TV & Radio
‘Queer’ conference attracts big response
Published on July 05, 2005
Bangkok will host the first ever “International Conference of Asian Queer Studies” from Thursday to Saturday – a huge academic gathering which is expected to shed new light on gender studies thanks to its broad spectrum of topics covering issues relating to Asian homosexual and transgender groups.
Entitled “Sexualities, Genders and Rights in Asia: 1st International Conference of Asian Queer Studies”, the conference brings scholars, human rights advocates, artists and film makers involved in researching and documenting Asian homosexuals and transgenders to meet in Bangkok in order to support academics, especially those undertaking postgraduate studies on Asian homosexuals and transgenders.
A joint initiative of the Office of Human Rights Studies and Social Development at Mahidol University in Thailand and the Australia-based AsiaPacifiQueer Network, the conference will feature over 50 speakers on LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer) issues, with more than 150 presentations from around the world, 70 per cent of which will come from Asian researchers.
“We were quite shocked with the feedback as we expected around 50 papers but as we were approaching our deadline in December last year, there were as many as 120 papers submitted to our website,” said Peter A Jackson, an organising committee member.
Jackson said Asian countries including Thailand, Japan, China, and India are experiencing a boom in studies on homosexuals and transgenders. The conference will create an international forum for Asian “queer studies” which will directly benefit postgraduate researchers working on the topics.
He said one of the obstacles is the lack of support. “The discrimination is still there for those who want to study these kind of topics. There is also a lack of balanced opinions on the issue. The current problems in Thailand are the same as those experienced by western academics over the past 20 to 30 years.”
The conference is aimed at covering all facets of Asian LGBTQ and each day will have a thematic focus reflected in the topics covered in the plenary sessions as well as in the streams of panels programmed for each day. The first day on July 7 will concentrate on rights issue while the second day will have culture as its theme and the last day will focus on health issues.
In addition to supporting researchers, the 1st International Conference of Asian Queer Studies is aimed at building bridges between NGOs and academics. “It is necessary that NGOs receive accurate information from academic research if they are to work effectively,” said Jackson.
Keynote speakers will be Professor Vitit Muntabhorn of Chulalongkorn University and Professor Josephine Ho of Taiwan’s National Central University. Vitit, Unesco’s biennial Human Rights Education Prize winner in 2004, will speak on July 7 on the topic, “Sexualities, Genders and Rights in International Law: Implications for the Asian Region.” Ho, the founder of the Centre for the Study of Sexualities – Asia’s first academic institute devoted to supporting the study of same-sex and transgender cultures – will deliver her keynote address on July 8 on the topic, “Is Global Governance Bad for Asian Queers?”
Jackson said among the diverse issues, the analysis of the media, which looks at the representation of homosexuality in the media, is one of the highlights. “The stereotyping of gays is a big issue. To analyse and criticise the media is important for the promotion of rights.”
He said analysis of the Internet is another interesting topic. The Internet is one of the most popular forms of media used by the global LGBTQ community. The tremendous responses of the participants to the upcoming conference alone, shows how the group actively communicate via cyberspace.
Other topics to be discussed in the panel sessions will include social persecution and legal discrimination against sexual minorities in Asia; gay, lesbian and transgender citizenship and rights; homosexuals and transgenders in Asian cinema and literature; the globalisation of homosexual cultures; Asian homosexual diasporas in the West; and the impact of HIV/AIDS on Asian same-sex communities.
The legal recognition of sex-changes will be discussed by speakers from across Asia, including Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Iran. Homosexual women’s issues will also be highlighted, with representatives from lesbian organisations from Japan, China, the Philippines, India, Thailand and other countries presenting panels on the rights of women who love women.
The plenary speakers on July 8 will also touch upon the status of Asia’s homosexuals and transgenders. Many people believe in the “local” or “indigenous” character of LGBTQ identities and communities within each region while the others assume that modern queer Asia is ultimately borrowing western models of gay and lesbian identity. Others emphasise the typically hybrid nature of queer identities across the planet. This panel will explore the debate.
“Gay and lesbian studies started in America but the theory is unlikely to be applicable to the rest of the world thanks to the different cultures and historical backgrounds. The meeting will be a good chance to help to expand the database of information for Asian queer studies,” said Jackson.