How much do you know about LGBTIQ ?

Sushmee Singh/Pahichan – Let me begin from the very basics – revealing the full form of each terminology of LGBTIQ: ‘L’ stands for Lesbian, ‘G’ for Gay, ‘B’ for Bisexual, ‘T’ for Transgender, ‘I’ for Intersex and ‘Q’ for Queer/Questioning.

Did you get any or all of them correct? If yes, congratulations and if no, well, you sure need to catch up with rest of the world!

Having clear idea about sex, sexuality and gender is very essential to understand this article. ‘Sex’ is determined by difference in organs any organism is born with. In case of humans, male and female are the widely known biological differences, but very few people know about intersex. ‘Gender’ is created by the societal norms, values and culture. You must be feminine, submissive, tolerant, working at home, etc – these are some gender roles given to women by the society and gender roles given to male includes masculinity, providing for the family, never showing emotions among others. Sexuality defines a person’s emotional, mental and physical attraction/attachment with another individual and it differs from person to person. Broadly, sexuality is classified into three kinds: homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. Homosexuals are attracted to their own biological sex; heterosexuals have attraction to the people of their opposite biological sex whereas bisexuals have attraction towards both sexes.

Let us move on to understanding these terms a little deeper and clearer. Lesbian refers to those females who are emotionally, mentally and physically attracted to female. They are biologically female, show similar physical changes during their developmental stage and carry out gender roles just as the societal norms and values demand from girls. Likewise, Gay refers to those male who are emotionally, mentally and physically attracted to male. They are also biologically male, show similar physical changes during their developmental stage and carry out gender roles of men as demanded by the society. Thus, Gay and Lesbian are classified as homosexual individuals.

There is a wrong concept in the society when it comes to identifying gays and lesbians. People believe that all the lesbians are masculine, like to dress up and have hairstyles like a boy, and that every gay are feminine, like to walk and behave like a girl. However, this is not always true. There are both feminine and masculine lesbians and gays. We might be able to guess the masculine lesbians but we can never guess the feminine ones unless they introduce themselves as lesbians. Similarly, we might be able to guess the feminine gays but we will never identify the masculine gays until they reveal their identity. Therefore, no one has the right to put a tag on another person’s sexual and gender identity because only the person himself/herself knows who s/he really is.

Let us move on to a little tougher part, i.e. transgender. Transgender is itself of two kinds: trans-woman and trans-man. Most people are familiar with the concept of trans-woman but trans-man might be a new term for many people.

‘Trans-woman’ is those women who were born as a male child but later transformed into a female during the course of growing up. Though they were born a male, their mind, their wants, their desires – everything matches to that of typical female as imposed by the society. To make it easier to understand: their soul and body do not match, due to which they have to change their physical appearance, which they usually do by keeping their hair long, and getting breast implants.

‘Trans-man’ is the exact opposite of trans-women. They are biologically female but they transformed into male during the course of growing up. Although they have the biological organs of female, their desires, wants, and mind match with that of typical male as described by the society. During the course of my 3-months internships, I personally met many men whom I would never have identified as trans-men until they disclosed themselves and it was the same with trans-women.

Transgender individuals teach us that the sex organs we are born with do not always define who we are inside. During interactions, many transgender shared that they felt trapped in the wrong body until they opened up to their family and friends about their identity. There is no greater torture than forcing oneself to do, to wear and to act like someone who is not your true self. Hence, let us “straight” people have the courage to accept and celebrate their “coming-out” as any of the LGBTI individuals.

Among them all, I find intersex the toughest to understand clearly. However, I can say with absolute certainty that intersex people can be identified in three separate stages in life: during birth, during puberty and during reproductive stages. There are 140+ varieties identified within intersex itself. Some varieties include being born with unclear external sex organ; being born with a clear female external sex organ but later developing beard, mustache and hoarse voice during the puberty; being unable to reproduce even after experimenting with all the medical technologies available, and many more.

In LGBTIQ, ‘Q’ refers to Queer or Questioning. We came across the term ‘queer’ recently in our Critical Theory book and understood that this term was coined to represent both heterosexual and homosexual women during the Second Wave Feminism. Today, this term is defined as any individuals who openly support the LGBTI community despite not being a part of it. Likewise, the people who do not identify as homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual are categorized into ‘Questioning’. Asexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Akoisexual, Autosexual, Gerontosexuality, Kalossexual, Menosexual, Objectumsexual and many more such sexual orientations are categorized under this term.

Although LGBTIQ is an abbreviation generally used and understood in day-to-day life, the legal term that defines this community is Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). Similarly, people of LGBTIQ community are identified legally as Sexual and Gender Minorities (SGMs) of the country and they face regular harassment, arrest, torture, interrogation, beatings, social exclusion and abandonment. Today, LGBT right in Nepal is considered one of the most progressive in Asia and yet people of this community face discrimination and harassment in daily basis. Many people are unknown about this issue whereas some fake it, due to which the progress regarding this issue seems to go in a tortoise pace. Thus, let us all unite and lend our supporting hands to the LGBTI individuals in their quest for equality and end the stigma and discrimination this population faces each day because their effort will go unnoticed until we show our support and interest for their rights and equality.