‘Without equality, tolerance is just a myth’

Paisarn Likhitpreechakul, The Nation’s columnist on gay affairs since 2001, has been honoured by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation (NLGF) of Ireland with the GALA International Prize for Gay Rights Activist of the Year.

Paisarn, a defender of gay and other rights, accepted the award over the weekend on behalf of the Sexual Diversity Network.

For five years, Paisarn and his organisation have fought against the Army’s practice of altering the personal records of transgender draftees to describe them as suffering from permanent psychosis.

Recently Paisarn took a phone call telling him about the decision of a court that morning to rule against the practice.

“It marked a huge stride forward for transgender rights in the country,” he said.

“It is very meaningful that the court found in favour of our petition because the court reasoned that transgenders are like everyone else, they have human rights and human dignities that cannot be violated.

“When I heard about it I saw hope that even the most conservative sector in society can change, that times have changed and they realise that and they are willing to move with the times.”

From Bangkok, Paisarn told of how this award sent a strong message of support and solidarity to all the members of the homosexual community in Thailand, many of whom are working in very isolated and vulnerable situations.

“Despite the gay-friendly image that Thailand enjoys internationally, there is much ingrained homophobia and discrimination.”

Paisarn was in Dublin last month to attend the Front Line Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders, where he spoke of how “without equality, tolerance is just a myth”.

“There is a myth, especially among foreigners, that Thailand is ‘tolerant’ towards gays and transgenders. After all, hardly a day goes by without one seeing a ladyboy or katoey [male-to-female transgender]. Most Thais also like to believe in such a feel-good story, as well as spin it to foreigners.”

The International Prize was accepted on behalf of Paisarn by Jim Loughran, head of communications for the Front Line Defenders.

The Gay and Lesbian Awards (GALAs) have been set up to honour male and female homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people and organisations for their contributions to Irish society, both north and south of the border.

Last year the federation for the first time added an international prize to recognise the fact that in many countries LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights defenders pay for their courage in demanding full legal and social equality.

The International Prize is sponsored jointly by Amnesty International (Irish section), Front Defenders, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the National Lesbian and Gay Federation.

Source – The Nation