Hello, and welcome to The Deep Dive—a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that's shaping Asia's future. We’re happy to have you with us. Please send your comments, questions and favourite gay bars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Instagram newsfeed more likely than not exploded with rainbows last month. Around the world, pride parades took over major metropolitan cities. Gays, lesbians, queer-allies, even your most prude, straight friend around—millions from the whole spectrum flooded the streets in glitzy costumes, neon wigs and glittered boots to celebrate gay pride and love, regardless of sexual orientation.
But in Asia-Pacific, it was a little quieter. To be sure, Asia is home to several pride celebrations, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Manila, to name a few. And there is with much to celebrate. Taiwan just became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. Hong Kong is chipping away ever so slowly through the courts. Thailand is on track to legalise same-sex civil partnerships, and seven of Japan’s cities and wards recognise gay relationships.
That being said, let's not get too excited, as there is much work to be done. Asia is also home to deeply conservative countries, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Many LGBTQ communities around the region lack basic rights and employment benefits given to their heterosexual counterparts, and can even face jail time for being gay. A Malaysian paper even ran a How To Spot Gays checklist last year.
It's an uphill battle, but dozens of organisations and activists around the region are fighting to make things happen. Hop on the pride float, we're taking a deep dive.
“Do we have to know who's gay and who's straight? Can't we just judge them by the car they drive?”
— Ellen Degeneres, American comedian and television host
BY THE NUMBERS
Despite having the largest Catholic population in Asia, the Philippines hosted the largest Pride celebration in Southeast Asia this year, drawing more than 70,000 people to the Pride March in Manila.
On the first day that same-sex marriages became legal in Taiwan, 526 gay couples registered for marriage. According to government statistics, the newlyweds included 185 male couples and 341 female couples.
Four-time Oscar-winning hit Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic about Queen leader singer Freddie Mercury, clocked in at 134 minutes long. But in China, the film aired about three minutes shorter, because every reference to homosexuality and AIDS was cut—pretty crucial plot points.
A survey of LGBTQ Hongkongers found that 24 percent of respondents had depression—six times the share of the general population. The survey of more than 580 people also found 30 percent had attempted, or considered attempting, suicide.
A survey found that only 49% of Asian companies offer the same level of benefits to its LGBTQ employees as its heterosexual staff, the lowest among the seven regions surveyed. In Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, those numbers stand at 53%, 47%, and a staggering 15%, respectively.
5 Stories To Get You Up To Speed
Taiwan's Marriage Law Brings Frustration And Hope For LGBT China The Guardian
The Pew Research Center asked that question in a global survey and found that the more secular and affluent the country, the more accepting its population was of LGBTQ movements.
Source: Pew Research Center
MOVERS & SHAKERS
People at the centre of the industry
The Trailblazer Raymond Chan
Hong Kong has ways to go when it come to LGBTQ rights, but the city is making strides thanks to Raymond Chan, Hong Kong's first openly gay elected lawmaker. Chan is a vocal supporter of anti-discrimination legislation, same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality, and is helping to keep momentum going in various court cases ruling incrementally ruling in favour of the LGBTQ community.
The Fighter Nisha Ayub
Ayub is a Malaysian transgender rights activist renowned for fighting Muslim-majority Malaysia's LGBTQ intolerance. After enduring everything from violence to arrest to sexual assault in a prison, Ayub co-founded the community-run SEED Foundation, which aims to empower marginalised communities, and a transgender grassroots campaign Justice for Sisters to investigate allegations of abuse against the transgender community by religious authorities. She's been honoured by Human Rights Watch and became the first transgender woman to receive the International Women of Courage award in 2016.
The Travel App GeoSure
With 23 percent more disposable income than their heterosexual counterparts, the LGBTQ community spend and travel more. That makes GeoSure an essential, a travel app that ranks 30,000 neighbourhoods around the world according to LGBTQ safety. The US-based company uses crime and economic data from thousands of sources to curate its rankings in real time.
Honourees To Follow
Piyarat Kaljareuk Kaljareuk is a Thai drag queen and LGBTQ icon and activist who executive produced the first season of Drag Race Thailand. READ MORE
Kanachai Bencharongkul The Bangkok-based photographer and LGBTQ campaigner has shown his work in exhibitions that raise money and awareness for the gay community. READ MORE
Pan Pan Narkprasert Drag queen Pan Pan, aka "Pangina Heals" is Thailand’s answer to America’s RuPaul, who serves as co-host and judge of Drag Race Thailand. READ MORE
DID YOU KNOW?
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) is one of the most iconic LGBTQ films out there. The film follows a troupe of drag queens road tripping across the Australian outback in sensational costumes—so fabulous the film won an Oscar for Best Costume Design. How'd they do it? With just USD $14,000.
The theme of the Gen.T Asia Summit is Breaking Barriers. The mission of the event, which takes place this November 20-21 in Hong Kong, is to break down the barriers that prevent us from achieving our full potential.
In the run-up to the summit, we're exploring these themes through our content. Under the lens first: gender.