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30 Jan 2008

chiangmai's first gay pride march

Meet some of the gay activists and community leaders from across Asia including Nepal, Mongolia, China and India, who were in Chiangmai last weekend for the third ILGA-Asia conference, at the pride parade. Photos and text by Sylvia Tan.

Chiangmai witnessed its first gay march on Saturday, Jan 27 as some 160 gay activists and NGO workers descended on the northern Thai city for the third ILGA-Asia conference. Conference attendees as well as members of the local LGBT community marched from the Buddhist Centre (Puttastan) through the busy Chang Klan Road's Night Market to Pantip Plaza as thousands of tourists and locals looked on.

Bottom left: Dressed in their traditional costumes, Enkhzaya of Youth for Health CBO, Mongolia and his partner of four years, Sukhragchaa, (right) spoke about their MSM Peer Education Programme in Mongolia at the conference.

Bottom right: Team Indonesia comprising representatives from Arus Pelangi (meaning rainbow stream), Institut Pelangi Perempuan, Gaya Nusantara, Qmunity Jogja (film festival), Yayasan Srikandi Sejati and Ardhanary Institute.

Related web sites

Institut Pelangi Perempuan

Gaya Nusantara

Ardhanary Institute

Unlike the 2005 International Conference of Asian Queer Studies in Bangkok which attracted mainly academics and researchers, the ILGA-Asia conference attracted mostly activists from LGBT organisations across Asia including Mongolia, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan.

Middle row, left pic: Roddy Shaw of Hong Kong's Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities with Gong Yi, co-founder and designer of Les+, a 3-year-old lesbian lifestyle magazine that is widely distributed in China. Middle pic: Singapore's pioneer gay activist Alex Au (3rd from right) of People Like Us with Jean Chong (2nd from right) and members of Singaporean lesbian resource web site, Sayoni. Leading Burmese gay rights activist and outgoing ILGA-ASIA Male Representative Aung Myo Min (middle) with his fellow compatriots. Aung Myo Min is also the head of Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) which is based in Chiang Mai.

Related web sites


People Like Us


The march, which was organised in conjunction with the 4-day conference, was covered by the local media including The Nation newspaper, The Irrawaddy News Magazine and the BBC World Service.

Top image: Founding members of Equal Ground, Sahran Abeysundara (extreme right) and Rosanna Flamer-Caldera who is the outgoing ILGA Female Co-Secretary-General. Abeysundara, who is probably best known to many as being a contestant on The Amazing Race Asia, was elected at the conference to represent the South Asia sub region on the ILGA-Asia board. He is also the new male ILGA-Asia representative to the ILGA world conference which will be held in Quebec in May 2008.

Bottom pic, left: Aya Kamikawa - Setagaya Ward Assembly Member in Tokyo - rose to prominence after becoming the first transsexual person to seek elected office in Japan in 2003. She was re-elected to serve a second term in 2007 and was placed 2nd of 71 candidates running for 52 seats in the same ward assembly.

Related web sites

Equal Ground

Top left: Originally from Canada, Professor Emeritus Douglas Sanders, is now based in Bangkok and teaches Law at Chulalongkorn University as well as Human Rights at Mahidol University. He is pictured with Aditya Bondyopadhyay (middle), a laywer and active member of the 'Voices Against 377' campaign in India and Coordinator of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health; and Grace Poore, a lesbian writer and filmmaker who was born and raised in Malaysia and now works with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in Washington, DC.

Middle row, left: In April 2003, Kanako Otsuji, then 28, became the youngest person ever elected to the Osaka prefectural assembly when she won the seat for Sakai City. She made history last year by being Japan's first openly lesbian politician who ran in a national election.

Middle row, middle: Sunil Pant (right), the founder and director of Nepal's Blue Diamond Society - an organisation that advocates the rights of sexual minorities - with project coordinator Salina Tamang (left) and fellow Nepali conference attendee. According to a press release issued by Pant in December last year, the Nepal Supreme Court had "issued directive orders to (the) Nepal government to ensure rights to life according to their own identities and introduce laws providing equal rights to LGBTIs and amend all the discriminatory laws against LGBTIs." It also declared that persons of the third gender should be recognised as such. Locally termed metis, they could be pre op male to female transgenders, or persons with a gender expression that is not typical of his/her biological sex.

Middle row, right: Outgoing ILGA-ASIA Female Representative Mira Alexis P. Ofreneo and Tesa de Vela of Isis International-Manila with her daughter.

