Helping Marginalized Trans Community in Nepal Through Travel & Tourism
Nepal is a country caught up in the winds of change. Just this year, the Supreme Court 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 neighbours – indeed, all the way back in 2007, important legislation was put into place to protect LGBTQ+ from discrimination, both in the workplace and society in general.
There is still a way to go – especially regarding the rights of Nepal’s sizeable transgender community. Nepal has recognized what they called the third gender – or “other” – since 2011. However, Nepalese law only permits 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, LGBTI 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 LGBTI community of Nepal – specifically transmen. By having the clout of a prestigious business, I can bring about meaningful change in not only my business but 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. We offer more than just your traditional adventure holiday. Responsible Adventures tours provide an “out of the box” experience in small groups of under twelve, and we have a real dedication to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). As part of our tailor-made tours, we welcome LGBTQ+ tourism and go out of our way to provide our guests with the most gay-friendly experience possible.
At Responsible Adventures, we are also pioneers of culinary trekking adventures, and we provide a varied, healthy and exciting menu on our treks through the Himalayas. We have trained a team of specialized chefs to use superfoods as ingredients, which are acclimated to the high altitudes of the Himalayas and strengthen the immune system – giving that much-needed extra boost in energy for a day’s adventure spent exploring the culturally varied and beautiful country of Nepal.
My mission is simple: 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 ensure those spaces go to members of the IGLTIA+ community, especially to train members of the transmen community to join our team as high-quality chefs and even eventually become guides on our tours. I have convinced them to set aside ten full scholarships for students from this community.
Why trans men specifically and why as chefs, you might ask? As well as being just the first of many steps aimed at helping the entire LGTBQIA+ 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 jobs such as stereotypically “female” roles and challenge the status quo. We aim not just to have people with skills, trade or professionals. We intend to train the students in mindfulness, empathy and compassion to make “Well rounded human beings and global citizens”.
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 (The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) – even being chosen as one of the five judges for this year’s IGLTA Foundation’s Impact award. Together, we are convincing other outbound tour companies to contribute to the fight to bring about fairer hiring practices in Nepal.
I – Rajesh Kumar Tamang, or Raj – have been leading treks, tours and adventure holidays since 1988. So, it’s fair to say I am
passionate about 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 LGBTQIA+ community.
I am fond of the proverb ‘it takes two hands to clap’, and I intend to get the ball rolling through good hiring practices. Together we can make the Himalayas echo with the sound of all hands clapping to the tune of a more diverse Nepal.