My understanding of the LGBTIQ community was limited, based on whatever I was taught and had read. I believe, like most people, I was only informed, but not aware of the LGBTIQ community. My experience this year made me realise that awareness is not attained just by information; it is about the rise and shift in consciousness.

My new awareness has made me responsive and vigilant towards the LGBTIQ community.

In June, I stumbled upon a post on social media. It had a picture of a billboard featuring a black woman. As I had assumed, it was in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but there was more to it. When I delved into it, I found that it was the famous Calvin Klein SoHo billboard. To celebrate the LG- BTQ Pride Month 2020, the iconic fashion brand for its “Proud in My Calvin” campaign featured nine stars of the LG- BTQ+ community from all over the world. The picture in the billboard was of Model Jari Jones, who identifies herself as transqueer lesbian.

In her Twitter account, the model posted the video of seeing her image on the billboard for the first time. Tears welled up in my eyes upon seeing her emotions in the video. Call it my moment of epiphany, something changed inside me.

That video familiarised me with my disassociation and ignorance.

It was then that I realised that as social beings, we make many categorisations, but forget to recognize an individual as a human being first. And consequently, we are also failing to understand that despite the differences, each of us feels the same emotions, and each of us is affected by our surroundings and people around us.

I feel a need to share this because, in recent times, many LGBTIQ people in Nepal are facing transphobic hatred in the social media. It is painful to see them struggling for acceptance and live a life of dignity as they confront the demeaning attitude towards them. There have also been reports in the media that social isolation, prejudice and discrimination are affecting the mental health of the LGBTIQ individuals, and some have committed suicide, too.

Equality and non-discrimination are fundamental elements of human rights. Yet, due to lack of awareness, the discrimination and indifference exist. There is a need to understand that categorisation helps to address similar challenges faced by a certain group of people, but in no way should the categorisation be done to ridicule or discriminate. Furthermore, to bring impactful change, awareness programmes should not only be informative but also focussed on sensitising the society towards the issues of the LGBTIQ community.