“There was a dance competition at school and I had chosen to play the female lead. When I got home father punished me for what he thought damaged his name in the society. He hung me upside down and beat me. I must have been 8 or 9. Because I behaved like a girl, people would talk behind his back and comment on his son’s ways. I was the eldest son in the family and that is how, proudly, my name was chosen. As I grew up I could not associate with my gender. Every time, I looked at my sexual organs, I felt something was wrong with me. I spent most of my childhood and coming of age years in confusion. I was kept out in family gatherings and festivals, mostly alone in my room. My feminine disposition was an embarrassment for them. Even though I was a good student, I had problems in school too. I remember one of my teacher had found some kohl and lipstick in my bag and I was humiliated in front of the entire school during the morning assembly and eventually, rusticated. Loneliness became an everyday thing and I started connecting with people who were troubled like myself. And for the first time, in drugs and troubled companions, I found escape. By the time I completed high school, I was already addicted to pills and formulas. The drugs gave me relief from the crisis of my identity. I was still a boy who felt like a girl who did not know what to do about it. And because there was no one I could talk to about my predicament, I started caring less and less about life. Drugs became my only solace and to sustain my addiction I started dealing. I would take a bus to Jogbani with 1000 rupees and make three times the money and I have drugs at my disposal. The fact that I was doing drugs did not bother my family as much as my femininity did. And it was not to get me out of addiction that I was sent to rehab. My family wanted to change my behaviour, they wanted me to act like a boy. When I returned and that did not happen, I was kicked out of the house. At 16, I was homeless.
I came to Kathmandu and a few people from the transgender community of the city took me in. But my addiction has gotten so bad that I was asked to leave. I had again become homeless, but I needed drugs. I started engaging in sexual activities for money. It was quick money to sustain my addiction. My struggle for my gender identity continued and now there was the added guilt and shame to what I had become. The drugs had made me physically incapable of doing anything. I started aimlessly roaming around Basantapur barefoot, insane and helpless. I had gone mad. I had hit rock bottom. I was lucky that a rehab took me and saved me from self-destruction. In the rehab, I got to think. The effects of drugs were slowly tapering off and and finally it occurred to me. I started seeing how my fears had entrapped me. The fears of what others might say and think about me had made me live a false life. Finally, I was able to gather courage and I decided to accept my gender and come out in the open. I started getting myself involved in advocacy for people who like me have to suffer solely because of their gender identity. It was my decision to embrace my gender that ultimately became a starting point in my new life. I clearly remember, on February 2011, for the first time in my life, I put on a high waist skirt, a t-shirt and high heels and walked in the open as a transgender woman. And in doing so, I had finally found freedom.”
(Rhina Limbu, Kathmandu)