*Images via Facebook
Zenisha Tamang was born male, but at the age of five realized she identified with being female. For a while, the 20-year-old tried to fit into the conservative Nepalese society. At the age of 15, Tamang accepted herself as a transwoman, someone who was born male but identifies as a female. In light of Nepal's recent inclusion of a third-gender option in its passports, she tells her story of dating as a transwoman in Nepal to Derek Cai.
"I was with my boyfriend for one year before I summoned courage to tell him the truth. And when I did, he told me he didn't care that I was born a boy. I was his best friend. And he was mine. But his family, and a mass majority of the people in Nepal, aren't as open as him. His family gave him an ultimatum: Me or them. He chose family. It was the right thing for him to do, but still his actions hurt like hell. We had met on Facebook three years ago. I was 17 years old.
"He worked as a chef, and I was a student. It was only after chatting for a while that we realized we lived about 10 minutes from each other. We decided to meet for the first time. I was so scared, so nervous, but so excited at the same time. We met, talked, and began to hang out more. We started dating, and before long, he called me his girlfriend. We mostly ate at home, because he loved experimenting with new recipes, and I loved being his test subject. He loved to cook, and I loved to eat. We were made for each other that way. And like all couples, we fought and we made up. We laughed and we cried. We loved each other.
"When his family forced him to pick a side, I knew it wasn't a decision he could make lightly. As much as I loved him, I never would've been able to live with myself knowing I was the one who broke up his family. We didn't have the chance to say goodbye either. They confiscated his phone, disabled the Internet at home, and forbade him to meet me. I guess you could call it a break-up, even though we've never officially did so.
"He chose his family, and I almost chose suicide. My family stopped me. You see, I didn't just lose my boyfriend-I lost my best friend too. Nepal's a conservative society. For someone like me to find friends, let alone a boyfriend, is almost always impossible. They see it as a curse, and most transgendered people are kicked out of their own homes… but I was lucky.
"My parents did not kick me out when I told them who I was, and how I felt. I have a family who accepted me, although it took them a few trips with me to see a counsellor (I was about 15 or 16 then) before they did. They even paid for my breast implant surgery this year in Thailand, which cost US$2,000 (S$2,829). I feel really blessed. I was born into an understanding family, and my friends are all supportive; the only problem was my own confusion.
"It might sound like a clichéd analogy, but it really did feel like my soul was trapped in a prison cell-a body that isn't my own. But my family and friends accepted me for who I am, so it was easier for me to accept myself too. I'm a much stronger person today than I was a few years ago. I've been researching into sex-change operations on the Internet, and I've been talking to my counsellor about it. It's a long process, but it's something I want. And I want to earn the money for it myself. It'll cost about US$10,000. It might take a while, but I'll get there.
"For now, after graduation, I want to be able to do some good for the LGBT community in conservative Nepal. I'm sure there are plenty of kids like me, who feel different, and are struggling. Sometimes you just feel so alone, and I want them to know they're not."