WOW | Coffee Break

THE DIVERSITY OF BEING A TRANS WOMAN

Sophie Sunuwar
Makeup Artist

About yourself: I like to be called as Sophie Sunuwar. And I am known to be the first transgender, first in a sense to come out openly in public just the way I am. WOW back then used to be known as VOW and they gave me the opportunity to express myself as a makeup artist. Nine years later, I am a prominent makeup artist. I own a hair and makeup studio, and a team of friends help me.

Your achievements: Acceptance has been my greatest achievement. I got to know more about myself through Blue Diamond Society. Not that I didn’t know who I was but the understanding got more profound here. Before that I liked to be alone. To talk with people used to feel like a huge task. When I saw people laughing, I used to wonder why I couldn’t do the same… to express myself without any hesitation. Blue Diamond Society gave me the encouragement I needed. I took part in many of their programs. And one of them was a skill development program where I learned about beauty, hair and makeup. That gave me the realisation to follow my dream and passion. Another eye opener was when I participated in a program called Asia Pacific Transgender Meet in Bangkok. I saw there were many professional makeup artists who were transgender like me. And I thought to myself why not in Nepal too? Stereotypes images of us is either protesting or loitering in Thamel and Ratna Park, and to change this perception made me pursue, focus and work harder towards my goal.

Difficulties yet to overcome: I still feel hesitant going to unknown places, especially near children. As they are naive, they often ask me whether I am a male or a female in public. It creates an awkward situation. In fact, a girl went into frenzy when she saw me, it were as though she had seen a ghost. I was embarrassed but I could still hear her talking behind my back with her friend. I had to clarify my identity. So these are things I want to overcome.

Why is being a woman important for you: Womanhood is very important for me. Since young I use to wonder why I was born a male. Whenever my parents took us shopping during Dasain, I always wanted to get a skirt. From that phase to now, I can say that I have been able to live on my own terms, the way I am. Now I realise that being different is not a weakness. In fact, I see it as my strength. It is because of this identity – the woman in me – that I am popular, and it gives me an easy access to improve my work.

Happiness is: As we are all busy with our lives, meeting up with friends makes me happy. To be able to work on what I want to do, when people show appreciation for my work, and when I get compliments… all make me happy.

Message to women: Women need to be empowered and appreciated. But, there are few factors like the issue of security and vulnerabilities women face which impedes the process of a woman becoming more independent. But I am sure with changing times, women will break through the barrier and take a stand in this male dominant society.