Organisers say deaf LGBT+ people face “double discrimination” in parts of Southeast Asia
By Nanchanok Wongsamuth
BANGKOK, June 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Thai beauty pageant for deaf LGBT+ people is to open up to contestants from other countries in Southeast Asia to raise regional awareness of the "double discrimination" they face.
Organisers of Mister Deaf Gay Thailand, which was held for the first time in February, said Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines had all expressed interest in competing in next year's event.
Thailand has built a reputation for its relaxed attitude towards sexual diversity since homosexuality was decriminalised in 1956, and authorities actively promote the country as an LGBT-friendly destination.
Acceptance of LGBT+ people is growing in parts of Southeast Asia, but Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei still outlaw sex between men, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT+ people.
But LGBT+ people still suffer from discrimination and stigma in schools and the workplace and health facilities, and pageant director Akin Jina said those with disabilities faced even more problems.
"Very few people speak of deaf LGBT+ people ... who face double discrimination," said Akin, an activist who organised the pageant.
Thailand's Social Development and Human Security ministry, which held an award ceremony for this year's winners on Monday, said it would support the plan to expand it to other countries.
The winner of this year's Mister title, Sukit Sooksumpan, 22, said he hoped the contest would help others like him.
"I used to be bullied by my friends when I was young, but I eventually got over it," he said.
"Now I'd like to become an inspiration for young deaf people to be able to coexist in society."
(Reporting by Nanchanok Wongsamuth @nanchanokw; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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