The Internet is buzzing with an excerpt from a BBC interviewwith His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. In it, he repeats a joke he made in 2015 that a future female Dalai Lama "must be very attractive, otherwise not much use." As a Tibetan born to refugees in India who weren't formally educated past high school and as a transgender person familiar with the violence of misogyny and gender stereotypes , I want to share what went through my mind as I watched him make this joke.
Ever since I started learning to read and write in English, I have been watchful of the Dalai Lama's remarks. He's the same age as my grandmother, and when I look at him I don't see a Nobel Peace Prize laureate or a celebrity. I see someone who, as an adolescent, was given the responsibility to lead his people through foreign invasion and decades of ongoing colonialism. Someone who is denied entry into countries such as South Africa, Thailand, and South Korea, because they want to avoid offending one of the most powerful nations in the world (China). I see someone with a deep spiritual understanding who does not accept compensation for any of his talks or appearances. Someone with limited fluency in English and its nuances, who is a permanent guest in a foreign land (India). I see a refugee and an elder, with everyday imperfections.