Rainbow ‘revolution’: Myanmar’s LGBTQ activists march against coup
YANGON: Strutting across a road junction in Myanmar traditional dress and wielding colourful paper parasols, Yangon’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) activists are stepping up to be part of a “revolution” against the military.
Their vibrant presence adds to the wide cross-section of Myanmar society – from railway workers wearing hardhats to teachers dressed in their green-and-white uniforms – who marched through the country’s largest city Yangon on Friday (Feb 19) to demand that the army give up power.
The nation has seen daily demonstrations for the past two weeks, with hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for the release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was deposed in a military coup on Feb 1.
“We are coming together with everyone in our country because we are against this situation,” said Shin Thant, carrying a lavender-coloured parasol to shield herself from the sun.
The well-known transgender activist was flanked by others in her community, some wearing traditional Myanmar fitted tops and a shin-length skirt called a longyi.
Others went for a more modern look, with multi-layer bridal gowns or glittery clubwear.
Hundreds of supporters marched carrying rainbow-coloured placards with prints of the three-finger salute – a symbol of resistance borrowed from the Hunger Games film trilogy.
“We, the LGBTQ community, won’t give birth and our generation ends with us,” Shin Thant said.
“But I wanted to tell those who will have children that you should participate in this revolution.”
Shin Thant is a former beauty queen and won Miss Trans Grand International Myanmar in 2018, but has reportedly faced harassment from authorities in the past.
The community still faces widespread discrimination in Myanmar, a conservative, mostly Buddhist country, with same-sex relationships criminalised under the penal code and transgender people often harassed by authorities.
But Myanmar’s LGBTQ community has been making tentative attempts in recent years to step out into the open, with activists organising pride parades and festivals that have drawn hundreds of supporters – a possible sign of changing mindsets in the cities.
Shin Thant urged protesters to try and stick to peaceful forms of civil disobedience.
“We don’t need violence – our goal is for the long term,” she said. “Please protest peacefully against all forms of injustice.”