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'Queer' conference kicks off in style (The Nation [Thailand])
8 Jul, 2005

The first International Conference of Asian Queer Studies kicked off yesterday with overwhelming attendance of people from around the globe.

The first day of the three-day event drew flamboyant look-alikes of Princess Diana, the newly crowned Miss Universe and an array of other favourite celebrities – including a troupe of Barbie dolls in opulently extravagant evening gowns.

“You’d be surprised how many gay and straight people love to collect Barbie dolls”, said Pitak Hangsajara, the owner of Beauty Dolls, adding that he attended the event not to sell dolls, but to add more colour to the first “queer” conference in Thailand.

Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand was on hand to promote its website www.bangkokrainbow.org as a “GLBTQ” (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, queer) community which aims to fight discrimination often found in society and encourage the well-being of the various alternative communities. Almost 50 Rainbow Sky Association members and volunteers took part in the conference, said volunteer Natthaphat Theerapappongpue.

As part of their promotion of safe sex among homosexuals, the association, led by president Viroj Tangvanich, sold souvenirs to raise proceeds for HIV/Aids education-related activities. A number of attendants seemed to particularly enjoy the wear-a-condom game. Freebies, such as pens, condoms, hygienic body wash, and fans were given away to those who managed to put a condom on a wooden phallus fixed inside a wooden box.

The association is also organising group tours to Phuket and trips to Silom and Surawong, both known as gay-friendly neighbourhoods within Bangkok. They both boast a number of bars and discotheques dedicated to homosexuals and those who wish to explore the gay scene of Bangkok.

A number of HIV/Aids and homosexuality-related books in Thai and English were also on offer at reasonable prices.

And if you think that “intimate” cleansing products are for women only, think again. Next to The Rainbow Sky Association, the other booth attracting a crowd was Bond’s - maker of a cleansing product that claims to be the first and only “intimate” wash for men in Thailand. Plenty of free samples were on offer.

“It’s okay for women too,” said a public relations girl at the booth.

Fridae.com, a popular Singapore-based gay and lesbian network, together with lesla.com, the biggest Thai lesbian website, also had a strong presence at the first day of the proceedings.

The event runs until tomorrow at the Ambassador Hotel.

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