Growing up in Nepal

Esan Regmi

Esan Regmi. Photo: supplied.

My name is Esan Regmi, I am an intersex man from Nepal and an LGBTI activist. I advocate strongly and with limited resources for the human rights of intersex people in my home country.

I was born in 1988, in the remote mountainous district of Bajura in the far Western Development Region of Nepal. At birth, I was brought up as female by my family but, later at the age of 13 years, my physical development was different compared to other girls. This was extremely shocking to me and my family because I lived in a conservative society and they started looking at me very differently. My community told my family to take me to treatment centers, and counselling as well.

Esan Regmi

Esan Regmi. Photo: supplied.

My family thought I could be cured and I was taken to India for treatment, but upon reaching there the doctor said that the treatment would not be possible. Instead he advised that the hijra community in India would take me as part of their rights. (There is a belief within the hijra community that intersex people belong within the hijra community and should be rightfully given to them to be raised). My parents feared this story and were afraid that I would be abducted and so bought me back to Nepal. At this point my body was slowly developing as male, while all my documents said that I was female. As a result I could not go out and had to stay at home alone.

I was forced to conform and act like a girl because of my documents and having a girl’s name. Despite wanting to have my freedom and to be proud of being intersex I was suppressed and forced to hide inside and could not share who I was with others.

Whenever I did go out, people used to look at me and ask if “I am a man or woman”, which used to stress me out badly and hindered my work and my life. This stress affected my studies too as I often broke down and felt weak. However, my family always encouraged me and led me to continue my studies. When I appeared to take my final examination I was told that I was a fake student as my appearance did not conform with the name and gender marker on my ID card. As I result I had to overcome a great deal of stigma, discrimination, discouragement and accusation while undertaking my exam. Despite these challenges and problems I did not give up on my studies and turned my thoughts in a positive direction. After some time I completed my education and began looking for employment opportunities, but to my dismay I was continuously rejected because my certificates which say ‘Parvati’ a feminine name and my physical appearance, of the man ‘Esan’ do not match.

From experiencing these difficulties and humiliation I made up my mind to address these issues and make other people aware of them. Hence in 2011, I came to learn about BDS and began to work there as a volunteer. I also began to research some facts on intersex. Gradually I began reaching out and talking to intersex community members on a weekly basis which has resulted in national and international connections. I have since been selected to represent the intersex community members at national level.

This year, during my work, I had the amazing chance to meet many Nepali intersex people.

There are so many more intersex people than you would believe and I have met many during the course of my work as I try to build a network for us in Nepal. In February after a visit to ILGA Asia and in coordination with Mr. Parsu Ram Rai, my organization, the Blue Diamond Society, organized the ‘first Intersex National Meeting in Nepal’. This meeting lasted two days and was supported by the United Nations Development Programme and the Multi-Country South Asia Global Fund HIV Programme.

First national meeting

The first national intersex meeting in Nepal. Photo: UNDP.

This meeting brought 13 intersex people together for the first time. We were all of different ages, genders, sexual orientations and intersex variations, but we were united in our experience of being intersex. We shared experiences of confusion, isolation, human rights violations, shame and silence. This meeting gave us the chance to share our stories and to know that we were not alone. It gave us the opportunity to begin building a community where we felt supported and inspired us in our drive to reach out and strengthen the intersex network in Nepal.

We are intersex. We exist, we are here. Do not neglect us in your work, please include intersex people and issues in your human rights work.

– by Esan Regmi. This is an extract from the book Stories of intersex people from Nepal, published with permission.

Translation by Mx Jensen Byrne.