On Wednesday, Nepalis celebrated Gai Jatra with political satire, outlandish costumes and cross dressing. It was therefore a readymade occasion for the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) to stage Nepal's annual gay pride march. Sunil Babu Pant, the founder, says, "All we want is to bring about awareness about homosexuality and celebrate it. We are not changing Gai Jatra into a gay jatra. This exercises our right to express ourselves."
BDS tried to model Wednesday's parade after 'western' ones, but that's not how it worked out. There are those who are willing to come out but aren't prepared for it, while others desperately want to prove to themselves just how comfortable they are with their sexuality. A number of them have peers "pushing them out of the closet".
It is a subterfuge to come out on this day of all those available on the calendar-outlandish costumes, unusual behaviour and political lampoons are to be expected. So who's to discern that they are, in fact, showing their true colours, if all the other citizens of the kingdom are similarly indulging in what is considered outlandish? This parade was not about pride as much as it was about camouflage. (Much like people wearing GAY AND PROUD t-shirts in a predominantly gay city like West Hollywood in the US.) Whatever point BDS tried to get across was sublimated by the farcical nature of the festival. Having said that, it does take courage to do even that much in an overtly homophobic society.
There isn't much space in the public sphere here for men who have sex with men (MSMs). This mentality is prevalent throughout Asia with little exception. The societal construction of 'gayness' runs something like this: if a man is attracted to someone of his own sex, and is willing to express it, he is gay. And being gay means he actually wants to be a woman. If that's the case, then he must resort to imitating women as a drag queen. And if he does wear frocks and makeup, then prostitution is the seemingly obvious next step. It is this brand of fallacious reasoning that rules stereotypes of gays. In turn, it trickles down to the closet MSM who may identify himself as all man, but with a different sexual preference. Even in a haven like BDS there are those that have no access to an alternate view and are forced to model themselves on such archaic gender roles.
Many, who are definitely masculine, but are aware of their attraction to other men, seem to be estranged from this emerging community because the social strata even within this community is rather rigid. More often than not, joining and identifying with BDS connotes a desire to be a woman, which comes with it's own set of stereotypes-pull out the chiffon sari and magic marker make-up. Of course the members also have to deal with additional ridicule and abuse from society as a whole, some of which has been reported in the local media.
Nobody wants to be a victim. Everyone wants to be heard, and if nothing else, the BDS parade succeeded in doing that in some measure. As 'Preeti', wearing in a little black cocktail dress for the parade, puts it, "We deserve the same rights accorded to straight people: we don't want to be afraid, we want exposure. Unless society acknowledges us, we cannot move forward. We don't want a revolution, just the same respect given to everyone else."
Angel Angeles is a staff writer at WAVE.