Phurpa Lhamo

The need for policy interventions, mental health challenges, and authentic representation in the community of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community were some of the topics discussed at the Bhutan Echoes.

Representatives Tenzin Gyeltshen from Pride Bhutan, and Tashi Tshenten and Pema Dorji from QUEER voices of Bhutan sat to speak of the issues at the Bhutan Echoes on April 25.

Tashi Tsheten said that while the trans-community needed a legal gender recognition policy, for gays and lesbians, marriage equality rights were necessary.

He added that despite varying needs, there was a general agreement that a policy that governs and addresses the issues of the community was needed.

The trio also mentioned that decriminalisation of the unnatural sex in parliament was a landmark decision in ensuring an inclusive community.

Pema Dorji said that there was a need to work on the visibility of the community.

He added that there was a need to move away from visibility, which is made fun of or is a ‘caricature’, which currently exists in the society. “Humanizing the queer community and the community experiences is not there yet.”

Stories, which have been told with personal incidences and experiences, have encouraged the community members to come forth.

Pema Dorji said that stories shared on social media through videos and podcasts, made the general public relate to the community’s concerns.

“I think I have produced around seven videos, and the majority of the feedback we receive are really good.”

He said that in one incident, a gay person was also able to come out after watching stories of the LGBTQ+ community in Bhutan.

Even today, discrimination, mental health, stigma, and drug and alcohol consumption among the population remain to be major issues, Tenzin Gyeltshen said.