Transgender activist Bhumika Shrestha seems like the kind of person I [Lisa] would meet in San Francisco, not in a developing South Asian country where issues like gender equality, social mobility, and individual freedoms are still novel concepts. She confidently walks across the coffee shop, and her stunning looks naturally catches the eyes of the male waiters and us two lesbians. Her equally good-looking boyfriend Ram accompanies her and warmly greets us. Bhumika tells us that she meets with international media often and enjoys the opportunity to talk about her pride as a transgender woman.
Thanks to the work of Bhumika and other LGBT advocates, Nepal has made some amazing progress in recent years. In 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court created a third legal gender and legalized same sex marriage. Last year Bhumika was officially sworn in as a leading member of the Nepali Congress, one of Nepal’s most influential political parties. She is the first representative from the transgender community to be a public face in any political party.
In these ways, I only wish California were as progressive as Nepal.
Speaking to Bhumika, it’s easy to forget some of the hardships she faced. She speaks English and comes across as well-educated, despite being expelled from high school for her gender presentation. She now works in public office, even though the police once incarcerated her five years ago for dressing up as a woman. She walks down the streets of her neighborhood unapologetically, in spite of the harassment she faced growing up for presenting herself as a girl and changing her name from Kailash to Bhumika at age 12.
Bhumika tells us that everything changed for her when she discovered the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s LGBT and HIV organization started by Supergay Sunil Pant. She says, “I joined the Blue Diamond Society seven years ago when I didn’t understand my identity or sexual orientation. I didn’t know the meaning of transgender, lesbian, bisexual, or gay. [But] when I joined the Blue Diamond Society, I no longer felt different.” Bhumika now works as a human rights educator for the Blue Diamond Society, counseling individuals and families as well as documenting human rights abuses.
Bhumika tells us how the 2007 Supreme Court decision that created a legal third gender for transgender individuals affects her. “When I go to the bank I have to give my ID card. Same when I travel. When security