Bhutan’s first openly gay couple were worried about the public’s response when they came out.

But Deyon Phuntsho and Tenzin Gyeltshen have received nothing but love since they revealed publicly that they were boyfriends in January.

‘After the story went viral, we’ve been receiving calls, video calls and messages from our friends on social media, wishing us well and applauding us for our bravery and faith,’ Deyon told The Bhutanese.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked hermit nation in South Asia. It pioneered the ‘Gross Happiness Index’. The Index measures the collective happiness and well-being of its population.

Homosexual relations are illegal in Bhutan. Article 213 of Bhutan’s Penal Code, outlaws ‘unnatural sex, if the defendant engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature’.

Bhutan is a Buddhist nation, a religion that tends to be more accepting of the LGBTI community.

But this does not mean LGBTI people do not suffer from discrimination and poor mental health outcomes

The Integrated Biological and Behavioral Surveillance (IBBS) survey revealed a high number of LGBTI people have attempted suicide.

The survey also found that a shocking 70% of the LGBTI population resorts to drug and alcohol use to deal with discrimination and stigma.

Deyon and Tenzin’s love story

The couple are very involved with Bhutanese LGBTI organizations. Deyon is an outreach worker at a HIV organization and is the deputy coordinator for LGBTI network, Rainbow Bhutan: Celebrating Diversity,

They met on social media and spoke online before deciding to meet in person.

‘I think this is what love is all about,’ Deyon said.

‘We fell in love with one another’s soul and this I feel is what people should really understand. Love is not about sex, gender or creed.

‘It’s all about the soul inside you.’

The men said coming out to their families was the biggest challenge when coming out.

‘Although I was petrified, I needed to come out, but I was very surprised when I got a positive response from them and my mother said, “you are still my son”,’ Denyon said.

‘They also asked me about my partner, Tenzin and accepted our relationship too.

‘On Tenzin’s part, his family also accepted us and invites me during family gatherings.’

The couple are busy working on LGBTI issues in Bhutan, but hope to one day start their own family. By doing so, they believe it will help raise awareness that LGBTI people can have families too.

‘Adopting a baby is a huge responsibility but we do want to raise a family,’ Denyon said.

‘People have this idea that gay, lesbian or transgender can’t have a family simply because we can’t give birth but they don’t realize that blood doesn’t make a family, its love.

‘Everyone has a dream and mine is to have a regular family. To have someone call you his or her father would be the best gift of my life.’

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