Aarohi Basnet, a 19-year-old Nepali model and the second runner-up of Miss Teen International-2023, is not just a talented individual but also an inspiring representative of the LGBTI community. In addition to her remarkable achievements, such as winning the Best Walk award, Aarohi aspires to establish herself as a model and choreographer. Her journey towards success has been filled with dedication and determination. Aarohi has actively participated in numerous programs, showcasing her passion and commitment.
Beyond her remarkable accomplishments, Aarohi has emerged as an advocate for the rights of the LGBTI community. Two years ago, she underwent gender confirmation surgery and proudly identifies herself as a trans woman. However, her path to self-discovery was not without challenges. Like many others in the LGBTI community, Aarohi encountered various difficulties during the initial stages of her journey. Being aware of her identity, she experienced instances of violence due to her inability to express herself openly in society. She struggled with questions of self-identity and how to navigate societal acceptance. Reflecting on her past, she shares, “When I remained hidden, I faced numerous forms of violence. Who am I? How can I be open? These questions often plagued my thoughts.”
Despite possessing a skill certificate, Aarohi faced employment challenges after revealing her true self to society. She recounts instances where she endured harassment, insults, and discrimination in certain places. It saddens her to witness that gender and sexual minority communities continue to be denied the same rights enjoyed by cisgender men and women. Expressing her disappointment, she says, “Within the LGBTI community, it may be acceptable to be transgender. However, despite having a skill certificate, I struggle to find employment, and in some places, I encounter harassment, insults, and discrimination. We are yet to attain equal rights as our cisgender counterparts.”
Fortunately, Aarohi has found immense support from her family, who stand by her side with unwavering assistance and encouragement. Having successfully completed her 12th-grade exams, she has also served as a judge in various programs. Aarohi’s academic achievements have been commendable throughout her life, and her performances in diverse programs have earned her numerous accolades.
A year ago, Aarohi was known as Dhiraj Basnet and was married to a gay man from Ramechhap. However, their marriage was short-lived. Their relationship came to an end when the government failed to recognize same-sex marriages. Reflecting on this experience, she expresses, “I want to embrace my identity as a trans woman. Unfortunately, our marriage was not officially registered due to the government’s refusal to recognize it. Our family issues led to the dissolution of our relationship.”
Following the breakdown of her marriage, Aarohi has decided against pursuing a married life in her current circumstances. Although the Supreme Court has temporarily allowed the registration of same-sex marriages, she remains skeptical. Until same-sex marriage is permanently recognized in Nepal, she has chosen not to enter into another marriage. Nevertheless, she appreciates the Supreme Court’s decision, as it signifies a meaningful milestone in their prolonged struggle.
Aarohi highlights the challenges faced by the LGBTI community, including familial rejection, homelessness, and forced heterosexual marriages. While the younger generation displays a somewhat positive understanding, societal attitudes towards the LGBTI community remain unchanged. In some places, the LGBTI community is treated with respect, but in many others, they face derogatory remarks and insults. Elaborating on this matter, Aarohi conveys, “The younger generation may possess a better understanding, but their overall mindset has not evolved. There are still individuals who consider our existence as unnatural. Even with the temporary discussion on marriage registration, many voices emerge discouraging it, fearing it would harm family relations. Our society holds negative views toward gender and sexual minorities. Despite the pockets of respect we encounter, there are still many instances of prejudice.”
Determined to secure the rights of the LGBTI community, Aarohi remains committed to fighting for justice. She aspires to earn a living through mainstream occupations, just like any other woman or man. Asserting her stance, she declares, “Our rights have been infringed upon, and I aim to reclaim them. Just as men and women occupy their rightful place in society and earn a living, I too wish to bring about positive change and make society recognize me as a human being.”
While Aarohi may not hold a strong interest in politics, she finds herself drawn to the media. Fearlessly advocating for the LGBTI community, she eagerly utilizes the media platform to amplify their voices. She envisions a future where self-love prevails, and she continues to progress toward her goals.
Photo credit: Everest Events and Miss Teen International.