Structural discrimination still prevails as evil against these individuals.
Imagine a kid, 15 years old, in a school who realizes that he’s Gay, and also finds himself in an environment where primarily many people, including his teachers & friends don’t know well what a Gay person is, and even if they do know it by definition, most aren’t willing to accept him to be as equal as other members of the society. To discover the world that is not fully inclusive for you, and will try to bring you down when you express who you are, is a big discouragement in itself. If you tell them what you want to identify yourself as, you know you will begin a journey full of consequences that can emotionally pin you down in every step. And if you don’t, you may not be able to practice the freedom that you’ve idealized for yourself. It’s a potential trap, which only a few are able to overcome.
No wonder why many, if not all, therefore, practice the choice of not identifying themselves as LGBT+ in public. And sadly, there are instances where gay people have been married to people of their opposite sex, because of extensive social pressure.
A 22-year-old homosexual man from Tajikistan had to flee from his country because his family and society wouldn’t accept him at all. In 2017, at least 445 Brazilians died as a result of homophobia, 387 of which were murder cases. One can get punished by the death penalty in Nigeria and stoned to death in Mauritania for practicing ‘homosexual activities’. Thankfully, our society is a bit different and much ahead from them in regards to this issue.
But at the same time, we aren’t like Argentina either – a country recognized to be one of the most advanced in terms of LGBT rights, or Thailand where individuals from LGBT+ are encouraged for jobs, and work even in the position of Cashier at departmental stores, even though businesses are mostly reluctant to hiring people belonging to LGBT+ in positions that need to deal with a lot of people.
This serves to mean that we still have a long way to go!
While these changes require visionary steps from socio-political & economic standpoints, as individuals too, we can certainly play our part. If we are involved in rhetoric that is discriminatory, we can choose not to use them anymore, and even if we aren’t, we can do our part to discourage other people from using them. For people concerned that they’re not aware of the things that they should/shouldn’t say or do while engaging with a person from LGBT+, answers to most of the similar questions are wide-spread available online – the more we study on this, the better we become.
Having been groomed up in a society that is structurally not always compatible & acknowledging for the LGBT+, there are many unintended biases that we sometimes hold that even we aren’t aware of them. And I think we all can choose to ‘reflect’ on them, and destroy beliefs that even slightly prevent us from being acknowledging, encouraging & socially integrated with the sexual minorities.
I hope we all take a fast car on this and reach there sooner than we have imagined!” – Saurav Bhatta (Find him on Instagram: @sauravbhatta_)
In the end!
Sexuality is not something we CHOOSE. However, we can be conscious enough about how we treat another person. Let’s be sensible about it.
“Love is always in the air 💕💕💕 The existence of LGBTIQ+ people had realized by so-called uneducated, old and non-scientific society since the time of Raja Maharaja and God but what about today? We have globalization, scientific education and already in the 21st century yet we do not recognize them as a human who could get married. How can policymaker promulgate such law just because they are different? And if it’s been neglected because they are different then dear Government of Nepal I would like to urge that we each and every individual are different. Our law should not divide us at least when we have people’s democracy. It’s not differences that divide us but the diversity that unites us. आखिर माया त माया हो (In the end, Love is Love.) #MarriageEquality#SameSexMarriage #ChangeLawInNepal #weMEN#HamiDajjuVai #PrideMonth #PrideParade I am for Marriage Equality.” – Sanjog Thakuri (Find his inspiring blogs: Nicesanjog