Every year, trans women are left out from the “most inspiring” or “boss lady” lists curated by various organizations despite year-round calls saying trans women are women. Though this list is dedicated to acknowledging the relentless work of Nepali trans women in bringing change and acceptance, it is in no way complete or final.
Kiran Thapa is the only trans woman Radio Jockey at Radio Anmol of Hetauda. She has been working as an RJ for more than five years now and is a well-known voice in the Makawanpur radio scene. A friendly woman by nature, she feels respected by her colleagues and safe in her workplace. Her show called ‘Hello Kiran’ is not only quite famous in Hetauda but is also an inspiration for the local trans women who aspire to have a career in media.
Pinky Gurung is a pioneer in the advocacy of rights of gender and sexual minorities. The President of Blue Diamond Society, one of the country’s earliest LGBT rights organizations, Gurung is a trans woman who was in the frontline to help gender minorities during the months-long lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. She is the go-to person for numerous queer persons in need of resources.
Rukshana Kapali, a Nepali trans woman activist and writer, was recognized by the UN Girls’ Education Initiative as one of six LGBTQ+ young activists in 2020. Kapali has been working to bring change in political as well as policy levels for equal rights and opportunities for the LGBYTQIA+ community. She has been openly sharing her struggles to get enrolled in a law college and highlighting the problems faced by LGBTQIA+ persons in several fields, including academics and education.
Sahara Khadka Chhetri is a partner at the Thamel-based Pink Tiffany, a restaurant which provides a safe and open space for the LGBTQIA+ community. Pink Tiffany is the first openly LGBTIQIA+ friendly restaurant in Nepal. Chhetri is a trans woman, a businesswoman, and a social activist. Her restaurant is a safe zone for queer folks to unabashedly embrace their identities and enjoy their time. Pink Tiffany has been a comfort zone for people who are often rejected by society, their families, and sometimes even by themselves.
Samaira Shrestha, an aspiring model and political activist, caught public eye when she was in the forefront fighting for civil society during the Enough is Enough Campaign in 2020. The trans woman spent 10 days without food and water during her hunger strike under the campaign demanding well-managed quarantine centers across country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Samaira believes that subjects of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex education should be included in the educational curriculum so that children can learn about them from an early age.
Simran Sherchan is an advocate working for the rights and inclusion of gender minorities, HIV patients and human rights in Nepal. She is among those trans women who are fighting to reflect the issues of sexual and gender minorities in the country’s legal sphere. She was the first ever openly trans woman to become the Program Coordinator for USAID’s LINKAGES Nepal project in 2018. Sherchan talking about her transition journey and challenges related to it has given a perspective of what the future holds for Nepali trans persons.
Sophie Sunuwar is the first trans woman makeup artist of Nepal and owns a hair and makeup studio in Kathmandu. Having working in the Nepali fashion industry for more than 13 years now, Sunuwar is a force to reckon with in her professional field. She has welcomed, inspired, and made space for many transgender makeup artists like herself, who were initially reluctant to come out, with open arms. She believes the LGBTQIA+ community can contribute to society building just like people belonging to any other gender.
Anjali Lama won ‘Model of the Year’ at India’s Vogue Beauty Awards in 2019. Her journey to the international fashion industry as a trans woman has helped trans persons in Nepal as well as India break the cis-hetero normativity in defining beauty or femininity. She has been vocal about Nepal’s discriminatory laws agianst non-binary persons and the media’s crucial role in shaping people’s perspectives regarding gender as well as sexual minorities.
Angel Lama made global headlines as well as history as the first trans woman to become a finalist in the Miss Universe Nepal, 2020 pageant. In 2018, she competed in an LGBTQIA+ pageant and was crowned Miss Pink Nepal, which helped her family come to terms with her as a trans woman. Lama has been an inspiration for many young Nepali trans women to embrace their identity and reach out for their dreams with confidence.
Bhumika Shrestha is the first-ever trans woman to have traveled abroad on an ‘other’ category passport. Her autobiography ‘Bhumika: Tesro Linga ko Aatma Katha’ published in 2019 is also one of the first-ever life journey penned by a Nepali trans woman. A writer, activist and an actor, Shrestha dons various crowns and though the LGBTQIA+ movement has shifted gears since her traveling with ‘other’ category passport in 2015, her activism has evolved with time. Now, she works for the rights of children who identify as queer.