While Thailand is often referred to as “a paradise” for the LGBT community, ironically, Phuket Pride is the only pride parade in the kingdom.
From bar boys to doctors, a hundred LGBT individuals gathered on May 1 to march along the Patong beachfront to celebrate the annual Phuket Pride Week.
Organized by the charity organization Phuket Loves You (PLU), and with support from local businesses, the event has been held annually since 1999 to raise money for LGBT and HIV charities in Phuket, which give locals better access to quality sexual health support.
“What we’ve been doing here is to improve the life of the local gay community and raise awareness of health issues. PLU isn’t only giving out condoms, but we provide knowledge and HIV tests for the community here,” said Kenneth Miller, vice-president of Phuket Loves You.
Kenneth said tha fewer people joined the parade this year, and he believes the reason for that is people view Patong as an area for sex tourism.
“We tried to reach out to other Thai gay communities to join but we didn’t succeed. One of the problems could be that Patong is known for sex tourism, so many people don’t want to come here,” he said.
Despite the summer’s sizzling weather, the celebrants still glammed it up, receiving a big cheer from the crowd along the way.
“I’ve been the only female bar owner in Soi Paradise for 16 years. In my opinion, gay people are normal people but they have to work harder to be accepted by society. The Pride event provides a space for people to meet, learn and give back to society,” said Jessica Chang, owner of Time Bar.
“We heard about Phuket Pride from Facebook, so we joined the parade today after island hopping. It’s good to see the Pride event and how people seem to be more open compared to our home in Lebanon. It’s illegal there, and everything about this [LGBT community] is kept in secret,” said Michelle and Dorothy from Lebanon.