There have been many campaigns through the decades to encourage LGBTs all over the world to come out and be proud, and many projects aimed at ending discrimination and violence against different sexual preferences.
This month, there are two days dedicated to transgender people. Even in the LGBT community, many of us don’t know that November 20 has, since 1999, been international Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), to remember the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts, on November 28, 1998. So, on Tuesday night, Thai organisations working with transgender people joined similar organisations across the world in a candlelit vigil against hate crimes.
In Thailand, Sexual Diversity Rights Day falls on November 29 each year, marking the day in 2006 when the Ministry of Defence stopped classifying transgender people as mentally disordered on the Sor Dor 43 military draft form. The day is celebrated with parades and seminars, and this year, a transgender-themed film festival will screen in Chiang Mai. Meanwhile, a seminar on LGBT rights will be hosted at the National Committee for Human Rights office.
Nowadays, we have campaigns and laws to support and protect our rights. Many parts of the world have legalised same-sex marriage, banned discrimination and acted against violence in schools. So it’s sad to hear that statistics in the US and UK show no decrease in hate crimes and violence against LGBTs. And just this month, Uganda has agreed to pass a law that will punish gays with the death penalty.
In Thailand, though such hate crime hardly ever occurs, other forms of violence in our society – bullying, rumour-mongering and stereotyping by the media – suppress LBGTs’ human rights.
This kind of casual, everyday violence can often be punished using current laws, but transgender people will rarely go to the trouble. Some are ashamed to stand up for themselves, while others shrug off the bullying as part of life. Many transgender people are too busy earning a living to complain when their rights are infringed. I know it’s wrong to think like that, because in doing so you become part of the structural violence, but I want to point out that the law is meaningless if no one brings an accusation. The violence in daily life goes on unchallenged.
Days dedicated to LGBTs act not just as celebrations or remembrances. They are a chance to remind society of our presence and what has happened to us. They are not just festivals or gatherings of people for planned events – they are a show of our numbers and an affirmation of who we are. We should join these days to insist on our rights as equal members of society. We have to stand up and show society that it cannot forget us because we are different. That’s what these days are for.