Under the rainbow
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Under the rainbow

Celebrate Pride Month loud and proud

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Under the rainbow

As we enter June, the ever-so-familiar rainbow flag of Pride Month starts to appear to remind us all of the ongoing fights for equality and rights for the LGBTQI community. It's been more than 50 years since the Stonewall riots and progress has been made internationally and locally, however, true equality still seems distant and the fight continues. Guru speaks to members of the local LGBTQI community, who share their experiences.

Diyar Donavanik

Model & Financial advisor

How long have you been out and how has the experience been?

I've been out for about four or five years and it's been a great experience because getting to be yourself is better than not. Before I came out, there were many people still in the closet in the entertainment industry and they didn't seem very open to the LGBTQI community. But after that, other people started coming out. I felt like it allowed me to come out, too. I was so happy at work. People around me already knew that I've always been like this, it was just that I never announced it. Once I made it official, I received quite a few LGBTQI-related opportunities and this enabled me to be much happier in my personal and professional lives.

(Photo courtesy of Diyar Donavanik)

How has being out affected your work?

It positively influenced my work because before I had to play the role of women. Because of my tomboy personality, I receive much more LGBTQI-related work, be it, modelling, walking the runway, or reviewing products.

What do you think of Thailand's reputation as an LGBTQI paradise?

I'm not super active in terms of political campaigns, but I am happy that there's more movement on social media, when I go places I do see more and more bathrooms for the third gender and it seems like an increasing number of the older generation is also accepting us. It's not yet a paradise, but it's a place that is open to everyone no matter their gender. It is yet to be an LGBTQI paradise because there are still limitations for LGBTQI people living here.

What do you wish to see in terms of change for the community?

Obviously, I'd like the law to change. I think many people would agree that the law has not changed to accommodate our existence and allow us to get legally married. I don't think it needs to be changed specifically for the LGBTQI community, but it needs to change for the sake of human rights. If people have been living together, they've built a life together, when they go to the hospital or pass away, they should be able to sign papers for each other. It should be possible for them to make legal decisions for each other as would a spouse in a heterosexual marriage. The law should be opened to this by now, and I have no idea why it's not.

What is your Pride?

Getting to be myself. Before there was so much movement in the community, everyone accepted me the way I was. I was always invited to shows, given jobs and offered opportunities because I was part of the community. I became known for the tagline 'The only tomboy model of the Thai fashion industry'. I'm so glad that people accept, not only me but the fact that I'm part of the community.


Sophie Marguerite Indracusin

Choreographer & Actress

How long have you been out and how has the experience been?

I've been out with my inner circle for the past six to seven years. But publicly, I came out during Covid 2020 actually. So it's been about two years. With my social media, a lot of people realised it but didn't say anything because it's not that big of a deal. During the peak of Covid, I had a lot of self-talk and I felt like I was in a place where I felt good, I didn't feel in danger of anything or wasn't worried about coming out. I felt that my coming out would be an example of someone in the community being out and proud while being part of the entertainment business. That's one of the reasons why I came out publicly.

(Photo courtesy of Sophie Marguerite Indracusin)

Most of the response has been positive. I haven't got any hate comments, which is really nice. A lot of younger teenagers reached out to me. There was a time when I was on TikTok a lot, talking about the LGBTQI community and educating people on certain terms. A lot of people said they were thankful that I came out publicly because they showed the video to their parents to explain what they were and they felt like it was so nice to see someone that a lot of people grew up with come out and talk very openly about it.

Growing up, the community didn't have much representation in the media. There were some series and some small roles in movies, but it's usually a side character, but there wasn't anyone who was exactly the way I was. But now, especially with TikTok and Instagram, it's a double-edged sword, but what's so cool is that a lot of people are really open about just being themselves. It's representation in reality, not as written in the media. There are so many people that are like me out there and it's amazing for the next generation to see this variety of different identities.

How has being out affected your work?

I'm a lot more open with the things I do creatively. Because I'm in the dance community, that's already a very open community. Anyone who's been around dancers before knows that it's very LGBTQI safe most of the time. A lot of dance styles and dancing communities come from the community, things like voguing and waacking.

Although our community in Thailand is big, it's still a very open place and everyone's super accepting. An amazing thing about my job is that you don't have to present yourself a certain way. When you're a choreographer or a teacher it's very artistic. Being a woman, I can dance masculine, I can dance feminine and it's allowed me to experience myself and find out more about myself through dance. Being part of the community has helped me grow in my job because I feel freer.

As for the entertainment business side of my job, it has closed some doors but also opened some. I'm a very straightforward person now that I've accepted myself fully but people are still not as open as they should be. But in another way, it's also opened a lot of doors as I end up being seen as the out and proud actress and that way I can talk about those topics and shed light on them. It also allows me to play some roles that are queer while the doors that were closed were not meant for me.

What do you think of Thailand's reputation as an LGBTQI paradise?

I disagree with the paradise reputation. On a superficial level, yes. But if you dig deeper, no. It seems like you can do whatever you want and be whatever you want and people will not beat you up for it which should be the norm. On the other hand, we don't have any legislation protecting the community against hate crime, bias or work discrimination. We don't have marriage equality. Queer people are not allowed to adopt. I learned recently that in order to have a child via IVF you have to be married for three years and obviously, queer couples cannot get married, therefore, there's no way for queer couples to have a family.

