Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are leading names of transgender women making it big but it’s not only the West we have to look for inspiration. With growing number of individuals from the transgender community in Nepal making a firm mark – figures such as Anjali Lama, Pinky Gurung, Rukshana Kapali have become the modern day heroes for many coming to terms with their gender identity. Today, the 31st of March also happens to be the Transgender Day of Visibility. The day is held to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people globally.
Though the Instagram stories and photos from Facebook may help in painting a glossy picture but transgender men and women continue to face discrimination for who they are every single day. Newa activist Rukshana Kapali who identifies as a transgender woman is currently fighting for her right to be registered at the Tribhuvan University. Sadly, the grass does not seem to be greener on the other side – wherever that may be. A Trans Mental Health Survey from 2012 found that almost 48% of trans people in the UK had attempted suicide atleast once. Stories of exclusion of transgender people from public institutions, schools to spaces created for leisure is not uncommon in Nepal.
An important question we can ask ourselves is WHAT CAN WE DO? Sitting there and flicking through, thinking – this is not my problem does not help. There are so many trans people and you may very well be working with them, socialising with them and have come across them without realising. One key action we can take is to refrain from making jokes about gender and identity and that should not come down to only us but also stopping others when they do. The list of things we can do is endless but start by being nice to people and if you do have trans friends or someone shares about their gender identity, love them and respect them for who they are. According to PinkNews (with the assistance of Trans Murder Monitoring Project and the Transgender Day of Remembrance), atleast 190 trans people have been murdered since last year. Think of how many deaths have gone unreported and how many deaths have been mis-gendered when reported?
The marriage of transgender woman Monika Shahi to Ramesh Nath Yogi was a fearless step that managed to grab the attention of many, likewise model Anjali Lama’s career in Mumbai has given many hope and strength to pursue what they love and to be confident with who you are. Anjali’s rise in Mumbai also poses many questions regarding why the Nepali modelling industry wasn’t able to work with her the way India has. The unending activism of Pinky Gurung and Manisha Dhakal should serve as inspiration to many in the transgender community and wider LGBTIQ community. Securing space where you feel comfortable to be yourself is important and something that we lack in abundance – Meghna Lama‘s PINK TIFFANY restaurant and lounge in Thamel is that one space where many can feel at ease being themselves.
Representation in media is important and the way transgender characters are shown on TV serials and Nepali films need to be continuously questioned. We need to move away from reinforcing stereotypes.