Abused by teachers and raped by police officers, Sweety always identified as a female. Now, she must live a double life to maintain her identity as a transgender woman in Nepal.
At home, with family, Sweety goes by male pronouns and his birth name, Tirtha. Tirtha and his wife, Uma, had an unwanted arranged marriage, much later in their lives than most Nepali people. They have been married nine years and have two children.
Tirtha’s daughter waits for her parents to take her to school.
Uma admitted she’s seen her husband dressed as a woman “for work”. She hadn’t wanted marriage, she said, recalling her adolescence in her village far from the city, where she had dreamed of staying single and working.
The street outside Tirtha’s home in Kirtipur, Nepal
Sweety takes the bus to Kathmandu three days a week, where she works at an LGBTQ organization.
Sweety keeps photos from before she was married, in the apartment she secretly rents in Kathmandu.
Sweety at age 14
Sweety in her apartment in Kathmandu, which she rents to entertain clients for sex work.
Sweety uses cleansing milk before applying makeup.
Sweety prays before going out to find clients in Kathmandu.
Sweety’s taxi driver, who withheld his name, followed her to her room. Sweety’s rate is whatever clients are willing to pay, which can generally range anywhere between 20 cents and $20.
Tirtha and Uma’s wedding photo in their home in Kirtipur is actually two separate photos taped together.
Uma sews for a local tailor for extra money when she can find time between caring for her aging and ill in-laws, her children and her husband.
Sweety answers the phone at the LGBT organization where she works in Kathmandu.
One of Sweety’s other jobs is cleaning the monastery near her family’s home in Kirtipur.
One of the nuns and Sweety at the monastery where Sweety works to make extra money for her family
Sweety tries to find clients in Kathmandu. Sweety is uneducated; because she had been beaten daily by her teachers for acting feminine, Sweety had dropped out of school at age 10. If not for the money she makes as a sex worker, she wouldn’t be able to pay her father’s hospital bills.
Sweety runs from approaching police officers attempting to disperse the transgender sex workers looking for clients. In her 20s, Sweety was arrested and gang raped by police officers in Kathmandu.
Sweety walks with her friends in Kathmandu.