In childhood, I was a very lighthearted boy, playing football and cricket with my friends in my village. I felt very normal. Everyone seemed to love me. Because my academics were going well, there were expectations. Although I come from a Brahmin1Within the traditional caste system in Nepal, Brahmins were the highest caste in Hinduism. family, we didn’t have the sense that we were superior or high caste. As kids, we studied and focused on our careers. I was just shy and cute, but when I started to be a teenager I got hints.
I used to go spend time with the men at my maternal uncles’ house. I was a kid, so they didn’t mind changing their clothes in front of me. Sometimes they took me to the river to bathe. They were so macho and I was always attracted to them. There was always the question: What’s that behind the underwear? Instead of wondering about the girls’ stuff, I was interested in knowing about the boys’.
When I was fifteen I had to give an exam for the SLC.2The “School Leaving Certificate” is a national examination that students take to graduate the Nepali equivalent of high school. This is a national exam, so all the students had to move to a different village to take the ten-day-long exams. My science teacher was helpful and polite. He always wanted to teach me. When our exams started the science teacher hosted us in his house. It was a very good chance for me because he was able to help me study. One night while the other students were preparing for their economics exam in the other room, my teacher asked me many times if I needed help. He started to teach me everything. I was wearing shorts because it was very hot outside. He was wearing lungi,3A traditional piece of clothing worn by men in many parts of South and Southeast asia. just a piece of cloth around the waist. He made me sit very comfortably in the chair. When he sat on the floor in front of me he was touching my thigh as he taught me. At first, I was shocked: What was going on? When he started to touch my thigh I felt all different kinds of feelings. All of my blood was circulating very fast. I was red and shy. But from deep inside, I wanted things to happen.
This guy slowly went higher and higher, and he played around with me. I stopped like a statue. He didn’t say anything but he performed oral sex on me. It was the first time in my life this happened, and it was so pleasurable. He was thirty and I was sixteen. I felt so happy that I found him. I felt like that in the first moment it happened. But when it finished I thought, Oh my god what did I do? I started to cry. My teacher comforted me and told me nothing was going to happen. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I was paranoid that he would tell my friends or parents.
Still, every time I masturbated I thought of him. The guy came to my home many times. He was trying to find a way to establish this kind of relationship, but I was too scared. I did like him, but I was afraid he would tell my parents. Many times he would drop me off at my home on his motorcycle. We would go to the market together. He would buy me sweets. He was trying to be a little bit more than a teacher.
I passed my SLC exams with a very good score, so I traveled to Kathmandu to join a Bachelor’s degree program in charter accounting. I met one of my friends there, Sandip. He was so cute and very helpful in my studies. As we became good friends, we shared things, but not the bed. I knew that I liked this boy. He was very handsome; he also liked me in a special way. I didn’t know if he was gay. I didn’t even know that I was gay. I started being attracted to Sandip, but I never tried anything. Even though I was a teenager with a high sex drive, I was so scared that my friends would find out my secret—we didn’t know about “gay” things.
There is a dirty, polluted, run-down park in the center of Kathmandu called Ratna Park where a lot of cruising4“Cruising” is an English word that refers to the practice whereby men seek and sometimes have sex with other men in various pre-designated public places; in Nepal, often bus parks, public toilets, the tourist areas and large temples. Though this term is new to Nepal, cruising is a practice that pre-dates its arrival. and other sexual things happen within the thick crowds. From my cousin’s house where I was staying, I had to cross Ratna Park on the way to my college. I saw a lot of activities, so I sat by the fence. Lots of old guys came. They started asking very weird questions: “How old are you? Are you married? Girlfriend?” They were all sexual questions: “You look taller, maybe you have bigger stuff?” They kept staring at my crotch. It was so funny and so weird for me. I didn’t know what same-sex attraction was exactly, but it rose in my blood.
I met a very intellectual man one night there in Ratna Park—I think he was from India—and he said to me, “I really like you, that’s why I’m sitting near to you. I’m gay… do you want to come with me to my place?” I knew that I was attracted to this guy, but I didn’t know the word “gay.” In his room, he made me watch some gay porn movies. It was so strange: boys having sex. I felt shy watching these things. He started touching me everywhere and kissing me. It was the first time in my life having full sex. After that I thought, Okay, I like boys. I enjoy that.
When I needed a new place to live, Sandip introduced me to his friend, Mohammad, a man in his thirties from a Gulf country. To stay at Mohammad’s house, I had to look after a few things as if I were a houseboy, cooking and cleaning. I didn’t want to do any of this. That’s not a part of our culture: being a boy and doing this work. But my goal was to complete my education, and I had to live somewhere to do that. After a couple of days, I noticed that this foreign guy had a lifestyle totally different from my Nepali lifestyle. He smoked hashish in front of me, he offered me drinks, and he used to have small parties every night. There were so many rooms in his house. There was one Nepali guy who came very regularly. He was polite but also aggressive, with very long hair. One time he spoke very badly about Mohammad, complaining that Mohammad promised him a job but hadn’t followed through.
One day when I came home early from college, I saw my good friend Sandip at the house, half-naked coming out of Mohammad’s bedroom. Sandip used to put his arm around me and hold my hand a lot, a common custom for male friends in Nepal. Sandip would also always talk about his girlfriend: how he was sad and didn’t want to be with her. Shocked, I said, “You didn’t tell me you were coming.” He said that he had to meet with Mohammad, and that they had some work to do. He was so embarrassed and didn’t say much else. I thought maybe they had some kind of relationship so I just shut my mouth.
