Pride month is not just celebration but protest as well

You would be forgiven for thinking that pride month is all about LGBTQI+ being loud. Or even, that “gay love being thrown at our faces.” It is not a strange conclusion to arrive at, with the extravagant pride parade this month, with companies–even Thai Enquirer–adding rainbows to its logos, and with all the marketing gimmicks and rainbow decorations all over the streets, it is not a strange conclusion to arrive at. 

In Thailand, it is loud. Thailand has always been a hotspot for LGBTQI+ tourism: transgender entertainment, such as beauty pageants and cabaret, is very popular. Sex reassignment in Thailand is popular. Even Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt has pledged for the international World Pride event to be held in Bangkok by 2028.

These acts are great for fostering visibility, acceptance, and support for the LGBTQI+ community. But overblown or not, they are besides the point. Because pride is not always about being loud, donning rainbow paint, and marching on the streets.

Pride month is about love. And sometimes, love is quiet. It is about allowing two men or two women to walk on the streets holding hands. Or it is about allowing a transgender woman to finally undergo safe surgery to finally become who she is. In Thailand, it is about allowing a homosexual couple to enjoy the same perfect union as heterosexual couples have always been able to do. In other countries, it is about two people to share private, intimate moments without the threat of death or imprisonment. Pride, really, lies in those simple and quiet moments of love–love for another, and love for each other regardless of who they are. 

Pride month is about equality. Pride month is being proud of a society that allows all its people, regardless of gender, to live and love equally. A society that prides itself on respect of the rights of individuals, including especially those who belong in the LGBTQI+ community. 

And finally, pride month is the struggle for identity. In America, it started out as a protest–a riot. In an early morning of the summer of 1969, the people in Greenwich Village fought back against the police while the latter tried to raid the Stonewall Inn gay bar. Since then, the protests grew and grew. And today, it celebrates the history of how far the journey towards LGBTQI+ acceptance has come, and commemorates the struggles along the way. 

And pride month has made it to Thailand. Perhaps because of our international reputation for LGBTQI+ tolerance, we may seem very socially progressive on the surface. But we still have a long way to go. In reality people who identify as LGBTQI+ in Thailand still routinely face violence and discrimination over the past decade. A 2018 World Bank Report, titled “Economic inclusion of LGBT groups in Thailand” found exactly that: they still have limited access to jobs, housing, education, and healthcare. Local Thai media have continuously reported families employing so-called “corrective rape” or even murdering their sons and daughters for being gay or lesbian. To many LGBTQI+ people who still face stigma, this facade of acceptance comes off as lukewarm and insincere at best.

And we still remain politically behind. Thailand’s first transgender MPs were elected as late as 2019. While we do not share the same history of repression as America did, the Thai state throughout the years seems indifferent or even downright negligent of LGBTQI+ people. Or that, like all issues in Thailand, pride is tied to politics, and we are frequently in too much political turmoil for the government to care about pride. Under the conservative military government, marriage equality is not seen as a top priority: parliament continuously shaleved the Marriage Equality Bill, which intends to amend Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code to use gender-neutral language regarding marriage, therefore granting equal rights for LGBTQI+ couples. The same unfortunate circumstance applies to the Civil Partnership Bill, which will grant a more limited range of legal rights for same-sex unions. It has gone through legislative wheels for more than a decade, through a military coup, an election, and the coronavirus pandemic. And while Pita and Paetongtarn both made it abundantly clear that they will pass the Marriage Equality Bill, whether that is possible depends on whether the coalition will be able to form a government in the first place. Because if not, there will be other, more pressing concerns for Thai politics.

And this must be remembered. While it is always fun to have an LGBTQI+ themed parade and don on your fanciest clothes and makeup, that is not why Pride was born. It was, and continues to be, a fight for the right to love and exist without discrimination and persecution. So put on your clothes and makeup by all means, but do not forget to be an ally for LGBTQI+ people in other ways, including in pushing for the Marriage Equality Bill to pass through parliament too, no matter what the state of our politics may turn out to be.

In America, in Thailand, and around the world, pride parade still very much remains a protest that will have to continue until pride no longer has to be loud. Until all pride can encapsulate is that resolute, quiet affirmation that one human should be able to love another, freely and without shame. Until this right is protected equally, in society and under the law. Until LGBTQI+ people are allowed to exist simply as they are.

Love, equality, identity–they can exist simply and quietly. And they should be able to.


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