What do you wish to see in terms of change for the community?

If a lot of people promote Thailand as the place for gay people to come because it's safe, then the government should allow us to live just like everyone else. We should be allowed to create a happy family, and get our picture-perfect wedding just like everyone else. I know that growing up, I wanted to wear a pretty white dress and walk down the aisle but I can't do that because I'm dating a woman. So the change I'd like to see is just let us have what everyone else has. We're not asking for more. We're not asking to be on a pedestal or for the privilege. We're asking for equity.

I also want to see more of our generation coming out and speaking up and more education on LGBTQI topics because a lot of people are still uninformed about it and end up talking about it in a way that's harmful to the community. The older generation looks at it as naive kids who don't know what they're talking about. That's because we grew up with no education about this community at all. Growing up, the sex education I had was just a diagram of a man and a woman, and that's all I knew. I did not know how relationships between women work, between men work. The way you're exposed to it is through porn, which is not educational. So I feel like having proper education about these things and allowing people to know that since they're young is something that would be beneficial to drive the community forward.

What is your Pride?

My pride is to be able to inspire people. That's what I'm proud of. I love being able to open up about myself and the things that I've been through whether it be about being in the community, being a sexual assault survivor or being a woman. Doing so allows people to open up about themselves, understand themselves, be inspired and inspire others forward.


Chanudom "Patcha" Suksatit

Artist and Musician

How long have you been out and how has the experience been?

I am out since I was born, I've always been this way since I was little. My parents always knew and they were very supportive about it.

(Photo courtesy of Chanudom Suksatit)

How has being out and proud affected your work?

It's overall positive. Being LGBTQI, I don't think about what I am. I just love myself and I'm proud of it, so the works that come out are things that I'm proud of. It doesn't really have much to do with being or not being part of the community, it's more about being human. I think it's much more important to talk about humans than talking specifically about LGBTQI, which emphasises that it's something different. I think we shouldn't talk about it at all because, in the end, we're all just human beings. We should all be proud of being human.

What do you think of Thailand's reputation as an LGBTQI paradise?

It depends on who's looking. I mean it feels like if you see Thailand as the LGBTQI paradise you must be quite narrow-minded. I think anywhere can be an LGBTQI paradise, if there's gender diversity and acceptance without gender discrimination. Any place where people respect one another would be a paradise, not only for the LGBTQI community but also for people of all races and identities. I'm not saying that a place where respect is lacking is a hell, but it's a place where learning needs to take place. If you want to live together in harmony, you need to respect others more.

What do you wish to see in terms of change for the community?

I want to see more respect, not just for the LGBTQI community but for straight people also. All people, no matter their age and gender should respect one another. Anyone who breathes and has a pulse needs to be respected and should be respectful towards others. We should all be proud that we share the same air and this beating heart to do something for the world and make it a better place. We don't need to emphasise differences anymore because diversity might be something that the world needs in order to be balanced. It makes the world such a beautiful place.

What is your Pride?

My pride is when I get to create work that touches others who are feeling down or going through something in their lives. Being able to help fill them up when they're unfulfilled, that's my pride. I once wrote a song that spoke to a person who was feeling down and under pressure. They had depression and the song helped them in their treatment. When they told me with tears in their eyes, I teared up too. I felt so proud to be myself and of being able to make someone's life better through my work.


Naraphat "Ball" Sakarthornsap

Artist

How long have you been out and how has the experience been?

I came out when I was working at my second job, I must have been about 25. I tried telling people around me that I was gay, but it backfired. I wanted to tell someone in my new surroundings who I really was so I could live without lying to anyone because I've been lying all my life that I wasn't gay. I always emphasised that I wasn't gay as I was so afraid that society wouldn't accept me.

(Photo courtesy of Naraphat Sakarthornsap)

That day, I was in a car with a senior from work and I told them everything, that I was gay, how my life was and how I had never told anyone about it. The next day that person told other people in the department I worked and it became a funny story for them. I was shocked because I wanted to only tell them, not other people yet. I wanted to slowly gain more and more confidence by telling people one by one but it failed, so I went back to denying that I was gay.

However, I was lucky because I found that art could be a way that I could tell this story as an alternative to me telling it myself, so I came out through my art. My early art talks indirectly about my sexuality. The more I make art, the more direct the storytelling has become and I became stronger. Now I can say in my own words that I am a member of the LGBTQI community.

How has being out and proud affected your work?

After I came out to the wrong person and it backfired on me, art healed me and helped me become stronger. It all started when I was a kid in school learning biology about worms which were known to have two sexes in the same body. The other kids would call people who were gay 'worms' and I was one of them. When we studied anything that remotely mentioned alternative genders, I would get teased for it. When the song Pra-teung by Tai Tanawut came out, I was also called 'pra-teung'. I felt that these wounds accumulated and remains a scare into my adulthood. It made me afraid of saying outright that I was gay because I was afraid of getting teased or of being treated differently. It took me 25 years to come out, and at my current age, I don't care anymore what anyone thinks about my sexuality. The twenty or so years that I've lost I'll never get back because of the fear. I don't know how many people are out there feeling how I was feeling. When I started working, I was really afraid of talking about it.

