Bishnu Adhikari, originally from Nepal, and Melodie Madison, born in France, are a couple of the same sex who live together in Colorado, USA. They got married in the USA nearly three years ago, amid the coronavirus epidemic, after being acquainted for almost two years and developing a loving relationship. Bishnu expresses that his life has undergone significant changes since then, stating, “After that, I felt incredibly happy and mentally healthy. Not only did I experience happiness and joy, but also a sense of safety. Love has triumphed.”
Their wedding took place on September 15, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic when the world was grappling with the crisis. Consequently, their marriage ceremony was conducted through Zoom. After applying online, a judge attended the video call and officiated their wedding. Since same-sex marriage is legal in the USA, they did not encounter any difficulties in tying the knot.
Bishnu Adhikari was born in Dhikurpokhari, Kaski, around 35 years ago, and was assigned female at birth. However, he developed a male identity and now identifies himself as a transgender man. In all his documents, he has listed his gender as ‘male’. Bishnu explains, “It doesn’t matter if someone refers to me as ‘he’ or ‘she,’ but I identify myself as male in all my documents. It has also been a social battle.”
After arriving in the USA in 2014, Bishnu resided in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. In 2018, he met Melodie Madison through a mutual friend. Initially, their connection was that of friends, but it quickly evolved into a deep and affectionate relationship. Melodie, who holds a master’s degree in music therapy, became a harmonious presence in Bishnu’s life.
Bishnu states that after Melodie entered his life, he truly understood the meaning of love. He explains, “Love is like medicine. When your heart is troubled, being with the person you love brings a sense of calmness. You can cry and laugh with the person you love. Since our marriage, I feel more mature. I experience a sense of family care. I feel extremely happy and mentally healthy. I feel secure knowing that there is someone who will support me in any situation.”
As they establish themselves further, they have plans to have their own biological child in the future. Bishnu mentioned that they are prepared to have a child through either Melodie’s or Bishnu’s own pregnancy. Bishnu says, “We have planned to have our own biological child in the future through sperm donation.”
Realizing He Was ‘Different’
Bishnu was born as the fourth child in the family, with two older brothers, one sister, and another younger sister. Although his family regarded him as a daughter, he felt like a son from a young age. Many individuals in both society and school would often comment that he resembled a boy. His friends were predominantly boys. Bishnu recollects, “Within the family and society, I was seen as different, but at that time, I didn’t feel it. In school, there were separate lines for boys and girls during morning prayers. I used to stand in the boys’ line, but the teachers would direct me to the girls’ line. I felt different since childhood. Instead of playing with my sister, I would play with other male friends. However, I truly realized I was different when I was around fourteen or fifteen years old.”
He explains that he was initially frightened when he discovered he was different. He struggled with confusion, anxiety, and worry during his physical growth and development. Bishnu shares, “When I realized I was different around the age of fourteen or fifteen, I felt a deep sense of unrest within me. I knew I was different, but I didn’t know that there were others like me.”
Discovering ‘Himself’ Through a Radio Interview
During that time, Annapurna FM, a popular radio station in Pokhara, aired an interview with a trans woman named Bindiya Gautam. Bindiya spoke about her own experiences as a trans woman and being different from others. As Bishnu listened to the interview, he was deeply touched. He finally understood why he was different.
While studying tuition for the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) examination in Pokhara, Bishnu contacted Bindiya Gautam at Naulo Bihani Pokhara after hearing the interview. By visiting and interacting with Bindiya and other people there, he gained a better understanding of his identity as a member of the LGBTI community. It was during that time that he realized he was a trans man. He says, “Then I cut my hair short and stopped wearing skirts.”
Upon understanding himself, Bishnu faced challenges when he returned to his village. Despite studying up to Grade Twelve, he had to suppress his true identity. His family and society had their own expectations and standards of how a daughter should behave and dress, which they tried to enforce upon him. They stopped him from socializing with boys and pressured him to wear makeup and dress like a girl. Bishnu says, “As much as my family and society tried to make me conform to the standards of a girl, I tried to align myself with the standards of a boy. I wanted everyone to treat me as a boy, not a girl. My conflict with society and family started from there.”
Leaving Home at Night
This conflict reached its climax one day, leading him to leave his home late at night and wander. At that time, he had completed his studies up to Grade Twelve. Due to societal and familial pressure, he made the decision to leave home. However, he had no destination in mind.
In the dead of night, he quietly left the house where he was born and raised. He had no money in his pocket, and he didn’t know where he would live. Nevertheless, he left the house and reached the highway. After waiting for a while, a night bus arrived. Without money to pay the fare, he boarded the bus and sat on the roof by climbing from the back while the bus was in motion.
He reminisces, “I held onto the back and climbed onto the roof. I didn’t even know where the bus was heading. I felt worried for some time, but I also felt a sense of freedom after leaving home. I fell asleep and don’t know how long I slept. When I woke up, I was at the bus park in Kathmandu.”
After arriving in Kathmandu, he got in touch with the Blue Diamond Society, an organization that works for the rights of the LGBTI community. At that time, the Blue Diamond Society was led by Sunil Babu Pant. The society provided support and assistance to individuals from sexual and gender minority communities, including skills training and scholarships for education.