Bottom: While some members of the LGBT community have expressed discomfort about massage parlours (and gogo bars especially in the case of Bangkok Pride) prominently advertising their services during pride parades, a veteran pride parade organiser Fridae spoke to argues that any promotion of commercial services should be viewed the same way as long as the participants are supportive of the gay cause. He highlighted that while many have no reservations about the presence of blue-chip brands, the same people may baulk at the presence of massage parlours, gogo bars and other businesses that cater to the gay community as their participation casts gays in a bad light.

Related web sites

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Blue Diamond Society

International Lesbian and Gay Association

Isis International-Manila


Reader's Comments

1. 2008-01-30 21:52  
yea nepal was there too !! :P

wooo hooo
2. 2008-01-31 00:19  
I think one of the main problems is that in the case of Bkk pride, the commercial representation comprise overwhelmingly of gogo bars and massage parlours. Also, if there are only gogo bars and massage parlours participating, what are the chances of the parade attracting the so called blue chip brands?

Some years ago, there was a S&M contingent at the Taipei Pride parade. I know diversity is a plus but I'm wary that such representation will further perpetuate certain negative stereotypes of gays.
3. 2008-01-31 02:28  
As a long-time activist for GLBT Asians, (member for 27 years and board member for many of those years of Asian/Pacific Gays & Friends in Los Angeles)and though a non-Asian myself, I have witnessed the groath of the entire GLBT community for even more years. I remember in the early years of the Gay Pride parade in LA, many, including me in the early years,) wanted to keep the "fringes" of our community from participating. However, the drag queen and the uptight business man, the dyke on a bike and the beauty queen winner, the S&M crowd and the Gays for Jesus are ALL apart of our community. All, in their individual way, contribute to the gay community being recognized as a force in the general community. And the Bangkok go-go bars and the Chiang Mai massage parlors contribute massive amounts of dollars, baht, yen, what have you, to local communities. They also provide outlets for our needs which should not be looked down upon. I doubt any of us is a saint, at least in the biblical sense.

In other words, be INCLUSIVE, not Exclusive.

Love to all from an old queen.

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7. 2008-01-31 06:29  
I totally agree with Post # 3 and more.

Any form of discrimination is plain and simple-discrimination. It's very well for an uptight discreet gay person to visit gay saunas, bars, restaurants, shops, and all gay related services that support the livelihood of lesser (versus your corporate big wings) gays, but it's not ok to acknowledge they exist? Such vicious hypocrisy!*
No wonder gay people get no real respect from mainstream as they dun even support their own.

It's tantamount to a black head servant of a white household calling one of his own, a nigger cotton picking slave in front of his white massterrs during those good ole Kentucky times. Ain't he black too? Or maybe they had vertigo like MJ too. Still, ain't MJ still black?? Eeeyes, massters!

The problem with people these days are hypocrisy. Very few say what they mean and mean what they say. People need to get their balls out more often, and I dun mean just 4 the parades!

Bravo to all the participants and more power to them.

*PS: I recalled some time ago, a fren brought me to a party filled with professional gays; doctors, lawyers..zzz. They were sizing my bod out and asked alot of questions about my likes/dislikes. I was in tight muscle tanks, they, in formal. I mentioned that when I have time, I enjoyed visiting gay saunas, like Towel Club, and they all looked "puzzled and horrified". Some claimed they never heard of such places and most insisted they will never be caught dead in one...zzzz. Needless to say I left this stuffy gathering soon enough.

Weeks later, I saw 3 of them making rounds at the TC sauna, and they were shocked to see me, passing off that they were just there with friends reluctantly. ZZZ.
Now, why would I care? Normally I wouldn't, but point being, these are the types that may/not directly/indirectly affect the progress of gay movement with their hypocrisy. Until more brave person get real, dun count on gay people having it easy.

Take a good look at the cancelled Sanctuary gay cruise or the way hypocritical countries like Singapore discriminates against its own gay citizens. People choose what they choose to believe, and not what reality is-and the reality is, gay people exists and are EVERYWHERE!!!

So if u r gay, dun hurt your own if u cannot help them. NEVER feast on your own kind cos one day u will be feasted upon.

8. 2008-02-02 02:43  
Keep going!
9. 2008-02-02 02:44  
Let's be PROUD!
10. 2008-02-03 13:09  
Ohhh! To Kanako Otsuji from Japan and Blue Diamond Society of Nepal, BRAVO!!! All the very best! I love you always.
11. 2008-02-03 13:55  
I was in a parade, hee hee
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