Viet Pride Looking Forward

Viet Pride Looking Forward

viet pride
The three days of Viet Pride 2014 concluded a week ago in Hanoi with about 600 people bicycling in a rainbow convoy, after two days of film screenings, talks, and receptions at the Goethe Institute. This is the third time Viet Pride is celebrated in the capital city of Vietnam and saw a tremendous growth in not only the number of participants, representation of local and international LGBT-supportive entities, but also the social tolerance toward homosexuality and peaceful public assembly.

Themed “Together”, Viet Pride 2014 set out to open dialogue amongst different L, G, B and T communities, as well fostering the connection between the local and global LGBT movement. This task is important in the context of the equal marriage being stalled and solidarity playing a crucial role in empowering the LGBT marginalised community. Besides that, Viet Pride 2014 also aimed to increase the visibility of the LGBT minority in the hetero-normative climate.

The outcome of Viet Pride 2014 has revealed the pervasive hetero-normativity in Vietnam, but at the same time, shown signs of increased tolerance especially amongst younger generations and parents of LGBT people. Within the LGBT community, the Viet Pride forum has provided the opportunity for more connection, while illuminated the gap between the transgender group and the lesbian, gay, bisexual that has been noted to be a point of focus for future work.

Building on the results of this year, Viet Pride in 2015 will concentrate on increasing diversity awareness and the visibility of LGBT in public sphere and also in strategic areas, most notably the office environment where LGBT individuals face hostile attitude and discriminatory treatment. This agenda will also see increased attention and sensitivity to issues specific to transgender people.

Gay Dating Offers Free Diamond Membership

Gay Dating Offers Free Diamond Membership


Asiaout’s brand new Gay Dating launches today with free lifetime Diamond level memberships for the first 200 sign ups who complete their profiles in full and add a profile photo.

We’ve been in the forefront of free gay dating for over 20 years, and now we return to our dating roots but with a 21st Century touch!

Some of the features we are offering include:

  • Mobile friendly – very easy to use on mobile, tablets, and laptops
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  • Gay Brits Marry In Hanoi

    Gay Brits Marry In Hanoi


    The British Embassy in Hanoi has recently organized a gay wedding for two British citizens after the United Kingdom approved the same-sex marriage law in 2013.

    Yein Kai Yee and Sutpreedee Chinithigun had their simple but meaningful same-sex wedding aty the British Embassy at 9:30 am on Monday morning.

    The event – which was attended by the couple’s relatives and the embassy staff and Charge d’affaires – was the first same-sex wedding to have been organized by the British Embassy in Vietnam since the passage of the British same-sex marriage law in July last year.

    Lesley Craig, Charge d’affaires at the embassy, said that the same-sex wedding was a wonderful opportunity that marked not only the couple’s important milestone but also the development of the UK in terms of gender equality and human rights.

    The new British marriage amendment allows same-sex couples to submit their marriage registration file at a number of UK diplomatic missions around the world.

    The British Embassy in Hanoi is able to organize a marriage between a British citizen and a partner of the same or different nationality.

    But it is not allowed to hold a same-sex wedding ceremony which involves a Vietnamese as the Southeast Asian country has not legalized same-sex marriage yet.

    Last year, the legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in July and came into force on March 13, 2014. The UK’s first same-sex marriage took place on March 29, 2014.

    Search For MH17 Truth Begins

    Search For MH17 Truth Begins


    An aircrash is a horrifying event that brings grief and anger to the relatives of the victims, but the possibility that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed by a missile will be obscene and outrageous if it’s proven to be true, and the thugs in the Kremlin will bear some responsibility if it does turn out that pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine fired the missile as has been reported in some media.

    Whether this is true remains to be seen, but some media reports include alleged recordings of militia officers discussing the downing of the aircraft, while Ukrainian government officials were quick to pin the blame on those same groups.

    The 295 passengers and crew on board the doomed aircraft must have suffered a terrifying ordeal which ended their lives in a brutal and savage way.

