I met Anastasia, in Kathmandu through the Blue Diamond Society after covering the opening of Nepal’s first official transgender bar and restaurant by Nepal’s most well known transgender model; however Anastasia’s story was quite a different one. To begin with Anastasia was not transgender he was homosexual and his name was Amar. He left his family in the terrai and moved to Kathmandu for work. He’d known since a young age that he was gay yet hadn’t been able to tell his family for fear of being cast aside; a common response to homosexuality in many countries around the world still. After moving to Kathmandu he found work in a restaurant and was able to live a more open lifestyle in the more open minded capital city. Amar, like many from the LGBTI community also found a acceptance, protection and a sense of community through the Blue Diamond Society. BDS is Nepal’s largest NGO and and works towards equal rights for all within the LGBTI community, with many recent successes, such as the recognition of a 3rd gender.
One night after working in the restaurant Amar had a sexual encounter with a co-worker. The morning after, when he arrived at work, he found out that this co-worker had denounced him as homosexual to the restaurant manager, who subsequently sacked him on the spot and made sure he did not find other work in other restaurants in Kathmandu. After weeks of unemployment he turned to prostitution quickly realising that he could earn more as a transgender/transexual prostitute. A few nights every week Amar would put on a dress and make-up and become Anastasia for the night, before walking the streets surrounding Thamel in search of sex work. Occasionally sex workers like Amar are accompanied by representatives of BDS to provide a sense of security from the dangers of drunk and abusive men.
Sex work has many dangers from both clients and the authorities; the latter who often raid known hangouts, beating the sex workers and throwing them in prison without charge for days at a time. BDS has lawyers working full time for the release of sex workers. Clients are often drunk and can be abusive both physically and verbally, and they often leave sex workers vulnerable to STD’s by refusing to pay for protected sex.
I spent a few nights with Amar learning about his experience as a sex worker in Kathmandu and I was constantly surprised by his nonchalant attitude towards the way abuse he has been victim to; from both clients and the police. He told me that he loves to cook and wants to work in a restaurant again and it’s clear that he has plans to one day pursue his dream of owning a restaurant. Although Nepal's attitude towards the LGBTI community is often seen as quite progressive and a beacon of hope among conservative Asian countries, Amar’s stories of police brutality and numerous nights spent in prison act as a reminder that the authorities do not always uphold the laws that they are there to protect; and that there is a still a long way to go in terms of societies attitude towards the LGBTI community.
A member of the Blue Diamond Society helps Amar/Anastasia put on his make-up and get ready before looking for sex work on the streets bordering Thamel.
Amar/Anastasia's windowless walls were covered in posters, religious iconography and pop culture references.
Amar/Anastasia puts on make up before his goes out to look for work on the streets of Thamel.
Amar/Anastasia poses for a portrait before leaving the apartment
Amar/Anastasia arrives by taxi to the edge of Thamel where he will look for sex work. The streets are dimly lit and lined with taxis that will take prostitutes and their clients back to either their home or a hotel.
Amar/Anastasia stands in a dimly lit doorway as a group of passing men stop and stare.
Amar/Anastasia on the streets of Thamel. In the background you can see more prostitutes and a representative from the Blue Diamond Society to offer support and protection.