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Bhutan’s first Miss Universe pageant, Tashi Choden, 23, is openly gay

Although she received a "negative reaction" on the Internet after being selected as Miss Bhutan and confirmed to participate in Miss Universe, Choden's attitude seems to be gaining support at home and abroad. Prime Minister Lotay Tshering also personally congratulated Choden and wished him well.

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Bhutan’s first Miss Universe pageant, Tashi Choden, 23, is the country’s only openly gay celebrity

Bhutan, a small Himalaya Buddhist country, is known for its ‘Gross National Happiness (GNH ) philosophy, which prioritizes national happiness over economic growth.

On the other hand, until February last year, same-sex sexual activity was illegal under the Penal Code as “violating the laws of nature.”
That’s why Choden says it’s “a big deal” that she was named this year’s Miss Bhutan, representing some 800,000 people and the country’s LGBTQ community.

“On a big stage like Miss Universe, we represent not only Bhutanese society but also minority communities,” Choden said. “I can be their voice.”

Choden, who had already lost her parents when she was 14, came out last June during World Pride Month after “a lot of research and asking myself”.

Initially, she was “extremely repulsed” by her conservative and religious relatives. But getting her relatives to approve of her coming out was an important step for Choden.

“After a while, they became very understanding. I am very grateful that many people are not accepted by their families and relatives.”

Although she received a “negative reaction” on the Internet after being selected as Miss Bhutan and confirmed to participate in Miss Universe, Choden’s attitude seems to be gaining support at home and abroad.
Prime Minister Lotay Tshering also personally congratulated Choden and wished her well.

Just as same-sex sexual activity is no longer illegal, Bhutan is becoming more tolerant and accepting of sexual minorities in recent years.

Changes in the LGBTQ community, such as changing the name and gender on ID cards among transgender women, are gradually becoming visible.

And now, Ms Choden, representing Bhutan, is on the stage of Miss Universe, which is watched by the world. There is hope for the future of Bhutan’s sexual minority youth.

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