One of the things that I love about being part of the LGBT community is feeling strongly connected to the rainbow way that spans the globe. Sometimes our experiences are different -- vastly so -- but there is some commonality in struggle and, for me and most likely for many others, this increases empathy and identification.
Recently, I read three books -- Pride Climbing Higher: Stories by LGBT People from Nepal, Mardis Gras (a collection of photos from Australia), and The Last Conception (a story about an East Indian woman who is also American) reminded me that we are all deeply connected.
In Pride Climbing Higher, Stories by LGBT People from Nepal (Creative Nepal, 2014), editor and writing instructor Chad Frisbie and his associates put together a moving collection of stories by sexual and gender minority identities in Nepal.
In "Power From The Inside," Simran Sherchan writes poignantly about being transgender:
"When I arrived in Nepal, my heart would not allow me to return to Pokhara because my parents would force me to marry a girl. I didn't want to ruin someone's life, my wife's life. So I hid her in Kathmandu. In front of the mirror in Katmandu, I took off my clothes. I looked at my body. I felt that my soul was in the wrong body. I realized that I had to wear what my mind and heart wanted. The very first time I wore the clothes I wanted to wear since childhood, a woman's casual attire, I felt like a magician's wand had touched my body -- I became a lady."
Pride Climbing Higher also includes photographs, some taken by the authors, from the Nepal Photo Project. One photo taken by Simran Sherchan, is of a red flower with a blue sky background and the caption reads: "The saying about Nepal goes that it is a 'garden of four castes and thirty six sub castes.' In the garden, there are so many different flowers, and we as third genders are also one of those flowers."
Mardis Gras (2014, Sonia Friedrich) is a beautifully done collection of photographs from Australia. There are no words to accompany the photos, but there is something about a man in a gold lame nun's habit or two men wearing mostly sparkles and skin holding hands that in undeniably gay. There are also photos of drag queens with pink hair, and a pretty young woman waving a rainbow flag, and a sign about Christians supporting Equality through Marriage that looks absolutely pedestrian in this context.
The Last Conception a novel by Gabriel Constans (Melange Books, 2014), is a mystery of sorts about a lesbian couple who get together and have a baby. But will their plan work? And what about one of the women's tradition-bound East Indian family who she finally comes out to?
A major part of the mystery lies in the religious beliefs of the protagonist's parents. As the Savarna, their lesbian daughter, says, "But Mom... Dad... doesn't this sort of thing go against all your religious beliefs? I mean, I'm not trying to put a damper on anything, but I'm a little confused."
In The Last Conception, the main characters discover many of the challenges that lesbian couples face when deciding to have a baby -- plus it has the added dimension of family expectations based on culture and tradition. It reminds us that we can never leave our past behind us, especially when it involves family and culture.
A free download of Pride Climbing Higher can be found here
You can learn more about Tea Leaves: A Memoir of Mothers and Daughters here.