OBEC moves even more backwards

Education agency's latest blunder shows the disconnect between policymakers and the young generation when it comes to LGBTIs

EDUCATE YOURSELVES

What could go wrong when the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) holds an online training session for its educational supervisors? Apparently, a lot of things.

In one part of the webinar, in a section titled "Character Of True Friends", the speaker showed a picture of a group of effeminate schoolboys in an attempt to illustrate how social context can affect a person's character.

"Now, don't share this photo anywhere else because we didn't ask for [the students] permission [to use it]," cautioned the speaker. And if we weren't already appalled that this came from someone who was training education staff, she went on to say: "With kids, if their environment is like [in the photo], they can adjust to it. Maybe they're not likely to be trans but once they see a lot of their friends like that -- that it's fun -- then they become one too. Social context matters a great deal at shaping your image."

Unfortunately, it doesn't come as a surprise that OBEC and the Ministry of Education clearly have no grasp on the whole gender concept. From hairstyle, uniform, and curriculum, the rules and mindset of Thai education's governing body has long been known as prejudicial and obsolete.

Once this webinar was brought to the public's attention by the Bad Students group, it quickly sparked criticism. Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, MP of the Move Forward Party, put out a statement on his Facebook saying he disagrees with the speaker and that the webinar will only bring about prejudice toward transgender people. His post continues that being LGBTI has more to do with inner factors like one's gender identity. It's also up to each individual about how they choose to express their gender.

"I understand that in today's society, youth and the new generation understand more about diversity in gender than the previous generation. And I think it's time that the core educational curriculum is adjusted to be more understanding about gender from other perspectives of how gender was perceived in the baby boomer generation," wrote Tunyawaj.

The MP wasn't the only one taking a stand. In a public letter addressed to OBEC's secretary-general, Save the Children insists that transgenders aren't born from imitation as the speaker claimed. Saying so may cause a misunderstanding that being around transgender people can make others to change their gender identity, which may lead to increased prejudice and even bullying of LGBTI students.

Furthermore, Save the Children also condemned the non-consensual use of the students' photos, which is a violation of privacy.

The letter was also signed by 48 civil society organisations and groups within the Thai LGBTI and human rights network. It requested the OBEC to stop violating youths' privacy and make a public statement to fix this misunderstanding and show support for gender equality and children's rights.

So far, the OBEC has yet to take any public action. Given the media that's been dominated by news of the Covid-19 vaccine mismanagement and the loss that has resulted from it, the issue has not received much attention and has been unfortunately buried.

RESPECTING DIVERSITY

Despite setbacks and obstacles, state entities and companies in other parts of the world are making moves to become more inclusive and respectful of gender identity.

Recently, the US government announced it is adding the third gender option for US passports for non-binary, intersex, or gender non-conforming people. This is part of its commitment to promote "the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people", according to the US Department of State's website. Additionally, citizens can now self-select their gender marker -- with the binary option of either M or F -- without the need for any medical certification. The third option -- being coined as the "X" gender marker -- will take some time to implement and update in the IT system. There is currently no exact timeline on when this Gender X option will arrive but the announcement alone sure marks a leap of progress for a country that has also been marred by discrimination against transgender people.

From the government, we arrive at Disney World where attendees have had mixed reactions to the theme parks' recent change of its iconic greetings. From "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls", the greeting was changed to "dreamers of all ages" at its famous firework show in Orlando and is expected to be applied to other parks. Similar changes have already been made at the Tokyo Disney Resort earlier this year. Some have criticised this move as being "too woke". Others, however, applauded the inclusivity of this gender-neutral change.

THINGS TO STREAM

Pose may have concluded last month but fear not. There are still plenty of queer shows to watch.

Recent new additions on Netflix include Young Royals, a Swedish teen drama. The six-episode series follows a modern-day, young Swedish prince at an elite boarding school and his budding romance with a boy. It's a show where onscreen teenagers actually look like, well, teens. While a little predictable, the show feels authentic enough (especially in its casting choice) with a swooning teen romance that is sure to please many audiences.

There's also the second season of Feel Good. Addiction, romance and the question of gender identity all rolled into the show's second and reportedly final season. These six episodes feature Mae (Canadian comedian Mae Martin) checking into rehab after battling with addiction in Season 1, as well as the rocky relationship with girlfriend George.

For more extravaganza, check out RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 6 where previous contestants on the show return for another chance to win big. After battling one another in challenges for a weekly prize, the winner goes up against the lip sync assassin to bag cash and a chance to eliminate their chosen bottom contestant. The twist of the season is that these "eliminated" queens aren't going home just yet as there is "a game within a game". At the time of writing, it has yet to be revealed what this game actually is.

Additionally, it was announced earlier this month that Drag Race Thailand will be returning for a third season, most likely in 2022. The news did take fans by surprise as things have been very quiet since Season 2's conclusion in early 2019.

Drag Race Thailand has previously welcomed people of any gender to apply as well as non-Thai citizens. It remains to be seen how Kantana studio will spice up the show and whether the same hosts will be returning.

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