Rukshana Kapali, a transgender activist said that she was only 14 years old when she realized her gender identity and never felt comfortable or liked the term ‘third gender’. However, even when she identified as a woman since there were no legal provisions that allowed her to put the ‘female’ gender marker on her citizenship, she was compelled to use ‘others’ in her documents.
She added, “ I couldn’t really understand this unjust identification, I was happy that I could at least have my preferred name, but I found it burdensome to put myself under the ‘others’ gender. Now, I realize its implications and I want to fight it.”
Her battle is arduous and ongoing. In May 2020, Kapali publicly renounced her citizenship, becoming the first Nepali trans woman to file an application asking for her to be addressed as ‘female’ on her legal documents.
“From being barred from registration at university to being subjected to extra surveillance at airports to being asked invasive questions at every desk—I have experienced a lot of humiliation since I got my citizenship,” says Kapali. “I want to be recognised as a woman and having ‘others’ written on my document means that I was seen as neither man nor woman—leading to constant mis-gendering,” she says.
Kapali’s rage against the enforcement of the ‘third gender’ identity is shared by many transgender people. And to break away from this forceful imposition, by both the state and society, Kapali along with four others have started Trans Rights Collective, a support group as well as an advocacy group for the transgender population.
“We saw a lack of a united front that was a voice for trans men and women. We are not third genders, we are men and women—and we needed a space for our voices to be heard and amplified,” say the members of the collective. “We are gathering, primarily through the internet and social media platforms, to have a conversation about the trans rights movement. Through various mediums, we want to raise the concerns of trans men and women.”
And while the collective, which started at the beginning of 2020, is still at its infancy, the mission of the group is clear: to create legal and social frameworks for the transgender population, who can live, work and identify with gender identity as per their own preferences.