Then Sandip got a visa to Australia. Before he left, he invited me for coffee and told me that he’s gay and that while Mohammad wasn’t his life partner, they had been seeing each other. He told me that Mohammad could be like a parent and look after me. I was quiet. Sandip was so close to me. He’s a very handsome guy. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him about myself in that moment. I still liked him, but I hid everything.
When I spotted Mohammad in Ratna Park one day, he came over and started talking about himself and how he was gay and how he also had a married life but was divorced and came to Nepal to work for an NGO. When we went back to our home he made dolma, a dish stuffed with rice, liver, tomato and onion. He made a very nice meatball soup too. I’d never drank in my life, and I refused the beer. He offered then for us to sleep together. In Nepali culture, there are different people you have to honor and respect according to their age. I had to do work in order to stay in his home so I never interfered with his personal life. But I was educated and passing my classes. I was reading him. Sandip told him not to try anything with his own friends, so that’s why he hadn’t touched me. Yet on that night Sandip had already flown to Australia.
Mohammad was asking more questions about why I came to Ratna Park. He made me feel comfortable to open up, so I told him all about the story with my science teacher. I’ve met a few guys in Ratna Park before and had sex with them. They always ask what you like to do. But that guy Mohammad, when he started kissing me, started playing with my genitals, he never asked this question. He just dominated. He took out a lubricant and he used it on my back and on his penis. It was so painful. I cried, in fact. It was against my desire. Everything happened so fast. I was in my bedroom the whole night, thinking, What did I do? I packed my bag, but I didn’t know where to go.
The next day, Mohammad took me out for breakfast and we started being close to each other again. I counted the days until I would complete my Bachelor’s degree. I know there are lots of gays who come to this city. There are lots of temptations that people go through, and there are lots of boys who are abused. I didn’t want to do those things in that way, and many times I couldn’t stop because I was staying at Mohammad’s house. He would react aggressively and scold me, telling me I couldn’t go anywhere.
When Mohammad brought straight people over to watch straight porn, he would offer them drinks, and then they would play with him even though all the Nepali boys seemed so straight. The boys would talk to me the next day and ask how I knew this guy. I was around twenty years old at the time. These young guys were all my age, and they all still said they were straight. Mohammad had a different nature. For him, domination was just normal. So yeah, for a few years, things went by like that.
Later on Mohammad and I stopped having sex. There were always new faces in his room and in our living room. He was so sex-addicted—I never asked his clients and friends questions. The next morning, sometimes, with the new people, they would start talking to me while Mohammad was in the bathroom. They would tell me that he’s a bad guy. I was completely trapped. I feel so much regret now when I imagine his face. It’s my country and my people—all of these Nepali guys. Why didn’t I punch his face? When you’re too innocent and too shy you just want to keep quiet.
When Mohammad went back to his country, I found a job teaching accounting. My life was normal again, but I was pained by my history. I wasn’t happy for three or four years. Why didn’t I kick him? Why didn’t I do anything? At that age, people should know everything about their sexual orientation so that abusive individuals cannot take advantage of their situation. Younger people need to be more aware of themselves and their sexualities. Typically Nepali people from outside of the Kathmandu valley have difficulty opening up to anyone. These people need to learn how to take action instead of being shy in those situations.
The battles of my life now involved different things. My family has started visiting me from the village and asking if I will get married soon. My brother and I are quite happy being single. I have started working for a technology company as a marketing person. One of my gay friends told me about Blue Diamond Society, an NGO for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people in Nepal, and suggested that I start working there. So I applied for a job and got it. Now I’m helping people learn about how to protect themselves in their sexual activities. I got the chance to put my education to use by helping people and counseling them. I know in my blood that I’m gay, so I feel proud to serve this community.
I want freedom, but when I try to open this subject with my family, they don’t understand. They only think, You have to marry. Your wife has to look after us. In Nepal, everything starts with the family. We are a society that’s so close to our families. I feel uncomfortable telling them I’m gay or that I have a male partner because in our society “gay” is thought to mean transgender. General society doesn’t know the real definition of “gay.” Even my friends in college, in high school, don’t know the meaning. How can our parents and friends learn about these things? More TV programs, radio programs, and education in academic courses will help change this perception. I’m sure society will change here, but it takes time. I desperately want to tell people I’m gay, but only when I feel comfortable. Now I’ve decided I will not live here for a very long time because I want to go earn a Master’s degree in a Western country.
But I love my country. Nepal is the best to me. Everywhere Nepali people are so friendly. We have greenery, blue skies, and mountains, and we are so rich in culture. I like to participate in all the cultural rituals. Now I have to make decisions about my family, my love, and myself. All three of these decisions are different. All of them are difficult.
By Shiva Bhatta. Shiva is not using his real name for this story and refrained from providing a bio to protect his privacy.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Within the traditional caste system in Nepal, Brahmins were the highest caste in Hinduism.|
|2.||↑||The “School Leaving Certificate” is a national examination that students take to graduate the Nepali equivalent of high school.|
|3.||↑||A traditional piece of clothing worn by men in many parts of South and Southeast asia.|
|4.||↑||“Cruising” is an English word that refers to the practice whereby men seek and sometimes have sex with other men in various pre-designated public places; in Nepal, often bus parks, public toilets, the tourist areas and large temples. Though this term is new to Nepal, cruising is a practice that pre-dates its arrival.|