At a time when more and more gay celebrities in the west are choosing to come out about their sexuality, acclaimed cinema director Alok Nembang’s suicide last week came as both a shock and a reminder of the persistent intolerance in Nepal towards homosexuality. While the actual cause of his suicide is still unclear, those close to him knew that Alok had been in search for someone to love and understand for a long time.
In a society engulfed by superstition, narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy, the 42-year old found himself an outcast. Alok was known to be in a relationship with another man a few years ago but after they broke up he had been lonely and by himself. This, along with his inability to come out publicly about his sexuality forced him to end his own life. In his suicide note he says he chose to end it once and for all.
He chose this path just because he didn’t fit into society’s perception of ‘normal’. This wasn’t a suicide, it was murder by an intolerant Nepali society. There are many others like Alok Nembang.
Even in the West, celebrities rarely acknowledge being gay in public fearing backlash from fans and consequences in their professional lives in the past. But now more public figures are choosing to come out which has encouraged others to follow suit.
Also last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced he is gay. After years of denying his sexuality, Prison Break star Wentworth Miller came out last year, also revealing he had attempted suicide on numerous occasions because of his sexuality.
Gone are the days when being gay meant an end of one’s career in Hollywood. Nepali-American fashion designer Prabal Gurung, journalist Anderson Cooper and Canadian actress Ellen Page have all come out, and this has not hurt their careers in anyway.
However in Nepal, people still hesitate to advocate for or even talk about ‘gay rights’ in fear of being labeled homosexual themselves. It is important for society to understand that advocating for gay rights doesn’t make you gay just like advocating for animal rights doesn’t make you an animal. Society needs to change its mindset regarding homosexuality and learn to accept a person’s choice. Until this happens, Nepali society will be guilty of turning the lights out for many more talents like Alok Nembang.
Nothing about us, without us, Sunil Babu Pant
Equality in paper at least, Basil Edward Teo
Hidden in plain view, Ayesha Shakya