With long curly hair and a particularly feminine outfit Neelam Paudel, is busy applying make-up. 21-year-old Neelam is transgender and likes to dress as a woman. When she discovered her own sexual orientation, it was not an easy reality to confront.
Neelam Paudel shares that he felt like a girl, liked dressing like a girl and to do makeup. He used to wear his sister’s and mum’s dresses and would look at himself in the mirror. He didn’t know his reality. He was in grade 8 when he discovered it.
Neelam Paudel explains that she was invited for a radio program, and she asked her parents to listen to it. In the interview she said that she is a transgender. They have accepted her and there is no problem in her family.
Neelam is one of many Nepali transgenders who have decided to be open about their sexuality. Activists working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender also known as the LGBT community, say the situation has improved over the past years.
In fact, Nepal became the first country to include a third option in the gender category that citizens could select as an alternative. Officially recognizing a third gender in turn paved way for stronger social recognition of sexual minorities’ rights.
The founder of Blue Diamond Society, Sunil Babu Pant says that the Court ordered Nepal government to scrap or amend discriminatory laws against gays, lesbian and transgender population. The law ministry has audited the existing laws and there are quite a few that are discriminatory. They have proposed amendments, now we need a new parliament to rule.
Progress in terms of normalizing the third sex in Nepal, can also been seen in public and political spheres with members of the LGBT community becoming national level politicians, but for ordinary citizens like Neelam, life is by no means a piece of cake. They often find themselves vulnerable not just to social ostracism, but also to psychological and physical threats including sexual violence.
Neelam Paudel narrates further that “many transgenders have been raped. They do not say it. It is as if it is part of being transgender… to be raped. It is really sad.”
For Neelam, finding a steady job has been a herculean challenge. She says that she has been rejected several times simply because of her sexual orientation.
Her most pressing desire is one that should be a basic right… that she will finally find a job to settle down with dignity while being treated respectfully in Kathmandu. Achieving this dream is what keeps Neelam moving.