Coordinator Ken Dobson’s 2013 Annual Report from Thailand

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CHIANG MAI, THAILAND. THE REV. KENNETH DOBSON, D. MIN. NOVEMBER 17, 2013

Marriage Equality in Vietnam and Thailand

Mark “2013” as a year of significance for LGBTIQ people in Thailand, where our struggle for legal equality is getting official attention.  We were in a race to see which would be the first South East Asian nation to officially recognize same-sex marriages, or to eliminate sex designation in applying for marriage registrations.  Apparently Vietnam won the race, but Thailand is likely to be the next – depending on how a current political eruption comes out, which has everything else on hold.

The Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT)

In terms of Christian handling of the issue of LGBTIQ recognition and the removal of homosexual excoriation from official church policies including the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), there has been no progress nor any sign that any of the churches plan to deal with this here in Thailand.  If anyone would like a longer analysis, please access my website at www.kendobson.asia and find the article “What Would It Take for the CCT to Become Gay Friendly” in the section on “Queer Christian Issues”.  What is needed is for religious leaders to lead.

My Personal Website & Focus on Thailand as the Sex Capitol and Other Issues

That brings me to the matter of the website, which is my personal attempt to turn on a light in this dark corner of Thailand, where little light penetrates.  Shadows are cast by Thailand’s reputation as the sex capitol of Asia, or probably the world.  This makes official leaders unhappy, although the income seems to inhibit the Ministry of Culture from pressing for major repressive action as has happened in the past.  Those repressions always focused mainly on gay people, publications and venues, whereas the heterosexual sex industry is many times larger.  All sorts of prejudice is generated and stereotyping follows these cycles of governmental crack-down.  What is needed is information and dialog.  For the past calendar year I have operated a website that developed quite a bit of traffic checking my weekly blogs, but no dialog.  So the focus for next year will change and LGBTIQ issues will be imbeded in a more general website focusing on “cultural gaps and differences”.

My book Gay Experiences in Thailand and other writings published

Meanwhile, my book Ban Den Friends: Gay Experiences in Thailand was launched online in March by OUT in Thailand, and is being serialized in OUT in Thailand magazine circulated online to more than 200,000 worldwide as well as in 40,000 print copies in Thailand each month.  Ban Den Friends is a fictionalized set of stories about a wide range of my friends and acquaintances.  It, too, is an attempt to increase understanding and break down phobias and prejudices.  James Barnes, the editor and publisher, will be looking for a publisher/distributor for a paper version.  I also submit about 5 other articles on Gay issues a year to James, which he never fails to publish.

Inter-religious cooperation is the only hope for progress in ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) on social and cultural issues, including LGBTIQ ones

Back on the international front, Thailand is scheduled to enact a free-trade and travel policy in conjunction with the Association of South East Asian Nations in 2015.  Rather than hope that this new openness will make things easier, it is better to remember that ASEAN includes Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, and the Philippines where the Roman Catholic Church still has a dominant voice in social policy.  Thailand is the largest solidly Buddhist nation in the world.  The ASEAN Economic Community will be followed by initiatives in the area of culture and education in years to come.  Inter-religious cooperation is the only hope for progress in ASEAN on social and cultural issues, including LGBTIQ ones.  This must be our strategy and our focus.

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