The 106-year-old transgender woman who addressed the first ever public gay rights rally in Burma must have seen incredible changes in her lifetime, from living under British colonialism to Burmese independence to military rule to the recent opening up.
At the first celebration of IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) in the Burmese capital Rangoon yesterday, a local youth brought the centenarian transgender woman to the stage during a section called Paying Respect to Seniors.
‘She was almost in tears,’ one of the organisers of the event, Aung Myo Min, told Gay Star News. ‘She told the audience how pleased she is to see this event take place in Rangoon.’
Aung Myo Min, from Human Rights Education Institute Burma, said the event in Rangoon was a resounding success. ‘It was very exciting and colourful,’ he said. ‘Youth wearing colorful outfits mingled with older men and women in traditional Burmese dress. Everyone was looking around, eager and excited for the first day of LGBT rights in Burma.’
The programme started with a speech by a well-known Burmese make-up artist. Ko Mar. He said that as a gay man in Burma he has struggled for acceptance. He encouraged young LGBT people to maintain a strong sense of self-worth and to fight for equality.
Then author Atta Kyaw spoke about homophobia in Burmese society. He said the media presents stereotypes of LGBT people which reinforces dangerous misconceptions. In movies for example, he said, gay men are comic characters rather than multi-dimensional.
The events in Rangoon and other cities in Burma went smoothly without any interruption from the authorities.
Aung Myo Min, who has organised IDAHO events for Burmese nationals in Thailand for the last three years, said:
‘I am very happy to see this happen. I feel like the rainbow flag in Burma ties the event to others happening around the world. This event is a historic event that establishes the voice of the Burmese LGBT movement as one that will not be silenced.’