One of the top three universities in Thailand has introduced two LGBT courses, a breakthrough in the country and the region. Doug Sanders reports from Bangkok.
On Saturday, July 6, around ten students met for the first time in the credit course “Voice of LGBT” in the graduate program in Women’s Studies at Thammasat University in Bangkok.
Thammasat is the second oldest Western style university in the Kingdom. Its graduate campus is in the old royal city, close to the Grand Palace, the National Museum and the most auspicious Buddhist Temples. Thammasat is known as the more activist or leftist of the major universities. It has a memorial on the campus to students killed in political resistance. The founder of the university was the leader of the People’s Party, which overthrew the absolute Monarchy in the 1930s.
Thammasat has the oldest Women’s Studies program in Thailand. Perhaps there is only one other, at Chiang Mai University in the northern capital.
The revised Thammasat University course catalogue, published early this year, lists two new courses, “Voice of Transgender”, and “Introduction to Queer Theory”.
A new lecturer has been hired, Pogkrong Boon-Long, whose thesis was on gay saunas. He is the only male teaching in the Women’s Studies program. He changed the title of “Voice of Transgender” to “Voice of LGBT”. He is unwilling to teach “Introduction to Queer Theory”, personally critical for much of what passes as “Queer theory”.
The first class was on the background to LGBT activism, and brought in the present writer, Professor Douglas Sanders, to talk about the international history of LGBT resistance and activism. His presentation was translated into Thai. It ended with a ten minute exert from the video “The Time is Now” on LGBT activism in the context of UN human rights initiatives. The full video is available online
The next series of speakers are Thai, including Tang, a founder of the lesbian organisation Anjaree and Note of the Thai Transgender Alliance. Other Thai activists will follow.
Is this the first credit course in ASEAN specifically on LGBT issues (as opposed to survey courses that may include a section on sex and gender diversity)? And is this not only the first, but unique in its focus on LGBT activism?