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A Life to Celebrate
Male, female, other? Transgender is a term unfamiliar to some, but fast gaining international awareness. One basic understanding of being a transgender is essentially when one’s own sense of identity is not depended or determined by their birth sex, but by the identity they choose. Biologically humans have been categorised as one of the two known genders; however a “third gender” is starting to be recognised. In 2016 Bhumika Shrestha made Nepalese history arriving in Taiwan with an “O” for “Other” marked in her passport. She is Nepal’s first citizen to travel as the “third gender”. Being Nepal’s first “third gender” to travel is but one of the many feats that Bhumika has achieved as a champion for transgender rights, however, life as a transgender does not come without its challenges…
Born as a boy in his home village of Naikap, ‘Kailash’ knew that he was different from his peers. His interests differed compelling him to experiment by dressing and acting differently. As an 11 year old boy his awareness of this difference grew and he knew he was anything but a typical young Nepali male. “I knew I was different. As a child at home, I wore dresses and played with girls toys”. For this behaviour Kailash was often bullied by other kids. He often found himself lonely and confused. “There were no organisations to support people like me. I was bullied for being different and called names”. Despite this discrimination, his family were never malicious. His parents accepted him for what he was and assumed that this behaviour was just a phase,but still only accepted him as a male.
“I had my girly interests as a child. At the time my parents would not punish me for it as they assumed I would outgrow it someday. I was 11 years old when I realised I was attracted to men. People called me names”, she recalls.
As a 16 year old, Kailash dropped out of school because of the bullying from peers and discrimination by teachers. On reflection, Bhumika knows now that she was not discriminated against by the education system but by the individuals delivering it. Little did he know at the time what the future had in store for him.
A chance meeting with the President of the Blue Diamond Society changed the course of his life. “He approached me as I was wearing makeup while dressed in my everyday male clothes. He asked me what my life was like”. It was here at the Blue Diamond Society where Kailash discovered that he was not alone in his confusion. The Blue Diamond Society allowed Kailash to feel more confident in his identity, and from experiencing this space where he could feel free to express himself without having to conform to the pressures of others, Kailash understood it was okay to be different. He then wanted to embrace his identity fully and without apology, and also help others going through the same struggle. With this new found confidence, Kailash announced during a TV interview that he was a transgender propelling him forward as a role model and advocate for transgender rights.
He came to be known as Bhumika, a female transgender rights champion. Bhumika works for the Blue Diamond Society. She won the 2007 Miss Pink transgender beauty pageant, received the Nairam Laxmi Puraskar award for her contribution to society, works with the LGBTI community as a change maker, has become a brand ambassador for a cosmetic treatment company, and is also in politics. These are just a few of the wow moments she has had since being on this journey.
When she was younger Bhumika wanted to be a dancer but believes that life does not always turn out as planned, and this is not always a bad thing. She says that life would have been “disappointing and boring” if she had never learned and gained the confidence of who she is and maintains while it can be hard at times, life is now a lot more beautiful.
People used to think that transgenders were unnatural, like it was a disease. We used to be forced to hide our identities. But thanks to organisations like the Blue Diamond Society, this is changing.
Important people in her life include her mother who never questioned her decisions and has always remained a source of quiet strength. “My mother would say, you can be whatever you like but later on you have to marry a girl. My mother knows of my boy friends and relationships. I take them home and she doesn’t judge me now”.
Other family members however were initially unwilling to accept and understand. They would not speak to her at family events or even acknowledge her presence. But since becoming an advocate for transgender rights they have come to accept her. Many of her peers who used to bully her during childhood have accepted Bhumika for who she is and now have constructive conversations with her.
When asked about what makes a transgender person? Bhumika believes that a transgender is not just about physical change, it is a decision to be who you choose to be. “I am happy with who I am. My sexual organs do not define me”. She also points out that if she were to get a full sex change operation she would still not be a full woman as she would not have menstruation cycles and the ability to have babies. However, she has had her testicles removed to reduce the male hormones in her body.
I don’t believe that if I have an operation to change my sexual parts that I’ll be a full woman, I don’t want to lose my transgender identity, people should know who I am and accept me for that”.
The greatest message that comes from Bhumika’s story is of a journey of self-discovery and defiance. It speaks about acceptance, diversity and understanding. Hers is a story about living her dreams, overcoming difficulties, fighting for larger good, and above all about respect and appreciation.
Bhumika is releasing her autobiography soon… WOW pays tribute to this exceptional human being. Trans women are real women.