On Sunday 5 June 2022, the streets of Bangkok bore witness to thousands of people, part of Thailand’s LGBTQ+ community, raising rainbow flags in the country’s first official Pride parade in almost 16 years.
Dubbed ‘Naruemit Pride 2022’ (‘Naruemit’ translates to ‘creation’ in Thai), the event was organised in the Silom area of Thailand’s capital by a coalition of NGOs promoting LGBTQ+ rights with the support of the newly-elected governor, Chadchart Sittipunt. While some chanted and called for same-sex marriages to be legalised as well as the rights of sex workers to be recognised, blue, pink and white transgender flags were also waved to celebrate pride month and support gender equality.
While Thailand has a highly-visible LGBTQ+ community and has even fostered a reputation for being one of the most welcoming countries in Asia for members and allies, several activists argued that the reality is otherwise—with many still facing hurdles of discrimination in the conservative Buddhist-majority kingdom.
“If we say Thailand is the heaven of the LGBT community, I would say no. It’s not true, because Thailand still doesn’t have a law or the policy that proves that we exist,” Ratanon Kuiyoksuy, an activist involved in organising pride events in Bangkok, told The Guardian. As of our current reporting, the country doesn’t legally support marriage equality nor does it have a gender recognition law which, according to campaigners, affects anything from access to loans to the ability to travel or adopt children.
“Discrimination is rife. In schools, trans students are forced to dress according to their sex at birth, including by cutting their hair to the length deemed appropriate for either boys or girls,” Kuiyoksuy told The Guardian. The publication also highlighted how bullying and unfair treatment are common among teachers who lack awareness—with prejudice subsequently bleeding into the workplace, blocking employment opportunities and not to mention the fact that accessing healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals in Thailand is often synonymous with humiliating questioning.
“I was like a naughty kid in [my teachers’] eyes, just because I didn’t fit in, in the Thai education system,” Kuiyoksuy added.
Meanwhile, Maysa Petkam, a competitor in the transgender beauty pageant Miss Tiffany’s Universe, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) during the parade: “I don’t want people to think we are different. We don’t want more rights than other genders, we only want basic rights.” Noting how the community continues to face discrimination, Petkam continued, “I wish same-sex marriage law passes so that there will be laws that protect and decrease gender inequality.”
As a large group assembled under one of the city’s metro stations and gave an impromptu drag show to songs by Madonna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, members hoped to spread a wider message to the public. “Everyone has the right of raising a family, love and marriage with anyone they love,” Anticha Sangchai, who held their wedding ceremony in the midst of the parade, told AFP. “Why we can’t do that as a human being?”
Last weekend, London held it’s first-ever Trans+ Pride, and it was both a protest against discrimination and the lack of basic human rights of trans folks, and a celebration of the community, its achievements, resilience, and hard work. The event was organised by trans activist and entrepreneur Lucia Blayke and turned out to be a great success.
“It’s a big job and to be honest, I have absolutely no experience or resources” joked Blayke while speaking to Screen Shot. Lucia was overwhelmed with the responses and said the best part for her was helping trans people “feel so much stronger and comfortable in themselves,” by bringing the community together. Screen Shot also spoke to London-based model, trans activist, and fashion queen Olivia Nutton, aka @glam_clam, who also attended Trans+ Pride, and said that the event helped her feel a “sense of community and how together everyone was.”
It is poignant that London, considered the 4th most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the world, only held its first trans pride in 2019. It certainly feels overdue, but this also serves as a strong reminder that there is still a long journey ahead of us before we reach full inclusivity. Sadly, all members of the trans community experience discrimination, prejudice, and harassment in one form or another, which is why Trans+ Pride is so monumentally important.
It is a march for healthcare, social housing, education, workplace employment laws, representation, trans refugees, and “it is a definite long list,” says Nutton. All of these are still lacking in the U.K., something that is evident in the scarcity of GPs trained in transgender health issues, the long waiting lists for appointments at gender identity clinics (there are only seven of those in the whole of England), as well as the fear of transgender refugees of being deported back to their countries of origin, where they risk their lives for being who they are.
The idea behind the Trans+ Pride was partly a response to the hijacking of Pride in London in 2018 by a group of anti-trans campaigners, when the organisers of Pride failed to remove protesters from Get The L Out, a TERF lesbian group advocating against transgenderism. Blayke says that “trans people are not being included as much and are being invalidated for the way they express their gender, even within the LGBT community.” Transgender people are actively excluded from what is supposed to be their own community, so it is only natural that they would have to go and form their own—which is what Blayke did when she created Trans+ Pride.
The thing is, Pride didn’t just become more exclusionary of members of the trans community, but has also been criticised for becoming commercial and corporate, and as Nutton says, “it just turned into a party where straight people get drunk and don’t really do anything else.” Yes, it is nice to see people want to come and show their support as allies; in some ways, it is also nice to see big corporations try and take a step into the right direction. But what do companies like Barclays or Deloitte really do for LGBTQ+ communities while marching in Pride, apart from taking space away from those who need visibility most? Where are the actual companies by LGBTQ+ members who are working towards improving the lives of marginalised communities?
Essentially, these spaces have been taken away from those who are less represented, which is why Blayke made it her duty to not only bring them back but create a Pride that is “A lot less pink-washed and a lot less corporate, letting trans people be in the spotlight.” Blayke has already started planning Trans+ Pride 2020, hoping it will only get bigger and better, but dodging big corporations and sponsors in order to avoid it turning commercial. “It is a community for people to fall back on and a support system for trans people to use,” and that is what she hopes to keep it as.
So, until 2020, remember to celebrate the community and advocate for inclusivity every day, “call out transphobia in your daily lives,” and be kind to one another.