Photo contest challenges negative portrayals of Myanmar LGBT community

Canadian photographer Khloe Picot took this shot in Yangon. PHOTO: KHLOE PICOT

In Myanmar, if you happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or simply have a social conscience, you might want to switch off the TV on a Saturday night.

A few months back, Hla Myat Tun, who works with Rainbows Colors, one of the biggest LGBT groups in the country, came across a program that roughly translates as ‘Laugh Vision’ in English.

The show starred four men wearing wigs, crudely pretending to be transgender. “I got really angry — there were very exaggerated actions, really humiliating the transgender community,” he said.

While print media has improved its depiction of LGBT people in recent years, television is continuing to show the community as ridiculous, immoral or in need of a ‘cure’, said Hla Myat Tun.

But, this weekend, he is among 10 entrants in a photo contest organised by &PROUD that seeks to show Myanmar’s LGBT people in a more accurate and positive light.

“We asked people to send photos that show the LGBT community in a positive way,” said Jeewee Van Rooij, one of the organisers.

A total of 10 photographers have entered, including Myanmar people, foreigners, amateurs and professionals, he said. The images will be displayed at Myanmar Deitta gallery in Yangon from Saturday, when the winner will be announced.

Alongside the Myanmar work will be photos from Malaysian snapper kG Krishnan, who took portraits of the LGBT community in Kuala Lumpur.

Hla Myat Tun entered a series of photos depicting his daily life with his boyfriend. In the shots, they visit religious sites and spend time with their families.

While opening up about their relationships is still difficult for many LGBT couples, Hla Myat Tun’s is a happy story.

“My mum accepted [my boyfriend] as her son,” he said. “They call each other every day.”

The &PROUD exhibition opens at Myanmar Deitta gallery at 3pm on Saturday 16 May. ​Myanmar Deitta is located on the third floor of #49, 44th Street, Lower Block.

Photo: HLA MYAT TUNHla Myat Tun with his boyfriend at Shwedagon pagoda. HLA MYAT TUN


Malaysian photographer kG Krishnan took this shot in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: KG KRISHNAN

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