Book Review: ASEAN Queer Imaginings by Alicia Dong
I recommend “Why Southeast Asia’s LGBT community is finally coming out” by Kok Singhui (reporting for the South China Morning Post) as a complimentary read.
The ASEAN region posits an interesting challenge to the anti-queer rhetorics. While it is not a direct attack nor a comprehensive one, facets of the disparate ASEAN existence stabs through certain dominant narratives. Homophobia in Buddhist countries cannot be explained by Judeo-Christian moralities. The “foreign” and “western import” argument falls when faced with long native non cis het histories. And while colonialism has a lot to answer for, it cannot bear the burden of homophobia alone. To do so is to delude ourselves into thinking that a post colonial society will automatically be LGBQIT friendly. After all, Thailand was never colonized and it still struggles to pass a same sex marriage law. (I fully recognize that my statements are rather flimsy, but I still think that there is value in them as an exercise.)
“Transnational Transness: Imagining the connections between Southeast Asian queer identities” by Mikee Inton-Campbell is an imperative read. I have passing familiarity in the topic, but Inton-Campbell’s might be the best I’ve read on the topic. It lays out the indigenous understanding and acceptance of the queer identity in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.
Reading Chutchaya (Bloom) Siriwattakon’s essay awakened me to a reality I never thought about before: the Islamophobia within queer communities and activism in Thailand. Queer Muslims experience triple exclusions in Thailand from mainstream society and from both their Muslim and Queer communities.
The ASEAN experiment has largely been a vain attempt, but I am hesitant to write it off. Moving forward, we must incorporate queer imaginings when we define the ASEAN identity because it is salient to our self-determination; diversity is baked into us children of the southeast.