The annual Cambodia LGBT Pride commemoration, which began as a low-key evening party in 2004 hosted by a group of gay activists to create awareness on sexual-health issues, has evolved since 2009 into a week-long celebration of unity among diversity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Kingdom.
This year’s celebration is set to be bigger and livelier, as Cambodia takes over the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“For the first time, we have at least 40 friends of the LGBT community coming in from around the region,” says Pride organiser Srun Srorn, who also works with the Phnom Penh-based NGO Rainbow Community Kampuchea. “With the greater involvement, we hope to share our experiences to make our home a better place for the community.”
Kicking off this Saturday and running until May 20, this year’s Pride will feature a fun-packed schedule of activities including a film festival, art exhibitions and advocacy workshops that will be held at various venues across Phnom Penh.
The highlights include the Amazing Tuk-Tuk Race on Monday, May 14, in which teams must solve clues that will take them around the city.
This provides participants with opportunities to socialise and discover more about gay-friendly venues and activities.
“Misunderstanding and discrimination against members of the LGBT community are socially constructed by people,” says Srorn. “We believe that people’s thinking can change with the activities they are exposed to.
“Through art and film, which are a part of this social construction, we hope that society will be able to understand and accept individuals from the community.”
Pride week will feature a variety of artwork focusing LGBT themes from celebrated local artist Din Borin and Vietnamese-American artist Viet Le, among others.
The week’s line-up also includes several international films, including a May 18 screening of the Chinese documentary Queer China, Comrade China, dubbed into Khmer.
The film, which showcases the long, rich history of LGBT life in China and counters the usual argument that LGBT identity is a modern, foreign phenomenon, has received nods from several international festivals including the Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea.
“The emergence of the LGBT movement in China in spite of prejudice offers valuable experiences to the Cambodian movement,” says Collette O’Regan, organiser of the film festival.
“Watching a film is a felt experience: the viewer enters into the film and identifies with the characters.
“Seeing stories from other Asian countries helps to normalise and celebrate the existence of LGBT as an inherent part of Asia.
“Hopefully, such experiences can change mindsets and open hearts.”
Pride kicks off on May 12, and a series of activities will be held across several venues till May 20. For a full schedule, visit http://www.facebook.com/cambodiapride.