Although the diaspora Tibetan population is relatively small, it has in recent years become more dispersed across the world, resulting in an increase in intermarriage and a small but growing number of mixed race children.
Thupten Samdrup, Representative of the Central Tibetan Administration for Northern Europe noted that there was quite a sizeable number of mixed parentage Tibetans in the London area. England has some of the oldest cases of mixed parentage Tibetans due to British interaction with Tibet over many years in the last century. Some of the earliest mixed race children belong to Rinchen Lhamo, the author of the book We Tibetans, who married a British civil servant and moved to London in 1925. There were also other British officers posted in Tibet who married Tibetan women in the 1930s and 1940s, many of whose children revere the Dalai Lama and are Tibet supporters to this day.
Representative Thupten Samdrup, himself a father of mixed race children, said that while still an extremely small number, mixed parentage Tibetans are likely to become more common in the future due to the fact that Tibetans are becoming more exposed to diverse cultures and mingling more with the larger societies in which they live.
While several mixed parentage Tibetans like Lhadon Tethong (Tibet Action Institute), Karma Emchi (aka Shapaley), Padma Dolma (SFT Europe Director), Pema Yoko (SFT Grassroots Director), and many others are well known in exile Tibetan society, some have struggled to find their place in the usually close knit communities, and others have become completely estranged from the mainstream of Tibetan cultural life.
In order to share common concerns, aspirations and challenges, the first ever conference of mixed parentage Tibetans is planned to take place in London this summer. Organizers have told VOA that news of the meeting is spreading quickly and drawing great interest, with some people signing up who say that they have never attended Tibetan gatherings or taken part in Tibet related activities.
In this report, VOA’s Sonam Yangzom explores this growing segment of the Tibetan population and their identity and relationships with the larger Tibetan society.