    While relatives suffer their breavements, the search for the truth will begin, a task made difficult by the fact that the crash took place in the midst of a war zone, and with reports that the aircraft ‘black boxes’ were recovered by Moscow-backed militia fighting the Ukrainian government who sent them to Moscow; a move that is bound to anger the international community, especially Malaysia and the Ukraine.

    Russia cannot be trusted with the evidence if it is in their possession. The US president has already spoken to Russian leader Vladimir Putin but what has been said is not clear.

    Putin, who started the war against Ukraine by annexing the Crimea and has actively been supporting Russian led mercenaries fighting the Ukraine government with tanks, missiles and other equipment, made an outlandish statement saying:
    “This tragedy would not have happened if there was peace in country, if military operations had not resumed in south east Ukraine.”

    Putin is trying to smoke screen his own responsibility for his active support for Russian mercenaries who are attempting to tear more territory from Ukraine to enlarge Moscow’s growing empire, and which directly led to this tragedy.

    The truth behind the downing of MH17 is already becoming mired before a genuine and unbiased investigation can begin.

    HIV Exploding Epidemic Among Gays

    HIV Exploding Epidemic Among Gays

    HIV infections are rising among gay men in many parts of the world, the World Health Organization has warned, urging all men who have sex with men to take antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection.

    “We are seeing exploding epidemics,” warned Gottfried Hirnschall, Head of WHO’s HIV department.

    Infection rates are rising again among men who have sex with men – the group at the epicentre of AIDS pandemic when it first emerged 33 years ago, he said.

    While images of skeletal men dying of AIDS in the 1980s pushed the world to act, a younger generation that has grown up among new treatments that make it possible to live with HIV are less focused on the disease, he suggested.

    Today, this group is 19 times more likely than the general population to be infected by HIV, Hirnschall said.

    In Bangkok for instance, the incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men stands at 5.7 per cent, compared to less than 1.0 per cent for the overall population, he said.

    In its new recommendations for combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published today, the UN health agency therefore for the first time “strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection”.

    Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 per cent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert “up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years”.

    The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.

    At the same time, they are often the very groups who have least access to healthcare services, with criminalisation and stigma often dissuading them from seeking help even when it is available.

    When people fear seeking health care services it “will inevitably lead to more infections in those communities,” Rachel Baggaley, of the WHO’s HIV department, told reporters.

    Globally, transgender women and injecting drug users, for instance, are around 50 times more likely than the general population to contract HIV, while sex workers have a 14-fold higher chance of getting infected, WHO said.

    Ghosts, Ghouls, And Gays

    Ghosts, Ghouls, And Gays


    Happy Halloween!

    But why do we say that when its the time of year that ghosts rise up to haunt us for a night?

    In keeping with the time of year, we thought we’d introduce you to some ghosts and hauntings with gay connections.

    Well, boys, if 10% of the population are gay, then 10% of those ghosts must be too!

    In reality, proving a ghost is gay is virtually impossible, but there are a few suggestions of gay ghosts, as well as plenty of reports of ghosts and ghoulish happenings at gay bars and clubs.

    The UK can justifiably believe it is one of the most haunted countries in the world. With such a long history, so many ancient buildings, and grisly deaths, reports of hauntings are common place around the nation.


    The one ghost seriously suggested as being gay, is the one which haunts the 106 year old and aptly named Queens Theatre in the heart of central London. Male staff have reported feeling that they are being watched as they change into their uniforms before a performance. There have also been reports that some of them have had their asses pinched by an invisible presence. Women seldom experience any sort of strange sensations or activity at the Queen’s Theatre, leading many to speculate that the invisible ghost must be a gay man.

    The mind boggles at what might happen if the resident ghost really got horny!

    Another London landmark, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, is reputed to be the most haunted theatre of all with a dozen ghosts inhabiting different areas of the building, including a “Pantomime Dame” in full drag, while the nearby Adelphi Theatre is home to a ghost who was murdered by his male lover who had become violently jealous through alcoholism. Yet another London theatre, the Victoria Palace, has a resident poltergeist which apparently enjoys throwing the stage wigs around – maybe he couldn’t find one that suited him!

