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Miss Gay Nepal now eyes the world

They became the first sexual minority in South Asia to wrest the right to same-sex marriage and have a say in the new constitution.

entertainment Updated: Sep 29, 2009 14:13 IST

They became the first sexual minority in South Asia to wrest the right to same-sex marriage and have a say in the new constitution. Now Nepal's transgender community is aiming to conquer the world outside by taking part in the international pageant for transgenders to be held in Thailand next month.

Sandhya Lama, the 21-year-old Miss Gay Nepal, will represent the nascent republic at the Miss International Queen 2009, the fifth edition of the pageant for transgenders started by Tiffany's Show Pattaya Company Ltd, the world's biggest transgender/transsexual cabaret show that is also supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Sandhya made it to the shortlist of 25 qualified contestants chosen from among 89 applications received from different parts of the world.

"I am excited," said Sandhya, who last year beat 54 contestants in Nepal to win the title Miss Beauty and Brain 2008 organised by the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal's pioneering gay rights organisation, and supported by the World Bank as part of its Development Marketplace project that seeks non-conventional but effective remedies to basic problems.

"I look forward to telling the world about the leaps made by the gay rights movement in Nepal. The Supreme Court has recognised us as citizens who should have the rights enjoyed by other citizens. It has also approved of same-sex marriages.

"Moreover, when a new constitution, written by the people themselves, is promulgated in May 2010, it will also include recommendations given by us."

Sandhya works as a counsellor at the Blue Diamond Society, informing her peer group about the perils of intravenous drug use and advocating measures to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

She lifted the title last year after being asked what she would do for her community if she won.

She said: "I will seek to provide medical treatment for third genders living with HIV and AIDS and try to build an old-age home for them."

Unlike the winners of the recently conducted Miss Nepal 2009 pageant, who will take part in the Miss World and Miss Earth 2009 events late this year, Sandhya has no access to sponsorship and training.

While the Blue Diamond Society is sponsoring her participation, she is using her own resources to hone her abilities.

"I am practising public speaking and reading magazines and newspapers to raise my general awareness level," she said.

Being Miss Gay Nepal is no cakewalk like being Miss Nepal is.

"Unlike Miss Nepal, which multinationals are keen to sponsor, our pageant gets no support," Sandhya said.

Also, unlike Miss Nepal, who is a celeb, being Miss Gay Nepal means little recognition and yet many responsibilities. It is a 10-5 job with a salary of NRS.10,000 (over $130) during which she has to interact with donors, ministers and bureaucrats and members of her community, including people living with HIV and AIDS and commercial sex workers.

But it has given her a sense of pride and achievement. And now the chance to take part in an international pageant, like the regular beauty contest winners, has given her a new goal and a sense of equality.