A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAINS
“The people who make up the LGBTQ community are normal people and everything they do are natural to them. As soon as we start treating human beings as human beings, with love, respect, and acceptance, that’s when we don’t have to protest and fight for things anymore”
In February 2018, Lex Limbu, a popular Nepali blogger based in the UK, came out as a gay through a video that quickly went viral. It showed Lex both in his strength and vulnerability. It certainly was a bold example of ‘coming out’ especially in a society that still talks about homosexuality in hushed voices. The way he came out raised numerous questions in its wake. People had different opinions about it, but the irrefutable fact is that the 26year old man is confident about his sexual orientation and bold enough to say it openly. As of now, the video has been viewed over 75,855 times.
Change is an inevitable part of life. As the days turn to nights, some taboos also turn to acceptable norms. It wasn’t very long ago that homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. It was only in 1991 that it was removed from the WHO’s list of mental illness, and only in 2001 that the Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed it from the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders. In Nepal we still have a long way to go to establish LGBTQ equality and to normalize it. But simple yet bold acts like this one by Lex take us a step closer to that destination.
Back in September 2018 Smart Family, caught up with Lex Limbu, to talk about his struggles, his ongoing journey, and his work to help other LGBTQ people. Here is what we found about this enigmatic, down-toearth LGBTQ role model.
Having grown up in the UK, what was the most difficult part of dealing with your sexuality? Do you think it would have been more difficult had you grown up in Nepal?
My sexual orientation never presented a challenge in my life in the UK. But what made it a struggle there, was my identity as a Nepali. As an NRN, you’re constantly juggling identities. On one hand, you’re trying your best to fit in, while on the other, you’re compromising your roots. You’re neither completely a Nepali nor a British. That was the real challenge for me while growing up in a different culture. However, I was fortunate to have good friends who never questioned me as a person. I was also very picky with who I hang out with.
I studied in Nepal for two years. At that age, my sexual orientation wasn’t such a huge part of my life because I was just a kid. I think it’s only once you’re an adult, you feel more aware about your orientation. I do definitely think that there would’ve been certain challenges had I lived in Nepal.
Were you ever worried that people wouldn’t like you once they knew you were gay?
No, I never thought about that. But my family certainly did. They were worried that it would affect my work as a blogger. They were also worried that people might not want to collaborate and work with me anymore. But I was fine with it because then I wouldn’t have to work with someone who doesn’t believe in gender equality and acceptance. I really wasn’t concerned with what people would think of me once I came out.
Why did you keep your sexual orientation a secret for such a long time? Why did you think it was necessary to come out in the way that you did?
Yes, I kept my sexual orientation private for 25 years! There were many reasons for this. Firstly, I had to feel confident about myself before coming out. I also wanted to finish my education up to my Master’s level, and then have a secure 9-5 job, which would provide me with some degree of financial independence. In the event that something didn’t go my way, I needed to have a safe place to fall back to. That’s sad actually. No one should have to wait such a long time to share something that is so normal and natural to them. Hopefully, it doesn't have to be the case in the future.
In 2014, I was in Nepal for a year. Me and some of my friends who worked in INGOs talked about the context of LGBTQ in Nepal. We were talking about a possible scenario - someone coming out in a ‘big’ way and how that would set the tone and change the dynamics of things. But that didn’t happen. Some of my friends who aren’t in the public eye have come out in their own way but we needed something bigger. I met so many Nepali gay guys as well. Talking to them, it was evident that they were nervous in the way they expressed themselves. This, I realised, came from a vulnerable place. That’s how the video plan came out. Bardia and Shuklapanta provided the perfect setting. I just wanted to make sure that this was communicated more towards that kind of audience.
When did you realize that it wasn’t a ‘phase’ but a part of who you were as a person?
I think the realization comes with experience. Growing up, There was a lot of expectations regarding who I should like. I knew for a fact that I had always found boys attractive and I also knew that it wasn’t considered a ‘normal’ thing. So I hid that side of myself. It was only when I reached 18-19 that I became certain that I was gay and that it wasn’t just a “phase.” But this isn’t the case for everyone. It’s normal for some people to experience this as a phase.
Did you at any point of your life, wish that you were heterosexual?
No, I didn’t. Comparatively, coming out in front of my friends and family have been easier for me. Had I faced some sort of bullying and seclusion from my family, there might’ve been a lot of anger, broken trust and betrayal. But my journey was and has been very easy, and I only wish that other people experience the same level of comfort while coming out.
How important do you think family support is for people struggling with their sexual orientation? How difficult was it when you told your family about it? And how did they react to it?
For anything that you’re going through, whether it’s regarding your sexual orientation or career, it’s important that you share it with your family or guardians. It all comes down to communication. I feel like proper communication is something families everywhere lack, but more so here in Nepali. The very existence of this gap causes both sides to feel increasingly uncomfortable to talk and bridge their emotional distance.
