Vol 1. No 5. February, 1998
Is There a Gay Community Here?
Is there there a gay community in Bangkok? That's a question we've been asking at Pink Ink for some time - and the answer seems to be both yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there are a group of gay and lesbian-identified people who congregate at certain establishments, and no, in the sense that the gay community here does not have the same meaning as it does in the West.
The "gay community" rose in the West because of persecution and discrimination. But in Thailand, while the average gay or lesbian does face some social disapproval, the situation is not the same. The Thais are a pragmatic lot with a live and let live attitude that allows homosexuals to exist in relative peace. There is no need to hunker down in the face of overwhelming condemnation.
To be gay, for the average Thai, means belonging to one more group among many groups. In the West, traditionally rejected by most groups like school friends and co-workers, we tend to find a "home" only in the gay group and we put most of our energy there.
One of the goals of Pink Ink was, and is, to build community among gays and lesbians here, and consequently, the gay community question is important to us. But perhaps we're asking the wrong question. Perhaps our sense of what a gay community should or should not be is not in tune with the times and the locale.
So, what is it that we think the gay community should be like here? A gay community should be that - a community, a group of people bound together by shared interests, shared location, or familial ties. Our community shares an interest in being gay. If you are gay, then finding your way to the "gay community" means being able to participate in the business of being gay. Older gay people, after all, have learned many things through a lifetime of experience - things that should be passed down to the younger generation.
As a community, we should provide access to information. Being gay is bewhildering, especially when you're just getting started.
Lastly, as a community, we should provide the framework where gays can meet gays. Bangkok's "gay community" is addressing these concerns in one way or another. There are, for example, about 20 Thai language gay publications (and 1 English one - that's us!). And there are gays of all ages, forming all sorts of relationships.
So perhaps we worry the gay community issue too much... what do you think?
- Nick Wilde
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