    Napoleon’s, a long gone up-market gay club in central London, had a restaurant on the ground floor while the bar and dance floor were underground in an rather old bulding which had once been a hospital in pre-Victorian times.

    The club, according to the staff, has a resident ghost, a woman dressed in old fashioned clothes, who would often appear in the disco, mostly after the guests had left, but there were also reports that she had been seen when the club was full of dancing queens – we wonder what she might have thought of a room full of shirtless men camping it up!

    One of London’s longest established gay pubs, The King William IV, has a well documented ghost in the spiritual form of a Mrs Wyatt who was murdered by her husband and walled into the cellar. Staff recommended the no one enters the cellar alone!

    Yet another gay pub, The Black Cap, famous for its drag shows, is reputed to be haunted by the first innkeeper, the Mother Red Cap (which was the pub’s original name). Mother Red Cap was accused of murdering a lover and believed to be a witch and on the night she died, locals claimed to see the Devil go into her home. There’s also a suggestion that the DJ’s booth is located right on the site of an ancient gallows.

    A little away from London, is the 700 year old Fitz Manor in the county of Shropshire, where legend has it that a priest was crucified in the dining room, of all places, for being gay, and his ghost is reputed to haunt the place to this day, with apparitions, painful moans and thumps on the furniture. As the place is a guesthouse, it must take a little nerve to stay there!

    On the south coast of England, the seaside town of Brighton is home to an ancient pub, the Regency Tavern, which also happens to be a pricey gay venue. We’re not sure if the surly staff or the ghostly spirits are responsible for the hauntings reported by many of the former landlady floating through the premises – perhaps she wants to instill some manners in bar staff here, or maybe they’ll see the same fate as the little girl who was gassed in a bedroom upstairs and still walks the hallways.

    Across the world in the US, the old French city of New Orleans has its share of haunted gay bars too.

    The Bourbon Pub, the city’s longest running gay bar, allegedly has three in house ghosts including one which likes to beat customers on the soles of their feet. A ghost with a foot fetish!

    The Cafe Lafitte in Exile, another long running gay bar, boasts a couple of famous resident ghosts – playwright Tennessee Williams and author Truman Capote are occasionally spotted relaxing on the first floor, while mysterious figures have been seen on the balcony before disappearing into thin air – drunks falling into the street below perhaps?

    The city’s Jimani Lounge was the scene of one of America’s worst hate crimes against the LGBT community in 1973 when a petrol bomb destroyed a great deal of the premises and killed 32 people including the patron and his boyfriend.

    Screams, and other disturbing noises are heard in the upper floors of the building, and no one has been brave enough to fully repair the damage to the upper floors.

    To the north in New York, a gay bar opened in the most unlikely of locations on the site of a former funeral home dating back to 1915. Unsurprisingly, the Urge Bar appears to be home to a departed soul who disapproves of drinking as he levitates glasses from the bar and throws them around! Who pays the bill in that situation?

    Back home in Asia, its not easy to find references to gay ghosts and most of those are in corny horror flicks, which in the case of Thailand often involved katoeys (ladyboys) as the haunted or the spirits, including “Ja-Ae … Goi Laew Jaa”, which featured transgendered pagent winner Treechada Marnyaporn as the ghost, in a story very loosly based on another very famous (straight) ghost, Mae Nak.


    The spirit world is part of Asia tradition; In Bangkok’s Silom Road, local gays at one time considered one building in particular to have been ‘cursed’, and it certainly saw some bad luck over a period of a few years.

    Originally the home to the very successful and popular gay owned and run Rome Club, its problems began when the owner took leave to receive medical treatment and left the running of the club to his manager. Within days, a sign appeared outside in both Thai and English: “No homosexuals”. The result left the club in financial ruin and even the return of the owner could not save the business. He was later murdered by his gardner at his home on Samui island.

