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Cambodia: Bloggers discuss LGBT issues

LGBT issues are not openly discussed in Cambodian mainstream society but they are being debated in the blogosphere. A leading example is Gay Khmer group, a website which was established to create a public platform for gay issues. This network is written in Khmer and English. The objectives of the site:

លើក​កំពស់​ការ​យល់​ដឹង​របស់​មនុស្ស​ដែល​មាន​ភេទ​ធម្មតាអំពី​ហ្គេយ៍ និង សិទ្ឋ​របស់​គេ។ រួម​គ្នា​ប្រឆាំង​នឹង​ការ​រើស​អើង​ការ​ស្រលាញ់​ភេទ​ដូចគ្នា។ បំពេញ​តម្រូវការ​របស់​ហ្គេយ៍ (ផ្តល់​ព័ត៌មាន ដំណឹង ចំណេះដឹង គំនិត អំពី​ជីវិត សិទ្ឋ ការ​អប់រំ សុខភាព សិច ស្នេហា…)។ ជា​កន្លែង​ដ៏​ល្អ​សម្រាប់​ហ្គេយ៍ និង អ្នក​ស្រលាញ់​ទាំង​ពីរ​ភេទ​ ព្រមទាំង​អ្នក​ដែល​មាន​ភេទ​ធម្មតា ចែក​រំលែក​បទពិសោធន៍គ្នា។ ស្វែង​រក​ដំណោះ​ស្រាយ​​សម្រាប់​រាល់​បញ្ហា​របស់​សមាជិក​របស់​យើង​តាម​រយៈ​មតិ​សាធារណៈ…ល។

The aim of GK is to raise awareness about gays and their rights, to unite in the fight against homophobia, to provide information access to gay and bi people about news updates on lifestyle, rights, education, health, sex, love…, and to serve as platform for experience sharing and solution exploration.

Through this blog network,  many gender issues were tackled among members and commentators who voiced anxiety and doubt such as Hidden Face, When I Realized Being Gay, Is It True that Gays Love only Sex.

There is also another blog activist, Sobin, whose blog is dedicated to be a forum for sharing the life stories of gays. The header of his blog conveys a meaningful and interesting slogan: “No mater what gender you are…love is always beautiful.”

Interestingly, last year Cambodia celebrated its first ever Cambodian lesbian film, “Who Am I?” directed by Mrs. Phoan Phuong Bopha, whose movie attracted an estimated 4,000 viewers, which AFP called as a blockbuster for the country's tiny movie industry. This film is part of an awareness raising campaign against lesbian discrimination in the country. This year, another LGBT film will be shown soon: “High School Love Story.” The film's story centers on a gay love affair.

In her post about “High School Love Story: Cambodia's Gay Film,” Kounila Keo, a prominent Cambodian blogher, expresses her excitement to see this upcoming film and highlights the obstacles confronting gay people in society:

Certainly, I am looking forward to watching “High School Love Story”. I don’t really think this is a new issue. Gays and lesbians have always been in Cambodia. I understand why they have been hiding themselves from society. A lot of discrimination is going on everywhere against homosexuals or same-sex lovers. Gays and lesbians should really have their own rights to express themselves in whatever way.

Besides films, blogs have become venues that address LGBT concerns. Young bloggers belonging to Khmer Youth Writers also use their personal websites to highlight LGBT issues. “Boy Friend” is a 2009 Khmer novel written by Archphkai or Asteroid, a promising Cambodian writer. In his free book distribution campaign, the author asked the readers to answer an interesting question:

យល់​យ៉ាង​ណា​ចំពោះ​ស្នេហា​ភេទ​ដូច​គ្នា? ប្រុស​ស្រឡាញ់​ប្រុស/ស្រី​ស្រឡាញ់​ស្រី។

What is your expression about same-sex love (gays/lesbians)?

