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‘Bangkok Shutdown’ is Thai LGBT’s coming out party

Thailand has been in the news for some time now. Protests, anti-protests, elections, sporadic violence, emergency decrees and the like seem to be the only topic for discussion especially among media persons.  Despite all the apparent chaos and bad press this may have created, there is an unmistakably great silver lining for the Thai LGBT community.

I say this because for the first time mainstream street demonstrations have brought together people from different sexual orientations.

I was surprised to see numerous openly gay, lesbian and transsexual members of the community alone and in groups on the streets as part of the Bangkok Shutdown protests, side by side with the straight majority. Some, flamboyantly dressed, were as much part of the protests for a government change as anyone else.

They were not relegating themselves to the gay zones like Silom Soi 4 that dot Bangkok to be themselves. They were no more part of the marginalized fringes of society too shy to take a stand. They were part of mainstream society not afraid to be seen to have their say on things other than LGBT rights and issues. For or against this or that political persuasion, they were as vociferously opinioned on general politics as anyone else, publically. And what’s more, there was much acceptance by people of the more majority straight orientation.

Like a friend of mine who would join the protests in Asoke after work told me, “I am not only a Thai citizen; I am a gay Thai citizen.”  And another very straight friend who he did not know hugged him saying, “Gay, straight, we are all Thai.”

Whatever be the political outcome of the ongoing Bangkok protests and demonstrations, the one clear winner according to me is our local LGBT community.

This is because general politics, usually seen as a domain and bastion of only the straight majority, has ceased to be so. The Thai LGBT community has matured and evolved from an exclusive part to an integrated and accepted part of society.

Still staying on the subject of politics and the recently completed elections, Thai LGBT activists had plans to form a separate political party to ensure equal treatment of people irrespective of sexual orientation. However, they could not do so in time to see their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Rights Party formed to participate in the elections. That would most probably now have to wait for the next elections.

A separate gay political party in Thailand (where there is no formal recognition of gay relations or even anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people) would have meant a maturity not only of the identity of the gay community but an acceptance by default of our rights by society at large.

The formation of a gay political party should not be seen as wishful thinking or pie in the sky but taken seriously.

Eighty of the seats in Thailand’s 480 seat House of Representatives are elected proportionally with each voter voting both for their local representative as well as for a party. It is imaginable then that if LGBT Thais voted as a block, the party could win several seats.

It is no wonder then that during the earlier Bangkok gubernatorial race, the incumbent and main challenger from one of the main political parties who was reelected had a pro LGBT message espousing sexual diversity.

All this is not to be taken lightly for it can have far ranging effects for Thailand as well as Asia vis a vis LGBT rights. It could bring Thailand closer to legally accepting diverse genders and sexual orientations and showing a path for other countries in Asia to follow suit where even a robust democracy such as India have the most draconian laws that criminalize same sex relations or in Malaysia where you can be caned publically and imprisoned for up to 20 years for sodomy.

Thailand already was in the forefront of Asian countries with a bill in parliament for acknowledging same sex marriages. It is only bad luck and the fluid situation of current Thai politics which saw parliament’s dissolution that did not see that bill proceed.

All said and done, the recent political turmoil in Thailand is in more ways than one a coming out party for the Thai LGBT group. While Thailand is the most gay tolerant country in Asia, it has not always been entirely accepting of gay people.  The latest political turmoil however has gone a long way in changing that once and for all. It is Thailand’s coming out party for the Thai LGBT community, where every member of the community can stand up and have his or her voice heard and be counted for and accepted. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual, all are Thai.

THAI LOVER is a commentator on All Things Thai and Gay. He can be contacted by email at  [email protected] or through the BRO community personals under THAI LOVER.

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