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Salt isn't the only thing that's pink in the Himalayas. As stark a contrast as the mountain terrain is to the expansive skies, so are the social ramifications of being “queer” in one of the isolated and traditional – and to much of the western world, mysterious – regions of the world. Making headlines is Nepal, who is positioning itself to grab on the pink dollar on the heels of a royal same-sex Hindu wedding, while being gay in Muslim Pakistan or tolerant/intolerant Buddhist China is anything but community building.
In honor of New York City's Gay Pride month, the Rubin Museum of Art focuses on gay, lesbian, and transgender issues in the Himalayan region with a series of high-concept, intellectual talks every Wednesday in June.
- June 2 – Author/scholar Jeffrey Hopkins explores the “Buddhist Perspective on Homosexuality”
- June 9 – Visual anthropologist Liu Yi screens her film-in-progress Ma & Yi and discusses “Lesbians in Yunnan”
- June 16 – Chicago-based poet and Pakistan News editor Ifti Nasim engages in a dialogue about living as a Hijra eunuch-transvestite, once royal court members and now social pariahs (oft beggars, dancers, prostitutes) in “Hijras: the 'Third Gender' of Pakistan”
- June 23 – Janet Gyatso, a Harvard University Divinity School professor, asks “Another Middle Way? The Fate and Fortunes of the Third Sex in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism”
- June 30 – Sunil Pant, the first openly gay Nepali parliamentarian proffers “Will Gay Marriage Be Adopted in the World's Youngest Democracy?”
All talks begin at 7pm. Arrive early for a pre-program tour (6:15pm) and a Happy Hour from 5-7pm. For more information on the series, click here.
Interested in visiting the Himalayas?
Gay group travel to the region is scant.
Toronto-based Out Adventures offers a 15-day “active” trip to Nepal on Oct 16, which includes hiking both jungle and mountain peaks, river rafting, plus some Kathmandu downtime to explore the city.
Purple Dragon, the premier Asian LGBT tour operator, offers three itineraries of varying intensity and luxury in the unspoilt Kingdom of Bhutan. Independent travel there is legally impossible, so you must book through a tour agency. Fun fact: the entire country is non-smoking.
Additional options are to customize a trip, which both companies do as well. Hanns Ebensten Travel, the paternal founder of modern gay tourism, is another excellent resource, as is Abercrombie & Kent. Although not LGBT focused, the company is resolutely professional and gay-friendly, setting the pace for personalized luxury itineraries the world over.
For more information on LGBT life throughout the region, visit Utopia-Asia.
For LGBT rights in the region check out this handy “Gay Map of Asia” PDF from The Out Traveler, Fall 2008.