Most of those who responded have positive views on the issue:

ស្រលាញ់មនុស្សម្នាក់គ្មានកំហុសទេ។​ ស្នេហារវាងបុរសនិងបុរស គ្រាន់តែជាប្រភេទមួយទៀតនៃសេចក្តីស្នេហា ខ្ញុំគិតថាបើវាធ្វើអោយយើងមាន សេចក្តីសុខ នោះវាគ្មានអ្វីអាក្រកនោះទេ។ ការទទួលស្គាល់ការពិតថាយើង​ជាអ្នកណានោះវាពិសេសជាងការព្យាយាមគេចវេសពីការពិត។ អ្នកដែលមិន​ទទួលស្គាល់ស្នេហាប្រភេទនេះ គឹគ្រាន់តែកុហកខ្លួនឯងប៉ុណ្ណោះ។ តែអ្វីដែលមិន​ល្អគឺនៅពេលដែលពួកគេយកស្នេហាជាការបាំងមុខល្បែងផ្លូវភេទ។ សេចក្តីស្នេហាពិតប្រាកដ​ ពិតជាអស្ជារ្យលើសពីការគិត។

It is not a mistake to love someone. Male same-sex love is just one type of love. It is not bad if it brings happiness. Accepting the truth is better than hiding the fact. Those who do not acknowledge this type of love is lying to themselves. Yet, it is bad if they treat love for only sex. True love is the greatest thing.

On the contrary, a Facebook user, Tauch Narin, launched a debate late last year on gay rights by updating his status with a question “Do You Support Gay Rights in Cambodia? It generated many contrasting comments.

A facebook commenter emphasizes that gays are humans with human rights: “They are not monsters,they are humans, and if humans have rights, why not gays and lesbians? They just have different preference from us.” Another commenter has a different view: “It's sounds reasonable. But the truth is it's sinful.”

Narin continued the debate by outlining the idea that one may become gay by association factor. While acknowledging that everybody has rights, Narin insisted that “freedom does not always allow one to do whatever they like” by comparing the choice to be gay or lesbian to the choice of others to be criminals or drug addicts:

People choose to be a gay or lesbian because they are addicted to such sexual behavior. Just like drug addicts, no easy way to get rid of. Naturally people are born to be male and female as indicated by gender organ. Tell me if there were any other types of gender organ?

Stereotype is the main factor that spread homosexual culture. If someone associates with criminals, he would become criminal himself. If a person associates with drug addicts, he would become a drug addict too. If a person associates with homosexual person, he would be one of them.

This statement attracted more reactions which forced Narin to clarify his position:

I do respect their rights and dignity as human beings…they are human beings, they deserve our acknowledgment and protection. Of course we can't change people personality, we have to accept it even though we do not like it personally. My concern is the move to support their right to marry. It is the fundamental pillar of gender. The right to marry and have family of their own. Can u imagine how would it look like?
  • Daro

    Re: Narin’s concerned about gays/lesbians marrying and having a family.

    He asked if WE can imagine how it would look like [if they were given the right to marry and have children]. My answer to that question would be, “Sure. I can imagine it. It would look like two parents and children. Not surprising, right? It doesn’t take gender to raise children. It takes good parents to raise good children.” Now, mind you, there would be differences in HOW to have children. Nowadays, there are various options (i.e. surrogacy, adoption, in vitro fertilization). Advances in reproduction technology has helped many (straight AND gay) to have children. It is not uncommon in the West, but in places like Cambodia where technology is a bit slow in comparison, it’ll be a bit of a shock but not impossible. However, to say that it is impossible and ruining society is not something we can judge right away. Personally, I do NOT believe it will degrade society as we do recognize gays/lesbians as good human beings as the rest. As a matter of fact, it will increase diversity and create compassion among families and children who have same-sex parents. I don’t understand why one person’s ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’ (i.e. Narin doesn’t “like” gays) should be the determining factors for someone else’s right to love, marry, and/or have children. If you don’t like someone of the same-sex, then don’t marry someone of the same-sex. No one is forcing you to fall in love with a gay/lesbian, but there must be a mutual respect in order for all of us humans to live among each other in harmony.

    I just think if people try to understand one another instead of condemning each other, then this world would be a lot better. Why is it so hard to comprehend? We’re humans, and our circumstances are always changing so what’s the problem?

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