Race for gender equality

Our monthly round-up of LGBT news features positive developments about a more inclusive Olympics and a truly heartwarming Indian YouTube clip

It's been only 28 days, but 2016 is already promising to be yet another fun, interesting and tumultuous year for the LGBT community worldwide.

Put aside the serious business for a while. We all have heard of how Vietnam recently lifted its ban on same-sex marriage, or how Lebanon is letting its trans community change their gender legally. For Thailand, people are still shocked to see headlines of same-sex couples marrying, and a tomboy and a katoey having a child together. Enough with finding a spectacle out of gender diversity, please. The best response to such news is just to say "congratulations" and move on.

Here are some of what's been going on in the LGBT realm, as well as things to look forward to in the near future.

GAME CHANGE

The news that the International Olympic Committee will loosen its restrictions and allow transgenders to take part in the Olympics without sex-change operations is seen as a bold move, but still comes with some conditions.

While transmen (female to male) will get a clear pass for their games, transwomen (male to female) have some obstacles in their path. The new guideline says transwomen will have to regulate their testosterone level to a set amount. They must also declare themselves as women, and this can't be changed for a minimum of four years.

This change in regulation will hopefully bring fairness for all athletes, not only for transgenders. Male and female athletes can also take pride in inclusive games where everyone -- regardless of gender -- can compete in an equal and fair manner.

BECAUSE I'M HAPPY

We all know the overwhelmingly catchy song Happy by Pharrell Williams, which was used as a soundtrack for the minion-infested Despicable Me 2. The song -- the most successful track of 2014 -- has been covered countless times online. But you just won't see any reimagined version like the one by the 6 Pack Band, dubbed India's first transgender band.

Hum Hain Happy, as this version is called, was released on YouTube earlier this month. So far, it has garnered over 1.5 million views. The MV features members of the band in vivid saris skipping through the streets of India.

"The third gender. Ignored by most. Tolerated by some. Misunderstood by all," was said during the first part of the clip. The country's hijras --  transwomen -- live almost in exile, as the MV explains. But, however unaccepting the world may be, they keep their chins up and find ways to simply be happy as all humans deserve to be.

For something heartwarming while Thailand still shivers under the winter breeze, look up Sweetheart candy's The 55th Valentine video online. It features Jack and George, an elderly gay couple who met in 1961. They will be celebrating this coming Valentine's Day for the first time as a legally wedded couple after the US Supreme Court gave a green light to same-sex marriage last year.

In the video, the two are seen picking out candies together. One of them picked "Me & You", while the other opted for "Soulmate".

PICTURE-PERFECT MEMORIES

Anyone travelling up North should drop by the Documentary Arts Asia gallery in Chiang Mai for a photography exhibition "Mr. Pearl" which captures the life of a transman. The exhibition will begin tomorrow as part of the "Galleries Night Chiang Mai 2016" and "F/28 – Chiang Mai Month Of Photography" series and will conclude on April 1.

Watsamon Tri-yasakda, a photojournalist, has been active in documenting the issues of LGBT rights in Thailand and Southeast Asia. The subject of her exhibition in Chiang Mai is Kanattsanan Dokput -- a 31-year-old transman who will soon receive a sex change operation.

This project originated as part of Watsamon's studies in photojournalism which she undertook in the Philippines last year. Choosing transgenderism as her topic allows her to play and capture the concept of time and change.

"Many people have done similar things about transwomen already," said Watsamon, "Thais are used to seeing tomboys and katoeys. But when you say 'transmen', some people don't have the slightest clue about it."

The photojournalist first approached a famous transman, Kritipat "Jimmy" Chotidhanitsakul, for advice. She was looking for someone ordinary. Kritipat then directed her to Kanattsanan, and the project commenced last July.

"I wanted to capture the simple, daily life of a transman," she said. "I told Mukk [Kanattsanan] I wanted to do this in documentary style. I didn't ask him to do anything that he wasn't already doing. I followed him, and even got to meet his parents and friends."

Through this photography project, Watsamon said she now understands more about transmen, at least to an extent.

"Obviously, I don't understand every transman. All lives differ," said Watsamon. "Mukk already passed that hormone-taking and mastectomy [removal of breasts] stage. His obstacles are not about self-discovery. They rather have to do with society's treatment. His title is still 'Miss', but his voice has already changed to that of a man."

Watsamon said she wanted visitors to keep an open mind and feel that transgenders are just ordinary human beings.

"I don't really want to use transsexuality as the highlight or selling point of this exhibition. I rather want to tell a story that transsexuality is just a part of a person's life," she said.

"Being a trans should be just like saying someone likes cooking or keeps a pet cat. There should be no difference."


Contact melalinm@bangkokpost.co.th with news and views about LGBT.

The 6 Pack Band is India's first transgender band.

The 55th Valentine.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Melalin Mahavongtrakul
Position: Feature writer of the Life section