    The next series of attempts at starting a business in the same location all ended in failure within a short space of time, one after another, and at one point the front of the building collapse while renovations were underway. However, it seems that perhaps the curse has now been lifted as the current occupants appear to be making a success of their business.

    On a lighter note, an amusement hall in Bangkok’s Rachadapisek Road formerly known at The Haunted Mansion, was recently taken over and turned into what appears to be a very hot, and jumping gay disco. Lets hope they have a very spirited halloween!

    In Myanmar (Burma) one of the country’s biggest festival is both an homage to spirits as well as a big gay-themed event. Natkadaws are Spirit Mediums who act the role of Nat Spirits in the many Nat festivals. Most of the Natkadaws are gay and the Taungbyone Festival is the biggest “Nat Pwe” in the country. Although this video does’t show it, its a big attraction for gays and transgenders.

    Some background to Halloween:

    Originally a pre-christian Celtic festival held on 31 October and 1 November known as Sammhein, it marked the day the harvest ended and the winter began. It was also was seen as a time when the spirits could more easily come into our world and were particularly active. Feasts were held, at which the souls of dead relatives and friends were called to attend and a place set at the table for them. It was believed that failure to invite them could result in some unpleasant happenings.

    As Christianity evolved, a new religious festival was introduced which took over some aspects of Sammhein, All Souls Day (also called All Hallows Eve), and All Saints Day.  The north American style ‘Halloween’ didn’t really cross the atlantic to Europe until the late 20th century, prior to which it was purely a low key religious festival.

    Gays And The Ad Media

    Gays And The Ad Media


    In recent times, advertising aimed at the gay community has started to expand, from a tiny niche its slowly entering the mainstream as advertisers wake up to the value of the pink dollar/baht/euro/pound, and also realise that some ads aimed at the gay market will appeal to women too.

    The worldwide “Pink Dollar” is estimated to be worth over US$1 trillon.

    Of course some ads might be a little too much for the general population, including those commercials by popular underwear purveyor Andrew Christian which markets directly to the ‘butch’ gay male market. Even their cut versions are only for gay men!

    Here’s a ‘tame’ cut of one of their promo videos.

    While this Abercrombie and Fitch promo, obviously aimed right at the crutch of gay men, could almost be a prelude to rather hot porn movie:

    Of course promoing safe sex is important and almost universal, and humour often hits the mark. Here’s a short safe sex message from Thailand:

    And this French one is both funny and direct, getting the message across:

    Ads don’t have to be about safe sex or underwear to appeal to a niche market – beauty clinics abound in Asia and they’re very popular, but picking the right one can be hard. Here’s a suggestion:

    Airlines have also realised the commercial importance of the gay market. Recently New Zealand Airlines staged an inflight gay wedding, as well as offering a (one-off) gay-only flight to San Francisco. Apart from NZA, Britain’s Virgin Airlines have always been gay-friendly:

    And some booking agents are even more keen to get their hands on you:

    While one airline has a special place for the ladies:

    Travelling often means motoring for gays, and this is a classic gay commercial from Hyundai:

    Clothes Maketh the Man, so they say, and gays spend a fortune on apparel so any manufacturer worth its salt wants into the market. We’ve seen an underwear ad, so now here’s a slightly intimidating, jeans ad:

    Another pointed ad from Thailand, which went viral recently, proves that its not just women who wear bras:

    And in the Philippines much the same can be said for those expensive shampoos:

    Most gay men enjoy a drink, but some drinks can be a bit different:

    So far we’ve seen a range of mostly funny ads for commercial products, but ads serve great causes too. One of the best campaign ads for equality came out of Ireland, traditionally not very friendly towards LGBT, but this video helped to change minds:

    And this commercial has a wonderful twist, sending a powerful message to bigots and homophobes from a famous name:

    And this little cookie serves as both a commercial and a promo for Pride; anyone up for a nibble?