In my case, my mom is my best friend and even though my dad does not appear much in my social media feed, he was and will always be there for me. When I came out to my parents in July 2017, I had already built something for myself. From completing my Master’s degree to building a brand around my name! So it was more like informing them about who I was, rather than asking for permission. I knew who I was, I was confident about it and I could explain myself clearly. As a young person struggling with anything, it is important that we also put ourselves in our parent’s shoes. I never expected my parents to immediately accept me. I was ready to give them the time and space to come to terms with this revelation. One of their biggest concerns was whether I’ll have my own family someday. Fortunately for me, I like children and we discussed various options from adoption to surrogacy.
In your opinion, what are the main problems that members of the LGBTQ community have to face in the world every day?
I am merely an observer. I am not someone who knows what’s happening in the LGBTQ community or even the work that is being done here in Nepal. As a media logger, I definitely feel that better representation is extremely important when showcasing gay or transgender characters in movies and other forms of media. There are also so many homophobic comments that are constantly perpetuated through media and on a lot of popular social media pages. People take it lightly, thinking it’s just a joke. What they don’t realize is that they are adding to the culture and normalizing the hatred towards a particular group. The main thing is to make the journey for LGBTQ people a lot easier, whether it is by setting examples (successes or failures) or by normalizing things.
As someone who is also well known outside of the LGBTQ community, what have you done and are doing to help the LGBTQ community?
The most important thing to do right now is to be visible and to be yourself in the public space. It plays a significant role in making people, not just of the LGBTQ community, believe that it’s okay to be yourself. My coming out video was one of the biggest things that I’ve done. Recently, I have also been more engaged with organizations like Blue Diamond Society and am in contact with social influencers like Mr. Sunil Babu Pant to better understand their perspectives and to also influence my own mindset along the way. I also recently got a team together and produced a photoshoot with a male model who also happens to be gay. The message of the shoot was basically to show that love can happen between anyone and not just between men and women, as shown in the media. My blog is also a platform for people doing something for the upliftment of the LGBTQ community. I believe that we shouldn’t only focus on the success stories, but on the journey as well. I feel like it’s much easier to identify with a person’s hardships. Only seeing success stories create this sense of entrapment for people. It creates a lot of pressure on people who are already struggling to keep afloat.
In the next 20 years, what do you think the perception of Nepalese people will be towards the LGBTQ Community?
Maybe nothing will happen in the next 5 years, but in 20 years, something is bound to change. I think that Nepalese people are quite openminded and accepting of change. Hopefully, Nepal will finally adopt same-sex marriage, and adopting a child by same-sex couples will be made legal as well.
What are the things that you have learned since coming out and becoming a role model, especially for the LGBTQ community?
You never make it a goal to become a role model, but the way you live your life and conduct yourself, you suddenly become an example for other people to look up to. I was surprised by the amount of appreciation my coming out video got from everyone. It didn’t just connect with the LGBTQ community but also with people going through an
abusive relationship or with people whose parents never supported them. A lot of people reached out to me with their stories after that. It was then that I realized that I had not just become a “role model” for the LGBTQ community, but something even bigger than that. It does come with a sense of pressure to be consistent though.
What are the biggest challenges that you face as a role model for the LGBTQ community?
All my challenges are mine alone. I don’t really listen to anything bad or even anything good that people say about me. But sometimes I find myself doubting whether I can live up to people’s expectations of me. It turns into a real mind game at times. But at the end of the day, you can’t listen to what other people think of you and need to focus on what makes you happy. I live in the UK and have a very normal job from Monday to Friday. Weekends and outside of work is where the “Lex Limbu” life kicks in. People sometimes ask me why I’m in the UK and not in Nepal. They think that it’s easy. My challenge, as a slightly visible person has been to balance these two sides.
What is/ are your favorite thing/s about the LGBTQ community? What are you most fond of?
The pride parade started out as a protest. It looks fun now since most of the problems it aimed to address have been dealt with. Homosexuality has, to an extent, been accepted and people with AIDS can take certain medications to contain their status. What I like most about being in the LGBTQ community is seeing the joy in people when they finally come out. Finally seeing people being themselves and being so open and expressive is a sight to behold.
If you could educate the world in one thing about the LGBTQ community, what would that be?
The people who make up the LGBTQ community are normal people and everything they do are natural to them. You should just treat them as you would anyone else. As soon as we start treating human beings as human beings, with love, respect, and acceptance, that’s when we don’t have to protest and fight for things anymore. Just be nice to people and be a good human being. It not only helps the LGBTQ community but everyone around you as well. People who have access to more knowledge and power, whether you’re in the LGBTQ community or not, need to do more to push equality. A lot of people tend to be very progressive when they’re outside, but as soon as they’re home, they’re boxed in. If they find a way to break that box and educate people closest to them, changing the world will be a lot easier. I have a lot of friends here who are from middle and upper-class backgrounds who haven’t come out yet. I understand that they have their own problems, but if they pushed past the boundaries, it’d bring a lot of positive change in the world.