The Nepalese government, responding to pressure from the LBGT community and a court case last year, has announced that citizenship documents will now provide an option to identify as a third gender.
The change was greeted with alacrity in the Nepalese queer communities, according to an online article in IBN Live (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/nepals-gays-lesbians-get-citizenship-status/261025-2.html)
It is interesting that in Nepal, being lesbian gay or bisexual, or being transgendered, are treated together; in North America (except for some First Nations) we treat sexual orientation and gender identity as separate concepts.
And it is interesting that Nepalese queers have argued for another category, as opposed to arguing that gender markers should be removed altogether. In pending human rights cases we are arguing that passports (and any other identity document that includes a photo) should have no gender markers.
What does it mean that Obama has endorsed same sex marriage?
- a political calculation that he will gain more votes than he will lose by taking this position
- one of the only progressive things he can do since he doesn't control the Senate or Congress
- made necessary because Joe Biden said it first
- a genuine stand for the civil rights of same sex partners
- all of the above?
I expect that it is all of the above, and more reasons we don't know.
And does it matter?
Before the same sex marriage fight in Canada, people thought that same sex marriage was just a matter of opinion. After we won the marriage cases, forcing the federal government to amend the Marriage Act to permit same sex marriage, Canadians understand that marriage is a Charter-protected civil right. And that has made a huge difference to the general acceptance of queers in this country.
The right is right: gay marriage does change the nature of marriage, because marriage is not exclusive any more. And that is a good thing. It moves us closer to the day when everyone - whether married, common law, or "single" - can have the social benefits which started out available only to married heterosexuals. Such benefits include everything from pension benefits to preferential tax treatment to 'family' discounts. Fully a quarter of the laws of BC affect one's rights as a member of a couple or a family.
I spoke to some queers in the U.S. yesterday about Obama's announcement, and they said that it has had a galvanizing effect on queers there, who are feeling energized and proud about Obama's statement. All the best to our US queer friends and allies in this fight!