Being LGBT in Myanmar: Transgender women and their tales of suffering (VIDEO)

Across the border from Thailand, a country often pinpointed as a “gay paradise,” Myanmar’s LGBT community doesn’t have it easy. They face discrimination in their culture and arrests by the police.

In the latest Coconuts TV documentary, the mistreatment and abuse faced by transgender women is captured on camera. Due to their visibility, transgender women in Myanmar are apt to receive the worst treatment. Police routinely arrest them and allegedly beat and sexually assault them while they are in custody.

“They deny these sorts of cases happen” said Moe Yan, a sex worker who has experienced these acts of mistreatment by the police.

Forced into sex work, there are many others like Moe Yan who were denied proper jobs due to their status as members of the LGBT community. Left with no choice, they become sex workers to survive

“Burma is not like in the West. Gender issues are not important,” said Win Htein, senior aide to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, between fits of laughter.

This shows a lack of care towards the LGBT community in Myanmar. Across the border is  Thailand, which fares a bit better in it’s treatment of this community.
Foreigners see Thailand as an oasis for gays, especially with the country’s large LGBT population and rising LGBT activist organizations.

Yet the country is far from perfect. The number of gay pride celebrations in Thailand is severely lacking. There is only one annual pride parade, which is held in Phuket. Also, the recent fight by a foreign gay couple to gain custody of their surrogate daughter “Carmen” highlighted relationship inequalities in the country.

Thailand’s image as a gay haven seems to be a beautiful lie, a facade, or even an illusion not felt by those who are members of the LGBT community.

Over 56 percent of Thais thinks that homosexuality is wrong, according to research last year by Khon Thai foundation, reported The Nation.

Reports of transgender women being abused can still be found in Thailand, but with the their much-hyped roles in the entertainment industry, it’s fair to say they have it a bit easier than their Myanmar neighbors.

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