Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"The Truth About Who We Are..."

Safir, HIV Technical Expert, Bangkok, Thailand

by thegaymenproject

photos by Kevin Truong

Safir, in his own words: "Being a 26 years old gay to me means: 20 years living in fear that I would end up in hell and while I was still on earth, I would be #foreveralone because of being brainwashed that God would only give a man a female soulmate (thanks to my conservative Muslim upbringing, including nine years studying in Islamic school) followed by 2 years learning that I'm not alone and not everyone/everything condemns homosexuality (thanks to a new life in Europe that I pursued while I was studying) followed by 5 years feeling awesome to be what I am (as my life here in Bangkok for the past few years is free from stigma and surrounded by open-minded people).

My successes was when I got in to the United Nations. I started as an intern two years ago and now I still cant believe that I've really been working with them ever since. I came from a very local uni and I was competing with kids from elite universities around the globe. Heck, I didn't even know if I took the right master Programme prior to my internship. I do still have some insecurities with my English while working with the colleagues who are native speakers. But that's great. I mean, that's the only insecurity I have now and I no longer have insecurities of my sexual orientation in the office. It's very different when I worked in an Indonesian company. I kept fearing that they would've bullied me if I was open about being gay.

What's also great about my work at the UN is that, as a HIV technical expert, I'm working for the human rights of people living with HIV and key affected populations, including gay men, which is something I've been passionate about since I grew up. Growing up in a non-gay friendly environment really does unleash my human rights advocate side.

I haven't come out to my parents yet - but I've done it to my Facebook friends. I was in IKEA with friends, they took a pic of me coming out of the showcased wardrobe and I posted that pic on my Facebook (with the caption:" just coming out of the closet"). Bam!

(With regards to the gay scene in Bangkok) This is a tricky question. I am already hearing somebody shouting at me because my answer is stereotyping the gay scene. I find the gay scene in Bangkok, in terms of nightlife, divided into two neighwhorehood: "sticky rice" AND "potato and rice" gayhoods. Or maybe not so much on what kind of race you're into with, but more on 'whether or not you speak Thai." Sticky rice playground is what people refer to "local gayhood" (e.g., Ratchada, Ramkanhaeng) - where finding English-speaking Thai boys is much harder than in the 'international' one (e.g., Silom). I eat all kind of carbo, but I prefer the "Sticky rice" playground to the other. I can still feel the Thai's land-of-smile manners there. no matter how packed the club is, the boys will still say "sorry" (in a very polite Thai expression) if they bump you or step on your feet.

Outside the nightlife scene, I feel that there's no other exclusive gay scene in Bangkok. Most of the "scenes" are integrated with the non-gay ones. This just shows how Bangkok is much more progressive than other big cities in Southeast Asia.

(Advice I'd give to my younger self) You might still not have Grindr (or a Smartphone), but you are not alone. Gay people exist. Not just in the porn videos you secretly hid in the folder named "Homeworks" in your old PC. And the best part is, many of them are beautiful and full of inspiration, and they love you they way you are."

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