    And finally, a beautiful promo for an Italian LGBT rights group:

    Gays, Dharma, & Society

    Gays, Dharma, & Society

    The documentation of homosexuality in Thailand is not a recent development. Apart from being mentioned in the Tipitaka, it also appears in Lanna religious texts and in the ancient Tra Sam Duang legal code. According to Prempreeda Pramoj na Ayutthaya, a transgendered researcher, the ancient Lanna texts mention the creation of the Earth and three genders – puri, itthee, and nuppoongsaka, believed to be men, women and homosexuals, respectively.

    This corresponds with the Tipitaka, which categorises people who didn’t readily fall into traditional male or female stereotypes (bandoh) into five sub-divisions, in accordance with their sexual orientation, one of these being nuppoongsaka.

    ”This means the Tipitaka recognises sexual diversity,” Prempreeda noted.

    There is also historical evidence of lesbians and gays. In the old palace, for example, only women were allowed to perform in dance troupes called lakhon nai, with some playing male characters both in plays and in their private lives, leading to lesbian sex being called len peuan (playing with friends). Dance troupes outside the palace, or lakhon nok, only allowed male performers, and some married princes were rumoured to sleep with feminine actors, said Prempreeda. Such sex among men was called len sawaat (playing with lovers).

    And while homosexuality is nothing new in Thai history, nor is discrimination.

    While the mention of homosexuality in the Tipitaka was aimed at warning monks what not to do, the ancient Kod Montien Barn legal code of the Ayutthaya period targeted homosexual members of the court. It imposed such penalties as being hit on the fingernails and neck tattooing for those engaging in homosexual sex, both len peuan and len sawaat.

    Despite such discrimination, Assoc Prof Peter A. Jackson, senior fellow in Thai history of the Australian National University, argued that the situation is gradually improving.

    According to him, the broader Thai community admires beautiful katoey, and people who are successful in their careers, and there is an increasing number of successful katoey performers and business people.

    However, there is still a lot misunderstanding about different sexual orientations, he noted.

    To help redress the problem, Prempreeda has written more than 20 research papers on transgender issues and has also been working as a consultant for researchers on the subject. Among her works are Ladyboys in Cabaret Shows, her master’s thesis for Chiang Mai University, and The Fluidity of Thai Queer Sexuality and Experiences of Accessing Sexual Health Care, her master’s thesis for her degree in health social science from Mahidol University.

    ‘The more I learned, the less I could turn a blind eye to gender inequality,’ she noted.

    Many transsexuals who have faced discrimination have joined Prempreeda’s battle against discrimination. One of them is Suttirat Simsiriwong, or ‘Mod’, a brand manager for a French cosmetics company. She made headlines earlier this year when a famous hotel in Siam Square barred her from entering the hotel’s nightclub as a matter of policy. Her campaign (and pressure from the international gay community) resulted in an apology and the revocation of the hotel’s ban on transsexuals.

    But due to misconceived stereotypes of transsexuals as untrustworthy, such bans are still the rule at many hotels and nightspots, especially those in tourist destinations such as Pattaya and Phuket, said Sitthiphan Boonyaphisomparn, an advocate for transsexual rights.

    Without legal recognition for transsexuals, they also routinely suffer discrimination. When Prempreeda lost her ATM card, for example, her bank refused to cancel the card over the telephone because her feminine voice did not match the ‘male’ designation in her bank documents.

    Another big problem for transsexuals in Thailand is the lack of Thai-language information on the pros and cons of gender reassignment surgery to help them with such important decisions.

    “Policies relating to rights and laws for the transgendered are still overlooked in Thai society, even though the Thai transgendered culture is richer here than in many foreign cultures,” Prempreeda said.

    First published in the Bangkok Post 5 November 2007

    One Muslim Warias Struggle

    One Muslim Warias Struggle

    Haiibalah is Muslim and transgender. The hostile reactions from other women and men towards her decision to wear the jilbab (muslim head scarve) in public was based on the belief of the irreconcilability of being [tooltip title="Info" content="Waria is a combination of the Bahasa Indonesia words for woman (wanita) and man (pria)." type="info" ]waria[/tooltip] (transgender) and expressing religiosity in the gender of choice.

