Tenzin Mariko, The Monk Who Became Tibet’s First Transgender Model

Tenzin Mariko

A former Buddhist monk, Tenzin Mariko is Tibet’s first transgender model and has taken the internet by storm.

Tenzin, whose birth name was Tenzin Ugen, was born male and came in India in the 1990s with a family of six brothers to settle down in Bir, Himachal Pradesh, reported the Times of India. While Tenzin spent years as a monk, when she later became a transgender model, she was exiled among the Tibetan community.

Talking to Times of India, she recalls, “So, it is not like I woke up one fine morning and decided to become a trans person. There were many challenges, both financial and social.”

She revealed that at the age of nine, she discovered the female side of her, but was told that a male is expected to behave differently. She was then sent to a monastery to become a monk. However, she gradually started embracing what came to her naturally and stood out even in her monk’s garb.

She recalls the moment she decided to undergo the sex change surgery. The decision came after her video as a monk, wearing a woman’s wig and makeup, and dancing had gone viral in 2014. She was insulted for her behaviour. Almost five years later, she is a social media icon with over 20,000 followers.

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After the incident, in 2015, she introduced herself as a dancer at the Miss Tibet pageant in Dharamshala. Since then, she has never looked back.

Now, she is a professional dancer, model, make-up artist and an influencer.


She recently even spoke at a Tedx talk in Dharamshala.


She talked about the change and said, “Our Tibetan community is small but they treat me as a celebrity now. It feels good to be known as the first Tibetan transgender. Not because it has turned me into a celebrity, but because I have, in a small way, made it easier for other trans people to come forward.”

Way to go, girl!

Feature Image Credit: TOI

Read More Stories By Ria Das