Equality: LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) is a concept that has rarely been discussed openly in the country.

However, some 13 individuals from the LGBT community in the country came together yesterday to observe the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and to discuss the issues being faced by the community.

For Tashi Dorji (real name withheld) it has been a rough ride discovering his true identity. As a kid, it was always difficult for Tashi Dorji to associate with his friends. He was left alone, neglected by most of his friends because he was a bit different.

“I was born with it. However, at that period of time, I didn’t know what I really wanted from life,” said Tashi Dorji. “Once I knew who I really was, I didn’t want to accept it. I tired changing myself and be ‘normal’ but it didn’t happen, because that wasn’t me.”

Tashi Dorji said that because of the limited access to information on such issues, he struggled discovering the real person in him. “I explored several measures to get answers,” he said. “My sexuality was different. It was a long hard journey finding myself.”

The 23-year-old suffered the most during his schooldays. “Name calling, abuse and discrimination were some of the difficult things I had to go through in school,” he said. “People kept reminding me that I was not normal.”

Negativity engulfed Tashi Dorji to the extent that he attempted to kill himself several times.

“Except for my sexuality, I’m as normal as anyone,” said Tashi Dorji. “Discovering my sexuality brought me the contentment I’ve long been looking for. I wont say society has accepted me for who I am, but they have at least tolerated me in this form.”

However, there are still many challenges faced by this section of the society. The coordinator of the LGBT community, Dechen Selden, said that the biggest challenge the community faces is discrimination and stigmatisation.

“People still don’t have the clear picture on LGBT. They discriminate us because we are different. But we are just like them, we are also human, but with different sexuality,” said Dechen Selden. “With social stigmatisation comes the self-stigmatisation where an individual undergoes depression which then leads to drastic decisions such as suicide.”

Dechen Selden said that with proper advocacy and awareness programmes on LGBT to public, more tolerance could be achieved for the community.

Section 213 of the Penal Code of Bhutan says that, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of unnatural sex, if the defendant engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature.”

And Section 214 “The offence of unnatural sex shall be a petty misdemeanor.”

Dechen Selden said that the law in this case should be clearer. “It doesn’t say if the law is applicable to straight or to the homosexual community.”

National Assembly’s committee for women, children and youth is currently reviewing three Acts, including the Penal Code of Bhutan. The committee has recommended that Section 213 and 214 from the Penal Code be removed.

Meanwhile, the day was also observed with the raising of the Equality Flag at the UN House.

Younten Tshedup