Whilst Nepal has enjoyed progress when it comes to the rights of LGBT people, we can all agree that it can still be better. Cultural and societal progress is bound to take time but there are individuals who are hard at work to spread awareness and the message of acceptance to wider community as well as LGBT people themselves. Accepting your sexuality is often a key moment… for some of us, uttering the very words ‘I AM GAY’ happens to be the most frightening.
Mr Gay Handsome Nepal 2017 Manil Singh from Sarlahi surprisingly only shared those words after he won the gay mens’ contest. Read on to find out more about twenty-nine year old Manil and his experience of being a Nepali gay man.
LEX: Hi Manil! First off, who was the first person that you opened up to about your sexuality?
MANIL: It was my class mate who happened to also be my neighbour.
LEX: How was your life as a closeted gay guy?
MANIL: Being gay, I developed crushes on boys but it was hard to express my feelings to them. I felt and put pressure on myself during that time. I made gay friends using gay apps as well as through mutual friends circle. It’s very easy to connect with gay friends here in Kathmandu.
LEX: How old were you when you came out to your family and how was it?
MANIL: I came out directly after I won Mr Gay Handsome 2017. At first it was very hard to convince my family but I did it very confidently by using my knowledge. Being a student of social work and psychology I can understand the mentality of a person and what my family were going through. I think I did not face much family pressure as others. I am lucky to have supportive siblings. They know me very well and my image and work as a social activist helps them understand what I am doing and who I am.
LEX: That’s brave and incredible! How is life now?
MANIL: It’s quite busy as I am involved in many organisations that are working for different minorities and their human rights.
LEX: What advice do you have for young gay people?
MANIL: Definitely to be responsible for yourself, your family and society. If you are closeted then atleast open up to your family or someone who you can trust before it creates a bigger problem for you or your family. As I am working on HIV/AIDS prevention program I would like to encourage all to go get tested. Don’t delay, be safe and help make the community safe.
LEX: How is the lifestyle for gay people in Kathmandu?
MANIL: Life of gays here in Nepal is getting better as we can manage ourselves. We are enjoying what we have and I can say this because when I went for Mr Gay World in South Africa I met many delegates from different nations and I came to know about the challenging conditions that some continue to face and live in.
LEX: What are some of the challenges of being gay for you?
MANIL: The main challenge for me is the way people think and LGBTIQ+ laws and the constitution. We have more to do. The good thing is, a lot of gay friends approach me to learn about our challenges and also my story of being Mr Gay Handsome to going to Mr Gay World. Sadly, some gay friends hesitate to get to know me or meet me openly due to my out status.
LEX: Thanks so much Manil for your time and answers. Thank you for the work that you are continuing in Nepal, for LGBTIQ people and promoting sexual health in our community.