After the video of Nikisha Shrestha, an aspiring model and a TikTok celebrity, being chased and harassed by two men became viral, support for Nikisha as well as demand to bring her culprits to book flooded various online platforms.
Following a public outcry, the Nepal Police Headquarters directed its Cyber Bureau to investigate the matter and take action against the offenders. But police ‘initiating’ investigation shouldn’t be the end of the matter, after all, harassments against the LGBTQIA+ community do continue within police interrogations and court hearings.
So let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet for simply identifying and calling out blatant harassment against socio-economically disadvantaged gender and sexual minorities. This is a rather perfect time to take our activism a step further.
The moral fabric of our society wants us to be binary and see things in black and white so that it’s easier for the folks to judge without having to make any effort whatsoever to educate themselves about the intricacies and interrelationships between gender identity, sexual orientation, and societal construct.
The mentality that queerness must be suppressed just so an unwilling privileged class can dismiss truth for convenience is harmful for people of all genders.
The toughest crowds to please are close circles like friends, family, and co-workers, so call out the uncles who mock gays for being “feminine”, educate the mothers about patriarchy when they slut-shame other women, condemn friends when they make jokes like “apache helicopter” and make insolent comparisons by tagging you on posts by queer people.
Be the person in the room who tries to always be appropriate and non-offensive despite being called “uptight”. Follow queer, gender fluid people on social media instead of toxic meme pages and read about the history of oppression against non-binary folks, their struggles, and their achievements.
We must ask ourselves — how many of my friends are non-binary, how many of my friends belong to a class, caste, and religion different than mine, how many of my relatives understand the gender spectrum and its intersectionality, do my teachers or bosses or peers use appropriate pronouns when addressing queer people?
Your ‘cringe’ could be empowering for many, so it is vital that writing and discussing atrocities against sexual minorities be sensitive, respectful as well insightful.
Moreover, it’s time to move ahead and beyond the traditional concept of punishment as an answer to an offence. Data show that counseling instead of punishment has been more effective in changing people’s perspectives. Imposing fines and jail terms should not negate the mental health aspect of violence against LGBTQIA+ community.
In the past when the internet was not so widely accessible, we’d read in the news if someone died by suicide and learn about their struggles only after they had passed away. But now, in this age of information superhighway, we see people being bullied, reduced, and subjected to humiliation often live on social media if not on a post published a couple of hours ago. We are witnessing the bullying, the bullies, and those being bullied in real time.
Let’s not forget, we have many hypercompetitive, inconsiderate, and dismissive people around us that call themselves progressive, but would refuse to learn and understand. Some often go out of their way to make life difficult for queer persons, just like the ones who chased and harassed Nikisha.
Not killing or not harassing a person does not mean you’re automatically an ally, it is important to understand the difference between equality and equity, to listen to queer narratives.
The LGBTQIA+ community is tired of mourning the untimely and unjust deaths of community members, tired of the harassments, of reconciliation. They want to live their lives without seeing another of their own dehumanized and dead.
Yet they continue to keep patience and educate sometimes inquisitive and most times intrusive bunch just so that they can live as normally as any cis-gendered, heterosexual, abled person.
Laws that don’t reflect a general voyeuristic suspicion is all that Nepali LGBTQIA+ community has been demanding. Those with caste, class, cis, religious and abled privileges should acknowledge their contribution in pandering to heteronormative familial structures and how it affects the very basic lives of those who identify differently.
Nikisha Sherstha is a force to reckon with as she battles queer-phobic harassments and musters up the courage to unabashedly put up a few new videos every day. But Nikisha is not obligated to educate or enlighten us about the everyday struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community. Her mental health is at stake.