Breaking Stereotypes: An Inspiring Journey of Bhumika Shrestha

Bhumika Shrestha LGBTQIA+ Transgender woman

Bhumika Shrestha is a proud transgender woman, who has been working as an activist for the rights of Queer community in Nepal since 2004. She is currently working as a project manager for the Blue Diamond Society and was a spokesperson for the Women’s Commission.

Shrestha has been engaged in the advocacy of the people of the queer community and is actively playing to establish various human rights and identities of the people of the LGBTQIA+ community in Nepal. She also advocates for same-sex marriage.

Blue Diamond Society is the pioneer organization of Nepal dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community which advocates for all sexual and gender minorities to ensure equal rights, economic empowerment, livelihood support, equal access to public and private services, representation, and protection.

After joining the Blue Diamond Society, Shrestha learned about the traumatic experiences of people of the LGBTQIA+ community, including abuse, family abandonment, and humiliation.

As Bhumika Shrestha was expelled from the school for affirming her sexual identity, she couldn’t pursue her higher education. However, it was a very liberating experience for her. It was then, she dedicated her life to helping the people of the queer community who were helpless.

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What is LGBTQIA+?

LGBTQIA+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, asexual and others. The “plus” denotes different sexual identities including non-binary, pansexual, and so on.

According to Bhumika Shrestha, queer represents the whole LGBQIA+ community. Lesbian, also known as “mahilasamalingi”, means a woman who is attracted to only people of the same gender. Gay, also known as “purushsamalingi”, is a man who is attracted to only people of the same gender.

Bisexual, also known as “dwoyelingi”, is someone who is attracted to all genders. Transgender, also known as “paarlingi”, is someone whose gender identity is different from the gender associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Intersex, also known as “antarlingi”, is someone who has both male and female sexual characteristics and organs. Asexual, also known as “alaingik”, is someone who does not experience sexual attraction towards an individual of any gender. The concepts of lesbian, gay, and bisexual are related to sexual orientation, while the concepts of transgender and intersex are related to gender identity.

Bhumika Shrestha explained other gender categories such as non-binary, someone whose gender does not fall into one of these two categories, male or female. Plus (+) represents the gender to be diverse, which is influenced socially. The whole concept of LGBTQIA+ is still growing.

Bhumika Shrestha’s View on Struggles of Queer Community

Every individual in this world has struggles of their own, be it animal or human. But whatever those struggles are, they are external struggles such as work struggles, financial struggles, and so on. But she feels that in the LGBTQIA+ community, along with external struggles, there are internal struggles as well.

Shrestha used the term “pristha” to describe the people of queer community meaning that they are not different from others but a little bit unique. If they believe themselves to be different than other people, then they will start to struggle with themselves and their self-esteem.

From an early age, Shrestha had an obsession with makeup and other typical “feminine” interests. She enjoyed hanging out with girls and developed crushes on boys. She felt confused and guilty for having feminine emotions and the body of a boy. But she knew that she was more feminine than masculine.

Shrestha used to be teased, bullied, and criticized by her classmates and people in the community for the way she was. She believes that tortures do not have to be physical for their presence. She was mentally tortured for her sexuality by others. She felt like she was adding additional struggle to her mother’s already existent struggles. However, she was supported for who she was by her mother and she feels like that’s the least she could ask. She is happy that she has an extraordinary life.

This is just an example of Bhumika Shrestha. There are many stories where people of Queer community have struggled more than she had, facing discrimination and abuse, leading them to tragically end their lives.

LGBTQIA+ Rights in Nepal

Nepal is ahead of many other countries in the world as it particularly acknowledges gender and sexual minorities in the constitution. The new constitution of Nepal is the first in Asia to explicitly mention the human rights of people of the LGBTQIA+ community. It mentions sexual orientation and gender identity in several articles.

Shrestha mentioned different articles of the constitution such as Article 12, which states that citizens will be allowed to choose their preferred gender identity on their citizenship document, Article 18, which states that the state and judiciary will not discriminate against gender and sexual minorities in the application of laws and Article 42, which provides gender and sexual minorities the right to engage in state procedures and public services that promote inclusion.

But there’s a discrepancy between the promise of the law and its implementation. All these are just written in papers and hardly implemented. Shrestha herself faced the absurdity of having to identify herself as male in her citizenship document, despite portraying herself as a trans woman worldwide.

Same-sex marriage was not defined in the constitution previously. There were no laws, no acts, and no articles on same-sex marriage in Nepal. However, after 2007, LGBTQIA+ people are legally allowed to register their marriage temporarily. But there are no further rights. So, Shrestha believes that the government should bring changes in policies by aligning with international policies.

For additional information, please visit this website: Queer Rights in Nepal 

Historical Presence of Queer Community

Since the dawn of humanity, there have always been LGBTQIA+ people in the world. It’s simply that they are more public and upfront about their sexuality than they were previously.

Even in Hindu scriptures (Grantha) such as Ramayan, Mahabharat, there are several characters representing the queer community. Shrestha says, “The queer characters of Hindu grantha are respected. But, why do the queer people of the community receive hatred?”

Shrestha says, “Why are we discriminated against when even queer Gods are worshipped?” She believes that God is within us and our inner self should be respected in the first place.

In Nepal, Gai Jatra has been celebrated as a day for queer community day since the very beginning. As they couldn’t express themselves as who they were, they walked openly on that particular day in the past. But it has changed over time. They also celebrate Pride Month in June where they conduct various events to educate people to improve their sexual health, human rights, and well-being of sexual and gender minorities.

Awareness among youths about Queer Community

LGBTQIA+ individuals and organizations are becoming increasingly visible in Nepali society, especially in urban areas. Pride events and LGBTQIA+ organizations have helped to increase awareness and provide support for queer individuals.

Some educational institutions have started to include LGBTQIA+ issues in their curriculum, helping raise awareness and promote understanding among young people. Topics such as sexual orientation and gender minorities are added to the textbooks for school children.

Shrestha was rejected when she approached some schools to conduct awareness campaigns. She believes that comprehensive sexuality education should be added to the curriculum to raise awareness and understanding among young people.

According to Bhumika Shrestha, students of public schools are more active, open, and knowledgeable on various issues of Queer community as compared to the students of private schools.

Things are starting to change in Nepal but an entire change in the system is yet to come. Shrestha mentions, “It is not only the issue of queer community, it is the issue of all humanity.” So, to support this community, one doesn’t need to be a part of that community. One can support them in any way possible.

Conclusion

Bhumika Shrestha, a transgender activist in Nepal, has been working for LGBTQIA+ rights since 2004. She currently works as a project manager for the Blue Diamond Society and a spokesman for the Women’s Commission. She works to protect the human rights and identities of the LGBTQIA+ community, including advocating for same-sex marriage. Despite legal advancements, including Nepal’s progressive constitution that recognizes LGBTQIA+ rights, implementation remains a challenge. Shrestha’s challenges with societal acceptance highlight the need for increased awareness and understanding, especially among young people. While there is improvement, with LGBTQIA+ visibility increasing in urban areas and certain educational institutions introducing LGBTQIA+ subjects into their curriculum, comprehensive education and social acceptance remain insufficient. So, she suggests people to support the queer community in any possible way.

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