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.
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Institut Pelangi Perempuan
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.
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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.
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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