Leading the Campaign from Pokhara
After spending some time with the support and shelter of the Blue Diamond Society, Bishnu decided to return to Pokhara. He took on a leadership role in the campaign for the LGBTI community in Pokhara and even established an organization called Paribartan Nepal under his leadership. He actively engaged in connecting with, assisting, and reporting issues to the Blue Diamond Society in Kathmandu. Additionally, he pursued his undergraduate studies in Pokhara.
He strongly believed that the rights of gender and sexual minorities could only be achieved through legal changes. Many people encouraged him to study law due to his nature. He enrolled at Padma Kanya Campus with the aim of obtaining good grades, but he was unable to complete his studies as he dedicated much of his time to advocating for gender and sexual minorities.
In 2008, when Sunil Babu Pant, a prominent advocate for the rights of sexual and gender minorities, was nominated as a member of parliament, there was great excitement within the LGBTI community. Bishnu, filled with enthusiasm, joined the campaign as well. He had been a member of the Blue Diamond Society since 2006 and worked in the Media and Human Rights Department of the organization from 2010 to 2013 before moving to the United States in 2014. During this time, he actively participated in numerous programs and initiatives for the betterment of gender and sexual minorities.
When Sunil Babu Pant became a Member of Parliament, Bishnu felt that political struggle was necessary to secure rights for the LGBTI community. Bishnu says, “Our conclusion was that the campaign should be carried forward politically by joining like-minded political parties. We went door to door of the political parties to include our voices in the party manifestos. However, instead of yielding desired results, it only caused political division and split among friends who were previously united.”
Difficulties in Explaining to Family
It took a long time for Bishnu’s family to understand him. Leaving the house resulted in a rift in their relationship. However, with the passage of time, Bishnu’s family is gradually starting to understand. He states that even though he never explicitly told his parents about himself, they are slowly comprehending. He says, “It took me many years to understand myself. I had to listen to numerous programs on the radio and television. I had to participate in these programs. I don’t blame my mother, who didn’t study much, for not understanding quickly.”
However, Bishnu points out that it’s disheartening when even educated family members fail to comprehend. He mentions that Nepal’s constitution and laws are progressive in terms of gender and sexual minorities, but societal attitudes lag behind. Bishnu emphasizes that individuals from the LGBTI community must first accept themselves, and it is crucial for their family members to accept them as well.
He says, “The most significant factor is family support. Parents, brothers, and sisters should support. Above all, the family needs to understand. It hurts more when family members don’t understand than when political leaders and prime ministers fail to grasp these issues. My heart aches when my educated brother fails to understand his teenager brother. Once the family accepts, nothing else matters. If the family accepts, courage follows. It becomes inconsequential whether the Prime Minister accepts it or not.”
Bishnu observes that many homosexuals are compromising their own lives and the lives of others by entering opposite-sex marriages due to their families’ lack of understanding. He states that families who celebrate their children marrying someone of the opposite sex should also celebrate when their children marry someone of the same sex. He exclaims, “Why is love celebrated for the opposite sex but ridiculed for the same sex? Love is love.”
The Importance of Education
Bishnu stresses the significance of education for the LGBTI community. He suggests studying as much as possible while understanding and accepting oneself. He says, “Don’t worry about what others say. Others’ understanding depends on their level of knowledge. Invest your youthful energy in the right places. Regardless of what anyone says, never stop reading and acquiring knowledge.”
He asserts that after studying and understanding, one’s quality of life improves because they can connect with friends and companions on the same level. Bishnu believes that despite belonging to a marginalized community, one doesn’t have to lead a marginalized life if they are educated and financially stable. He considers education as a vital pathway for personal advancement and increased self-respect.
However, Bishnu acknowledges that the journey to mainstream is long and hindered by social consciousness and political mechanisms. He states, “Society, political parties, and the state system act as obstacles to coming to the mainstream. Even young leaders in political parties lack sensitivity towards these issues. Newcomers in politics and those who start new parties are showing little interest in addressing the concerns of the LGBTI community.”
Bishnu shares his bitter experience when he approached political parties and raised his voice, only to be met with indifference. Party leaders would initially avoid meeting members of the LGBTI community, and even if they did, they only offered false assurances. Bishnu expresses sadness at seeing some leaders opposing even the Supreme Court’s interim order for the temporary registration of same-sex marriages. He says, “Many friends have continuously advocated for the rights of the LGBTI community. In this context, the Supreme Court’s latest interim order is a welcome development. However, it is disheartening to witness some leaders protesting against it.”
Severe Mental Illness
Bishnu emphasizes that mental health issues are severe within the gender and sexual minority communities. Rates of depression and suicide are alarmingly high and have further increased due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He explains that the economic crisis compounded the pain of social discrimination, pushing many individuals from the LGBTI community into depression and even suicide.
“While others returned home during the pandemic, LGBTI members, who were already rejected by their families, had nowhere to go. The epidemic worsened the situation for those already suffering from social discrimination and mistreatment. Its effects will linger for many years,” he states.
Bishnu also highlights the increasing use of hormones and gender reassignment within the gender and sexual minority communities in Nepal. He urges individuals to be aware of the health risks associated with these practices. He emphasizes that self-acceptance is crucial and advises paying attention to the physical and mental effects of hormone usage.
Addressing the context in which individuals are unable to continue their studies due to social distortions, inconsistencies, contempt, and hatred, and facing exclusion from society and family, Bishnu asserts that mental health problems are also caused by abuse and drug use. He says, “After receiving no love from society and family, many individuals fall into the trap of substance abuse in search of happiness. This has led down the path of depression and suicide.”