The sixth month of the year marks Pride Month--thirty days of celebrating sexual identity, advocating for awareness and acceptance. The Nepali LGBTQIA++ community usually celebrates the month with the Pride Parade and organizing awareness campaigns.
But this year's celebrations are a bit different. The march is now going to be held virtually on June 12 and much of the in-persons programs were planned by LGBTQIA++ organizations are on hold indefinitely.
“The second lockdown has put a damper on things,” says 22-year-old transwoman Samaira Shrestha. “But we’re not going to let it ruin our plans.” Instead of visiting different NGOs, she’ll be working with notable organizations to enhance the quality of life of transgender people in Nepal, and she’ll be doing it mostly online.
“Having seen how social media is playing such a key role during the pandemic, I believe that various media campaigns and the virtual Pride Parade will be just as efficient in inviting more queer individuals into the platform,” Shrestha continues. “Nowadays, just simple posts can hold a lot of information regarding queer activism. I’ll be working to create and share more documents that contain information about the community’s statistics, the problems we face and how we can resolve them.”
While Shrestha agrees that going out is risky right now, she’s trying her best to participate physically in as many places as she can. “I just returned from an interview regarding and will be going to a few podcasts throughout this month,” she says. Besides this, she’ll be conducting discussions in ‘LGBTIQ+ dunia’ a room on Clubhouse, and launching her podcast where she’ll be inviting champions from the community.
Similarly, transman Nipen Wong Lama will be working with Unity for Change, a non-profit organization working for the betterment of LBT groups. Because he was alone during his transition process, he doesn’t have links with many LGBTIQA++ institutions. However, this year, he’s making a change. “Unity for Change is holding mental health awareness programs for sexual minorities,” he tells ApEx. “They’re also making short video clips that shed light on the underlying issues inside the community. I’ll be helping out with those projects.”
Like Shrestha, he’ll be more active on his socials, posting different projects and sharing infographics, videos and inspirational representations on various platforms.
Sanket Bashyal, who identifies as a gay man, says that he’s been participating in a lot of programs till date and he will continue doing so during Pride Month. “Aside from the virtual Pride Parade organized by Queer Youth Group Nepal, I’ll also be in events organized by Rotaract Club of Chabdibarahi on June 17-18,” he shares. “Many social welfare institutions have been calling members of the LGBTQIA++ community to attend their online programs and I’ll try to visit as many as I can.”
For Samip Niraula, another member of the gay community, the month of June is so much more than just marching on the streets. “It’s the promotion of the community’s visibility in society,” he says. “It’s been amazing to see people engage in activities with objectives of creating a safe space for queer folks and I have been supporting these initiations, while also organizing some events for now.”
Besides Pride Parade, there are a ton of events he’s looking forward to attending. “I will be sharing my experiences and thoughts on some of those events, while also listening to the experiences of other great speakers,” Niraula shares. “I believe that every day is a teaching-learning time for the people of the LGBTIQA+ community, but with all these platforms, it’s even more important to participate.”
19-year old Sanjivani has been educating herself regarding the community since she was a teenager and just came out as bisexual last year. Following that, she took part in the pride exhibition organized by Kaalo. Since the beginning of June, she’s been very active on Clubhouse, making public rooms and discussing issues with various members. “We talk about all kinds of subjects,” she says. “Sometimes about the joyful moments of acceptance and coming out and other times about the problems we face regarding our identities. We’re educating each other and embracing the LGBTQIA++ community.”
“Each coming out journey is unique to the individual,” Sanjivani adds. “But having public discussions with members of the community on online platforms makes it easy for closeted individuals to feel like a part of the community.”
Ishaan Prajapati (name changed), who is still coming to terms with his asexuality and has only come out to a few people so far says that public queer identity discourses help him understand what’s going on with him. “I’ve always found Pride Parades to be intimidating so I never went at all,” he confesses.
Very few members of the LGBTQIA++ community in Nepal are asexual, and even fewer of them are men. He finds that only a small group of people in Nepal are talking about this section of the queer spectrum. Because of this, Prajapati usually finds solace in the global asexual community.
“Pride month means that there will be larger discussions with more people in different Facebook and Instagram groups, and I’m looking forward to them,” he shares. “This is probably the first time I’ll be attending Nepali LGBTIQA++ community discussions,” he confesses. Online forum participation means that he can stay anonymous while still being able to participate—and he considers that a luxury.
When much of the community’s plans had to be shelved due to the third wave of the pandemic, many members of the LGBTIQA++ groups were worried that it would hinder their growth. There was an increase in suicide rates among the community, especially transgender, during the lockdown and many saw a frightening surge in mental health issues.
But the community has strengthened its resolve to extend more support to everyone that is struggling.
“Even though we might not get as much media coverage during Pride Month,” says Samaira Shreshta, “we will still make our presence known in every social media platform.” The people behind Nepal Pride Parade 2021 are launching Tweetathon and Instathon, a telethon-type event that’s held on Twitter and Instagram to increase engagement and web traffic.
The media might not cover us, says Lama, but we will be covering all media.