Photo credit:- An ace ally Shahin Sunuwar Rasaili.
In the picture:- Logo of Nepali Asexuals created by Nepali Asexual Nirdishtha Raj Sapkota and supervised by Manita Newa Khadgi, Founder of Nepali Asexuals ( आयौनिक नेपाली )
Ace ring:- Black plain ring worn on the right-hand middle finger by aces worldwide as a sign of solidarity.
Manita Newa Khadgi, pronouns she/her, is a cis panromantic asexual woman. Medical Doctor by profession, Khadgi is also a queer feminist, a vegan, an environmentalist and an unapologetic breaker of stereotypes.
Manita Newa Khadgi has been working as a doctor for five years now. Besides, she is also the founder of Nepali Asexuals, a virtual platform on Instagram dedicated to unite and amplify the voices of Nepali asexuals. She is adamant in acknowledging her privilege and speaking the reality of Queer individuals as it is.
So, to provide space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the Rolling Nexus content writer team did their research and prepared questions to understand what empowerment means to her, the scenario of employment and entrepreneurship for LGBTQIA+ people in the medical field and overall to understand her activism and asexuality movement in Nepal which usually does not get the deserved recognition because of the heteronormative and amatonormative society we live in.
Here’s the conversation that follows with Dr Khadgi. Happy Pride!
What do you do for a living?I am a medical doctor and work as a medical officer.
How would you define empowerment?Empowerment to me means the authority and autonomy within oneself and the community, to be and to represent oneself as chosen to and with dignity and control.
How can one become a good ally in the workplace?One can be a good ally in the workplace and beyond as well by just being a decent human being. We don’t ask for special treatment or insane things, just be kind and empathetic. If you don’t understand about our queerness it’s okay, no one understands everyone’s lived experiences but don’t let that affect your perception of us and our capabilities at work and in life. Don’t ask questions you wouldn’t ask cishet people, don’t out us without our consent, don’t assume things about us and base a judgment, respect our privacy and professional boundary, in short just don’t discriminate against us and let our work do the talking.
Where has the government and the general public failed in understanding the rights and freedom of Nepali LGBTQ+ folks?
Though Nepal has been able to secure some basic rights for PoMSOGIESC ( People of Marginalized Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sex Characters) it is not implemented well enough and the society is not on the same wavelength as the law which constitutionally prohibits discrimination. Until and unless society in general understands and accepts the fact that queer rights are human rights, the public will have failed its marginalized citizens. It’s a long list of fails to point out but the most important issue in my view is seeing queer folks as ‘not normal’ and ‘others’; generally and legally. Queer folks are normal people with their lives made abnormal/difficult based solely on their differentness from the norm. The general public and the government has failed us by segregating us as others and our existence as if we are aliens, most of the rights, advocacy and activism are birthed from queer folks themselves because non-queer people don’t take it upon themselves to see queer rights as human rights.
What myths about asexuality are you tired of debunking?I’m tired of people assuming that asexuals are confused or immature people who are scared of commitment or are sexually repressed or even health-wise at fault. I’m tired of people invalidating our lived experiences. I am tired of people assuming that asexuality is a choice like celibacy which it is not and most of all I’m tired of hearing that we haven’t found the right one yet.
What is the scenario of employment opportunities for LGBTQ+ people in the medical field?I might not be able to do justice to this question as I cannot speak for all of the diverse individuals within the spectrum; all of our differences make our lives drastically different. Being a cis woman and knowing about my orientation only after I was well into my work environment changed my experiences. Being a straight passing queer individual, having the privileges that I do regarding my early education, family background and all the other layers of intersectionality makes this a tricky thing to be specific about. The scenario of employment opportunities in the medical field for queer individuals all depends on where in Nepal we are talking about and how apparent our queerness is as well. It is evident however just like in other fields that many queer individuals do feel safer without disclosing the labels in fear of being discriminated so a safe, comfortable and inclusive environment is lacking.
What steps have you and the hospitals you have had worked for taken to make a welcoming and comfortable space for LGBTQ+ patients?I have been working in children's hospitals where the difference in treatment in the emergency department isn't very gendered medically but I try to speak out to guardians of the patients and the staff when anything discriminatory or prejudicial happens. I try to make my team more empathetic when it comes to making the department welcoming.
How has the Instagram page that you created and the advocacy programs you have organised helped empower other asexual people in Nepal?This question is probably better answered by other asexuals who have been influenced by my page and what it has meant to them. From what I know many Nepali asexuals have benefitted from this page in their life journey of knowing oneself and one’s queerness either by getting eternal validation by seeing others who have a lived experiences similar to theirs or by finding out their sexual orientation and the term asexuality itself through the page. This in itself is empowerment as certainty about oneself and confidence in knowing and accepting oneself is paramount to being empowered. My main goal was to create a safe space for Nepali Asexuals and to spread awareness which both are vital steps towards empowerment.
The representation of asexual individuals in entrepreneurship is very little and oftentimes they do not get the support and appreciation they deserve. How can the government help asexual individuals and other members of the LGBTQ+ a community for better entrepreneurial and employment opportunities?To strive for better entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for asexuals and other PoMSOGIESC the government should make sure that they implement the constitutional rights which are against discrimination. Instead of boasting about having progressive laws that are limited on paper it should work towards making society aware and normalize acceptance. They should secure our opportunities and safety in the workplace and keep in mind that unless the rules and the mindset of the ones following them are in sync it would be futile to expect real progress. I do believe many asexuals are working and contributing to many fields but prefer to not disclose their sexual orientation because our society is still narrow-minded.
People often say that things are different now for LGBTQ+ people. Are they different? What would you say based on your lived experience?Yes, I do hear a lot that things are better and there is a lot of acceptance for queer folks in this day and age, which is somewhat true if you want a rosy superficial view but, to be honest, it is a very narrow elitist view. There are asexuals out there not knowing that their lives are valid because they don’t know that asexuality exists, there are asexual children who are living their lives thinking they are broken because their kind of love is not seen as the normal kind, there are many many asexual individuals who are trying to conform to the amatonormativity and engaging in traumatizing and toxic unsafe sexual and romantic relationships, there are individuals bound in unhappy and unfulfilling marriages and being coerced into sex because sex is seen synonymously to love, there are millions of asexuals on the spectrum who live a watered-down version of themselves all their lives because asexuality is seen as a myth.
I don’t have to have a lived experience that encompasses each one of these but I have to provide this narration because I am in a place of privilege and being private about this sexual orientation is a privilege Nepali asexuals don’t have anymore, it’s about time we tell our stories, make sure people know that we exist as we always have. It’s taken us this long but the thing about starting from zero is that no matter how slow, it’s always going to be better than what it was.