    While other waria do not mix gender identity with religious identity, women like Haiibalah attend prayers at the mosque alongside other cis-gender women much to disapproval of some, particularly those who argue that physical contact with Haiibalah’s biologically male body can render another woman’s prayers annulled.

    Jangan lepas jilbabku begins in 1997 when Haiibalah turns 16. The writer describes her gradual transition from male to female as eventful as the moment Indonesia regains its democracy at the end of Suharto’s dictatorial regime in 1998. She describes the kind of woman she wants to be: an ordinary woman, good-looking even without make-up, someone who wears the jilbab, independent, headstrong, and accepted. In school, Haiibalah is an active editor of the school’s Islamic magazine, and a popular student. Using her popularity and religious image as a social buffer, Haiibalah began experimenting with her appearance. She plucked her eyebrows into a pair of thin, arching crescents; suffice it to say, this led to other arched eyebrows. After being told that her eyebrows were seen as “inappropriate” for young men, Haiibalah went on to tackle what ostensibly is taboo: she, a transwoman, wearing a jilbab.

    Haiibalah is one of many transgender Indonesians who are religious and adopt the jilbab, but how the transgender community see themselves is diverse. Some, like Haiibalah, identify as women – within them lies a woman’s soul (jiwa) in a man’s body. Others, on the other hand, view themselves as both male and female, and there are waria who identify as the third sex. Unlike Haiibalah, some transwomen who wear the jilbab attend prayers in male attire but revert to women’s clothing and feminine demeanor the rest of the time.

    The waria community has long been stereotyped as hairdressers, make-up artists, and sex workers in Indonesia. In film, they are doomed to dehumanizing comedic roles. But transgender Indonesians, particularly the male-to-female waria, have witnessed the rise of high-profile media personalities, such as Dorce Gamalama, cited by many as Indonesia’s answer to Oprah Winfrey. Her success is a significant step towards more positive representation of the waria.

    More recently, the well-received film, Realita Cinta dan Rock ‘n’ Roll (Reality, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2006), foregrounds the relationship between a transwoman and her son. The film is a startling departure from older cinematic stereotypes of the waria, as it features a good-looking, affluent, judo-wrestling and salsa-dancing trans-mother. Jangan Lepas Jilbabku is not the first book by a transperson to make it to the best-sellers list. Both Jangan Lihat Kelaminku (Do Not Look At My Genitals) and Perempuan Tanpa V (Woman Without a Vagina) by Merlyn Sopjan are tales of personal triumph over transphobia, winning Sopjan fame and fortune as writer, later as beauty queen, AIDS activist, and mayoral candidate.

    Although much of their media presence is highly sensationalized, the rising number of transgender Indonesians entering the public sphere in the face of increasing Islamization may be a strategy for acceptance. But as Haiibalah’s experiences attest, even religious expression is a gendered privilege. The hostility against transwomen like Haiibalah who adopt the jilbab as part their identity raises new questions about the hijab and femininity.

    In this case, the jilbab becomes more than just a head covering, as it is perceived as a kind of privilege accorded to cis-gendered Muslim women. Also, it throws the issue of transphobia within sacred spaces into sharp relief. Denying a transwoman’s right to wear the jilbab highlights the fundamental notion that being a woman is reduced to a vagina attained at birth. Like public toilets, not only do places of worship pose as no-go zones for transwomen, but they undermine the assertion that transwomen are women.

    Haiibalah sets a precedent for a public discussion on gender privilege and religious expression in Indonesia, and indeed, the discussion goes beyond the jilbab and praying next to other women, as it is fundamentally about power and privilege in religious communities.

    Alicia Izharuddin is a postgraduate student in Gender Studies at the School of Oriental African Studies in London with a keen interest in sexuality in Southeast Asia. She has written for a variety of media outlets on feminist and religious issues. This article was previously published at Muslimah Media Watch.

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