I was born a male, but I never felt I belonged to that body. I was very lucky because I was supported by my family from a young age and they have come to accept me as I am.
But school was another story; the boys would constantly tease me and teachers would single me out in class and embarrass me. I was expelled from school because I was a 'bad influence' on other students. The administration told me to change my behaviour and act like a man or leave school. It was also difficult walking on the streets. The moment people realised I was 'different' they would taunt me and call me names like 'chakka' and 'hijra'.
I remember when I started working with Blue Diamond Society whenever we invited people for meetings they refused to attend because they thought they would be contaminated with our 'disease' and would turn into homosexuals or third gender. I think this has changed a lot now and there is greater acceptance. Having said that, I feel Nepali people are much more willing to accept transgenders and transexuals, because our presence is more visible, whereas homosexuality still baffles them.
Since 2010, I am an active member of the Nepali Congress party. Like most Nepalis, I used to think politics was a dirty game. But after working with the community for the past seven years, I have understood how important visibility in the media and in national level politics is. The only way sexual minorities will make real progress is if we can politicise our issues and make it a part of the national agenda. Right now there are only two of us involved in politics, Sunil Babu Pant and myself. Unless more people participate we won't be able to make an impact.
I am also happy that the entertainment industry is finally growing up and learning to respect us. Earlier Nepali movies used to make fun of transgendered and gay people and used them for comic relief. But recent movies, like Highway where I act as a transgendered character, are beginning to portray our real problems.My biggest suggestion to families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersexual, queer children is give them all your love and treat them like regular kids. The moment they have the support of their families, it becomes much easier to deal with the discrimination from society and the nation.
Bhumika Shrestha is a transgendered activist and Human Rights Officer at Blue Diamond Society. She joined politics in 2007 as a member of the Nepali Congress.
Between taboo and tolerance, TRISHNA RANA
Sexual minorities have made a space for themselves, but complete integration and acceptance is still hard to find