The irony is that she is not really a girl, not in the biological sense. The memoirs of this young geisha were not all roses and petals. It seems like a fairy tale, but it is anything but a fairy tale. There was a time when she went by a masculine name, Dechen Phurba. The second youngest of four siblings, he is fifteen years old. His tender years have seen him spar with his military father, a conservative mother (who he now says is supportive) and a society that defines specific roles for a man and a woman. He was neither, for he was born a boy who felt more at home hanging out with the girls.
“I feel like this is who I am supposed to be,” he says in a soft tone that has obviously become a theme in his life.
He says he felt like a girl as far back as he could remember. That he never dealt with boys, preferring naturally the feminine side of things; dolls, make-ups, dressing up and the like. This was in stark contrast to the conventional world at large. His father gave him lectures on how to “behave like a boy,” his mother chided him for his love of things “girlish.”
Going to school was not all that pleasant. The boys teased him, the girls could not get around to accepting his feminine personality and the gho made him feel uncomfortable.
The teachers lectured and advised him to become a boy.
The external pressure of accepted conventional behavior collided with his own sense of who he really should be. Hence, not too long ago, Dechen Phurba decided the time was right for him to come out of the closet and declare his true physical identity. He changed his name to Dechen Seldon and started dressing as any young girl her age does. Now he’s transformed into a charming fifteen year old teenage girl, with a passion for dance. She says she can dance the Baeda, sungdra, rigsel, dzongha, Hindi, Nepali and Tibetan.The music blares and she suddenly transforms into a graceful dancer, her gestures paint the beats of the music in the air, with her body in perfect sync. She takes everyone’s attention away. An admiring patron says “she could easily become a choreographer.”
When she comes of age at eighteen, she says she would like to have her gender documented as a “female.” There is an air of hope and optimism when she delves into the future. Asked about marriage, she says she is not contemplating it, that she would rather look after her siblings and her parents.
Asked what made her come out of the closet, she says it was the “right thing to do.” And that she could not go on wearing a boy’s gho and pretending to be one when all her instincts told her otherwise. Then comes the bombshell, she says she left school about “two weeks back!” and the reason she decided not to show up at school anymore was because she had to wear the gho, which had assumed a dual symbol of entrapment and freedom.
She finally chose to set herself free from the entrapment of the gho and its shackling bearings. She says she just could not do it. Asked if wearing a kira would persuade her to go back to school, she says, “absolutely, if they let me wear a kira, I'll go back to school and complete my studies.”She hopes that her decision to be true to herself would also encourage other closet-transvestites to come out and proudly demonstrate their inner yearnings as who they are, not as how society would like them to be.
It’s now late in the night and there’s talk about another entertainment complex, called the Gaadhen. Some of the “purple lounge” patrons make a move for the other joint. The place is bigger and swankier. It is filled with people, a good mixture of locals and tourists are enjoying a medley of songs belted out by the in-house band. The place is abuzz with sensual excitement. Everyone’s staring at the little stage where the performers are, and then comes an announcement. The name Dechen Seldon is announced by the house M.C.
She comes onto the stage, fearless and confident. Once the music begins, she takes the audience away with her solo-virtuosity. This girl can dance or this boy can out do the girls is the murmur among the viewers.
The audience is all applause and she’s back mixing among the crowd. It is not a bewildered crowd, It seems like everyone knows her and have come to accept her as who she truly is. A little girl trapped in a little boy. As the night wears on, you begin to forget the little boy and realize this is indeed a girl in every sense of the word.