Aftermath of earthquake in Nepal hits LGBT community hard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found Nepal's Blue Diamond Society on a blustery February day in Kathmandu. I took a cab down bustling, unpaved roads to get there, and as I stepped out of the vehicle, I could feel the thick smog and dust of the city greet my face. I felt uncomfortable and feverish, but as a study of LGBT rights abroad, I knew I had to go.

Walking inside the rainbow-adorned walls of the Blue Diamond Society, my discomfort vanished, and it felt like returning home. As one of the oldest and most well-organized lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations in South Asia, BDS campaigned for Nepal's recognition of third-gender identity and has been in the process of petitioning for marriage equality. With a marriage equality bill awaiting votes in its legislature, Nepal would become the first country in the region to legalize same-sex marriage.

That day in February I found myself sitting across from the magnificent Neelam Silwal, a young, female-identified, Nepali resource worker at BDS. We shared stories of coming out, overcoming hate, and finding love.  

Neelam came out as a lesbian to her grandmother, not her parents. When Neelam explained to her grandmother that she liked girls, she told me her grandmother replied, "Oh! I like girls too—I like you."

"My grandmother doesn't know how to write her name, but she accepted me," said Neelam. True love and acceptance transcend language, no matter the origin.

Unfortunately, LGBT Nepalis like Neelam are in need of assistance. On April 25, 2015, a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck central Nepal, killing more than 8,800 people and injuring over 23,000. May 12, an aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3, wreaked even more destruction on the already crushed area. Nepal's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) have been some of the worst hit.

As in the United States, LGBTI people are particularly vulnerable to being disowned by their families and forced to the streets; therefore, LGBTI Nepalis have not only lacked resources, but networks of support in the aftermath of the disaster. Making matters worse, relief efforts have divided tent camps along a gender binary, often excluding trans* and third-gender individuals.

The Blue Diamond Society has organized LGBTI-inclusive relief efforts, but its facilities are severely damaged. There are shortages of gas and food, and BDS is already stretched to care for HIV-positive LGBTI victims. BDS needs tents, clothes, blankets, umbrellas, food, water, medicine, and generators. They need our help.

This summer, we have a lot to celebrate within the United States LGBT community: great strides in transgender visibility through Caitlyn Jenner's coming out story, and the appearance of Laverne Cox on the front cover of Entertainment Weekly wearing Statue of Liberty chic. We have achieved marriage equality. Let's not forget to support our LGBT family abroad, and join in solidarity.

In the spirit of accelerating acceptance for LGBT people everywhere, I encourage you to donate to the Blue Diamond Society through their website, or through inclusive, grassroots efforts like Engage Nepal. If you are in the New York area, consider attending the Nepal Relief Concert July 19th at Le Poisson Rouge.

Take action, and show that—no matter where you are—you have got the back of the LGBT community.