What do you think of Thailand's reputation as an LGBTQI paradise?

I grew up in a time when being a member of the LGBTQI community was still ridiculed. Maybe you should ask the new generation this question. I can't say if the new generation is being accepted in their schools and their families. Do they still have to make videos on Youtube telling their coming out stories? Their answers will determine if Thailand is truly an LGBTQI paradise. Are the kids in the new generation happy with the status quo? Is Thailand a paradise for them as LGBTQI kids?

What do you wish to see in terms of change for the community?

I would like to see marriage equality. I think the world has evolved to a point where people must understand different types of love. All genders should be able to get married and build a family. I've read about why there's yet to be marriage equality and the reasons range from the authorities being afraid that people of the same gender would fake marriage for the benefits to reasons pertaining to values and ethics. Honestly, I think it's all nonsense. If computers must update their software to stay functional, then why have legislations that were written years ago still not been updated to fit with the times. What we want is the change that will lead to more equality.

What is your Pride?

My answer might seem a bit negative. I'm very proud that I'm still alive today. I've been living in secret for 25 years, then the day came when I could be myself. But I'm worried about the new generation. How many of them will have to go through the same experiences I did? I would be so much more proud if they could be themselves from a very young age without having to keep it a secret like I had to.


Pranaya "Primya" Onnom

Singer and Rapper

How long have you been out and how was that experience?

The first people I came out to was my family. Then I came out to society when I was competing for the position of my university's ambassador. A question was asked on the topic of equality was 'How would women be able to win over men?', to which I answered that no one needs to win over anyone because we're all equal. There was also a question about the secret love of the LGBTQI community to which I said I was also a member of the community. I'm a B, bisexual and that society isn't as open as it seems to be, so it's not weird that they are forced to keep their love a secret. When I competed in the show The Rapper, I also came out. Once I came out on the show, it makes it harder for me to become famous as a rapper because I don't fit in the image that people want to see, which is the girly rapper who raps and twerks. It does make me feel that some people in the rap industry overlook abilities and potential because of gender and sexuality. I need to push my skills further and make them see how good my rhymes and punchlines are.

(Photo courtesy of Pranaya Onnom)

How has being out and proud affected your work?

I have my own record company, I make my own music and I also sing at restaurants and bars. I think there's a good side and a bad side to being LGBTQI in this line of work. Some people really like me for who I am but there are also men who discriminate against women like me and with the way they look at me. For me, my sexuality doesn't really affect me in the singing arena, but in the rapping scene, there's definitely a difficulty because you don't just sell your voice, you have to sell the whole package.

What do you think of Thailand's reputation as an LGBTQI paradise?

I'm glad that Thailand has been dubbed the paradise of LGBTQI people even though Thais are still fighting for marriage equality and for other kinds of rights. Thailand is still very open when compared to some countries. It's already a good thing. I think we have a decent amount of freedom here, but the law is yet to support us. So, yes it is a paradise, but there's still room for improvement. If it improves and equality actually happens, it might become even better than a paradise.

What do you wish to see in terms of change for the community?

It's something that needs to be said, I want to see the law change for marriage equality. Thai LGBTQI people still have to get married in another country. I also want people to stop labelling that people were not born into the right gender. They were born like that. It's time that we accept that it's a normal thing. People need to be educated on the subject.

What is your Pride?

My pride is that I have a very strong standpoint and I push it forward. I dare to be myself and to tell the world what and who I am. I think being truly yourself is something worth cherishing in everybody. You can be yourself and still be successful no matter where you are in life. 


Fly The Pride Flag

To celebrate diversity and fight for quality, join these events.

Samyan Mitr Pride 100% Love

Samyan Mitrtown celebrates Pride Month with "Samyan Mitr Pride 100% Love", making it Thailand's Iconic LGBTQI landmark. Highlights include Pride-themed decorations that will allow you to show your true colours to the world.

LGBTQI Film Screening

Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok is hosting an LGBTQI film screening on June 4 (tomorrow) with six cult favourite LGBTQI films such as Carol, Coming Out, Love Is Strange, Rafiki, The Shiny Shrimps and 3. Seats are limited so make sure to book in advance. Visit kimptonmaalaibangkok.com.

Bangkok Pride 2022 Rainbow Topia By Spectrum

From June 17-19, Spectrum will hold Bangkok Pride 2022 Rainbow Topia at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) in collaboration with artists, sexual clinics, the film industry and more. All six colours on the pride flag will be converted into six different activity zones. They are Nature Zone, Sunlight Zone, Healing Zone, Life Zone, Harmony Zone and Spirit Zone. Visit fb.com/bkkpride.

Bangkok Naruemit Pride

The first Pride Parade in Bangkok will take place on Silom road on June 5 beginning at Sri Maha Mariamman Temple (aka the Indian Temple Silom) at 3pm. More info at fb.com/bangkokpride.

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