It was 2014 when a video had gone viral, it showed a man dressed as a woman, Tenzin Mariko, dancing at a friend's wedding in New Delhi like no one's watching her, but little did she know that someone's recording her for all the evil intentions. The video floated hugely on WeChat. She was ridiculed severely for her appearance. Mistreated by her community, she at first denied being the woman in the clip, while people called her 'Pholo-Molo' (a derogatory term meaning neither a male nor female) and neighbours suggested her parents to take care of her activities.
Yes, she was scared, but she didn't give up. The next year, Tenzin Mariko was standing at the stage of Miss Tibet pageant, she was feeling more nervous than anybody else in the room.
Wondering why? Well, it's an inspiring tale of a monk who learned some interesting facts about its existence and broke all the stereotypes to become first openly transgender woman in Tibetan community.
Have a look!
Tenzin came out in light; she was standing in front of the same people, vulnerable on the stage of Miss Tibet pageant. But this time she didn't want to hide. Only a few months earlier to this event, she revealed to her family and close ones that she's a woman from her soul. It was the perfect occasion for her to target more people from Tibetan community. And she chose to do it through the same, dance.
"I thought I was going to get hit with eggs and tomatoes," says Mariko. Tenzin started to dance to a music of Bollywood films. "As soon as I stepped onto the stage, the entire venue burst into cheers. Everyone was screaming 'once more' when my performance ended. I felt good that night. I felt relieved."
Now an aspiring makeup artist and dancer, she's one of the biggest star and icon of her community. Until her arrival, Tibet was lacking the LGBT idols.
Born as Tenzin Ugen, the fourth son among five, her father and mother both used to work as a teacher in the local Tibetan school.
At the age of nine, she was sent to Samdrup Darjay Choling Monastery in Darjeeling. Four years later, she moved to Tergar Institute in Kathmandu in Nepal.
At 16 when she came back, she learned that her father and mother have separated. Her mother now lived in Bir, while her father introduced her to the stepmother.
As a teenager, she remembers, she would usually take her mother's mascara and put on her garments, antics that didn't go down well with her mother. Even as a monk, she tells, she didn't stop trying to look like a female. Using low-quality powder to whiten her face and lip balm to brighten her lips, she states, she was out in a sea of priests.
Tenzin gave up monkhood soon after her video scandal. Although her family, in the beginning, complained about her decision to make the transition, they finally agreed upon it.
"My father used to tell me, 'You were born a boy, so you need to act like one,' but I would say, 'I don't want to live like a kid anymore. I want to be a girl.' "It feels good to be known as the first Tibetan transgender, not because it has turned me into some sort of celebrity amongst the Tibetan people, but because I have, in a small way, made it easier for other trans people to come forward."
"I indeed admire her courage," shares Tsewang Dolma, Information Secretary at Dharamsala based Youth Congress, which campaigns to free Tibet from China and has 30,000 members worldwide.
She adds further, "she's an inspiration not only to LGBT people but whole Tibetan community."
"I think people are more afraid of how their families are going to react than the community. Fortunately, my family has been supportive."
"I learnt how to be a real person at the monastery, had I not been a monk, I would not be the mature, sensible person that I am today."
Currently, she is spending most of her time across India by performing in live shows. Though she didn't reveal her income and different sources, Tenzin shares that she earns enough to lead a happy life and support her family.
Apart from dance, the first openly transgender woman from Tibetan community is passionate about the fashion industry. She recently completed her short term makeup course at Make-Up Designory in New Delhi.
The level of care she puts into her styling is unbelievable. You will not find a single post from her in which she looks badly dressed or poorly styled.
"People are excited when they see me," she says, "and I don't want to disappoint them by looking like someone who's different from the way Mariko looks on social media."
Mariko reveals that she is naturally blessed with a woman like features, she doesn't take hormones. However, she dreams to undergo a gender reassignment surgery someday, only when she can afford it on her own.
Mariko replied with her trademark cheekiness, "Being Mariko, I have already received so much attention, love and fans," she says. "I don't think I can handle another crown."
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