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What is Nïngtam?

This website was published by Tenzin Mingyur Paldron in 2014 as a call to learning and community building among Tibetans. It was preceded by a Queer Tibet blog written by the author and the short essay Queer Politics and Tibet (2011).

This website now functions as a part of Tibetan LGBTQ+ history. I transferred it from a paid website builder to this free one in 2022.

སྙིང་གཏམ་ is pronounced nying·t(h)um and translates into ‘the heart’s secret’ or ‘the heart’s tale.’ You tell your nïngtam to someone you trust.

Nïngtam is guided by the belief that the Tibetan spirit is strengthened by love and self-confidence, in all its forms.

It begins by telling someone, like a friend. Or confiding in a relative, or mentor. Whoever it is, it needs to be someone you can trust.

Too often we are isolated. Whether it’s feeling alone amongst family and community, or taking steps to actually live apart from one’s family and other Tibetans, such a burden shouldn’t have to fall on a single person.

Since 2014, the intention of སྙིང་གཏམ་ has been to encourage the goodness and courage that is already in Tibetan hearts. By bringing forward willing Tibetans, a step toward visibility and safety is being taken. Someone living near you, someone who knows your parents, or someone in the profession you aspire toward is making a commitment to not look away, to appreciate who you are, and to encourage positive change in the local community.

We all know there are other secrets that need trust and caring. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and drug abuse are all serious issues facing every community, every demographic. Nïngtam’s starting point is the experience of sexual orientation and gender expression, as relevant to Tibetans. The unhappiness of even a single person can affect us all, just as one person with a peaceful mind and heart is capable of great change.

A teacher once told me, when we try and listen to someone sharing their personal story, we can acknowledge not having firsthand experience with their specific suffering, their particular pain. But we each have something we can draw upon, from our own experiences. Whether as a woman, as an immigrant or refugee, as someone who has experienced abuse. We may not know one particular experience, but all of us know something about pain, as well as the desire for happiness.

And it is from this place we can listen, and learn.


Nïngtam’s author is Tenzin Mingyur Paldron. Born a refugee in New Delhi and living in the United States since 1989, Tenzin spent the first 25 years of his life using མོ་ (she) pronouns and has used ཁོ་ (he) and ཁོང་ (they) pronouns since 2010. His higher ed studies began in community college and he holds a PhD in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2011 they were part of the inaugural cohort of Tibetan graduate students to receive the Dalai Lama Trust Scholarship.

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