People often say that Thailand is a paradise for gays and transgenders, and praises its free and open social and cultural acceptability. At first glance, it is not that wrong, but the reality is different.
The spectre of a discriminatory caste system still lingers in Thai society, where Buddhist karma ideology overlaps with Sakdina, the remnants of a feudal class society that stretched out from the Ayutthaya kingdom (1350-1767).
This is the basis of Thai society’s disdain for sexual minorities as lower-class people with karma from their previous lives. This is why LGBTQ people in Thailand have been fighting with tears of blood. A smile doesn’t always require a heartbeat. It’s just that we don’t notice the forced smile that uses the only facial muscles.
This does not mean that Thailand’s LGBTQ situation is worrying, however. At least this June, a space was opened for LGBTQ people in Thailand to proclaim their identity.
In Bangkok on the 5 December, LGBTQ people held a “Pride March” and showed off their sexual diversity. Unlike the previous marches, which were limited to protests in a corner, this was a party where the government, politicians, and diplomatic envoys as well as the mayor of Bangkok showed their faces.
This was the first real LGBTQ march in Thailand. Beside, the cabinet ratified the draft legalisation of same-sex marriage on the 7th. If the bill passes parliament, Thailand will become the first country in Southeast Asia to recognise same-sex marriage. In Asia, it is the second after Taiwan in 2019.
Although it is slow, there is another sense of progress. Lineman Wongnai, an e-commerce platform, is the protagonist of the new step.
Under the banner of ‘Respect Everybody’ the company started walking with LGBTQ people. They even adding Intersexual that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies and called LGBTQI.
The company now offers a same-sex marriage benefit of 20,000 baht, supporting LGBTQI employees. The move is aimed at bringing together people of all ages and genders. The company also offers a 10-day leave for child adoption and 30-day surgery leave for trans people.
Currently, around 10% of its employees are LGBTQI and many are in management positions. By promoting gender diversity and equality, Lineman Wongnai aims to create an inclusive “gender neutral” workplace environment.
People may laugh at it as only 20,000 baht benefit, only 30 days off and only 10% employees, but this the only country southeast Asia that does this. This is why Lineman Wong Nai is seen as revolutionary.
Many people said the interest and support for LGBTQI will not end with this June event. As much as the improvement of the law and system is urgent, the change of our mindset is also urgent.
US president Joe Biden said his administration sees LGBTQ people “for who you are-deserving of dignity, respect, and supportHe was drawing attention ” when he declared June LGBTQ Pride Month. This drew attention to the discrimination and prejudice that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Quer people live with around the world.
It has been 30 years since the term LGBTQ came up around the end of the 1990s, but the world has not changed that much. Rather, sexual minorities are driven to a steeper precipice.
See the recent slew of bills targeting LGBTQ people’s right considered by state legislatures nationwide in the US which the annual number has skyrocketed. In 2018, 41 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in state legislatures, compared to 238 in just the first three months of this year. As of May, more than 320 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Most of the bills target transgender youth, either by restricting their participation in school sports or limiting their access to certain gender-affirming medical care.
So far, 17 states have banned transgender students from participating on school sports teams that align with their gender identities, and three states have enacted measures that ban or restrict access to some transition-related care. It means that the youth and education, which are the pillars of society, have been targeted.
This is exactly what is happening today in the United States, which has proclaimed itself the “champion for human rights” and the “champion for democracy.”