Sexual and Gender Minorities With HIV Face Double Stigma in Nepal

Published: October 25, 2011

KATHMANDU, NEPAL – In a residential area of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, neighbors are unaware of what goes on inside this three-story building. Neighbors stare at the men, often dressed in women’s clothing and makeup, as they disappear inside.

The building is a hospice center for HIV-infected men who have sex with men, MSM, and “meti,” the term for transgender or “third gender” people here. Blue Diamond Society, BDS, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Nepalis, runs the center to provide services for the most critical cases.

“Third gender people are often disliked by the society,” says Dibya Gurung, one of the residents at the facility. “Due to the fear of discrimination, we often don’t come out as HIV-infected.”

Gurung, who is infected with HIV, comes from Tanahu, a district about 150 kilometers west of Kathmandu.

He wears a green vest and a sarong-like cloth called a “lungi.” With pink bangles around his wrists, red beads around his neck, his nose pierced, his ears decked with gold earrings and his eyebrows neatly threaded, the 32-year-old looks like a woman. His mannerisms and the way he talks are also feminine.

Although he has a man’s body, Gurung says he leads a feminine life. Because of this, he says he often has had to face social ridicule.

Growing up, he says that he liked sitting with the girls in school. But teachers disapproved, as girls and boys do not sit next to each other in most of Nepal’s schools. Because of this lack of acceptance, Gurung dropped out of school after the fifth grade.

Gurung says that he faced opposition at home, too. Unlike boys his age, he preferred to do household chores and wanted to wear his mother’s and sister’s clothes. Gurung’s family started to resent him, eventually forcing him to move to Pokhara, a tourist town in central Nepal, and work as a dishwasher.

“Though I’m born as a man, I’m trying to live as a woman,” a tearful Gurung says. “It’s actually a very tough job.”

Born as Nandu Lal Gurung, he changed his first name when he got older to Dibya, a unisex name that is popular mostly among women here. In Pokhara, he says he met a man named Manoj Thapa and soon fell in love with him.

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