By Rajesh Kumar Tamang
Nepal is a country caught up in the winds of change. Just this year the Supreme Court have instructed the government to legally recognize same-sex marriage within the country. Nepal has a reputation as being progressive in comparison to many of its neighbors – indeed all the way back in 2007 important legislation was put into place to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, both in the workplace and society in general.
There is still, however, a way to go, especially with regards to the rights of Nepal’s large transgender community. Nepal has recognized what they called the third gender – or “other” – since 2011. However, Nepalese law only permits for transgender men and women to change their legal gender to “other” and not to male or female. Activists are fighting against this “gender trinary” and, in 2021, LGBTQ+ organizations are proposing an act allowing complete self-determination, but it remains to be seen if it’ll pass or not. As for the public, attitudes are mixed and transgender people are often not seen by the general populace as the gender they identify as. Furthermore, sexist roles are often culturally enforced upon them.
Tourism has always been a good catalyst for progressive change in the world and through the hard work of those within the travel industry the winds of change can be fanned. My name is Raj Tamang of Responsible Adventures, and I am a man with a mission: to help the LGBTQ+ community of Nepal – specifically transmen. I believe by having the clout of a prestigious business I can bring about meaningful change in not only my business, but of Nepal as a whole.
Responsible Adventures are an innovative ecological boutique tour operator in Nepal, Bhutan, India and Tibet. We specialize in luxury camping treks and intimate tailor-made tours through the Himalayas.
My mission is a simple one: train more transmen to work as chefs for Responsible Adventures – opening new and exciting possibilities for transmen from low-income families in the remote villages of Nepal. I am on the advisory board of a hotel management school where they are giving away 158 full scholarships to 2 students from each of the 77 districts of Nepal. I am working to make sure those spaces go to members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially to train members of the transmen community to join our team as high-quality chefs and even eventually becoming guides on our tours.
Why transmen specifically and why as chefs, you might ask? As well as being just the first of many steps aimed at helping the entire LGBTQ+ community of Nepal, transmen are in a unique situation within Nepalese society as they are often still seen as women and thus not given jobs stereotypically “meant for men.'' As men themselves, they are more likely to reject stereotypically “female” roles and challenge the status quo.
As Responsible Adventures leads the way and shows the invaluable asset that is LGBTQ+ workers we intend to convince the hotels, restaurants and cafés we work with to hire more members of the community. I work with IGLTA, even being chosen to be one of the 5 judges for IGLTA Foundation's Impact award for this year. Together we are working to convince other outbound tour companies to contribute to the fight to bring about fairer hiring practices in Nepal.
I – that is Rajesh Kumar Tamang, or Raj – have been leading treks, tours and adventure holidays since 1988. So, it’s fair to say I am passionate for both Nepal and my job – I honestly couldn’t ask for a better calling. Since June 2016. I am an ambassador for WAS (The World Adventure Society) – a non-profit which engages people who love adventure and are willing to cooperate for a good cause on a volunteer basis. I also work on the advisory board of CLE (The Academy of Culinary Arts) and only agreed to be on their board if they make a meaningful commitment to being an organization inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community.
I am very fond of the proverb ‘it takes two hands to clap’ and through good hiring practices I intend to get the ball rolling. Together we can make the Himalayas echo with the sound of all hands clapping to the tune of a more diverse Nepal.
All Image Credit: Rajesh Kumar Tamang