by: Sopheap Chak
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:
លើកកំពស់ការយល់ដឹងរបស់មនុស្សដែលមានភេទធម្មតាអំពីហ្គេយ៍ និង សិទ្ឋរបស់គេ។ រួមគ្នាប្រឆាំងនឹងការរើសអើងការស្រលាញ់ភេទដូចគ្នា។ បំពេញតម្រូវការរបស់ហ្គេយ៍ (ផ្តល់ព័ត៌មាន ដំណឹង ចំណេះដឹង គំនិត អំពីជីវិត សិទ្ឋ ការអប់រំ សុខភាព សិច ស្នេហា…)។ ជាកន្លែងដ៏ល្អសម្រាប់ហ្គេយ៍ និង អ្នកស្រលាញ់ទាំងពីរភេទ ព្រមទាំងអ្នកដែលមានភេទធម្មតា ចែករំលែកបទពិសោធន៍គ្នា។ ស្វែងរកដំណោះស្រាយសម្រាប់រាល់បញ្ហារបស់សមាជិករបស់យើងតាមរយៈមតិសាធារណៈ…ល។
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:
Most of those who responded have positive views on the issue:
ស្រលាញ់មនុស្សម្នាក់គ្មានកំហុសទេ។ ស្នេហារវាងបុរសនិងបុរស គ្រាន់តែជាប្រភេទមួយទៀតនៃសេចក្តីស្នេហា ខ្ញុំគិតថាបើវាធ្វើអោយយើងមាន សេចក្តីសុខ នោះវាគ្មានអ្វីអាក្រកនោះទេ។ ការទទួលស្គាល់ការពិតថាយើងជាអ្នកណានោះវាពិសេសជាងការព្យាយាមគេចវេសពីការពិត។ អ្នកដែលមិនទទួលស្គាល់ស្នេហាប្រភេទនេះ គឹគ្រាន់តែកុហកខ្លួនឯងប៉ុណ្ណោះ។ តែអ្វីដែលមិនល្អគឺនៅពេលដែលពួកគេយកស្នេហាជាការបាំងមុខល្បែងផ្លូវភេទ។ សេចក្តីស្នេហាពិតប្រាកដ ពិតជាអស្ជារ្យលើសពីការគិត។
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?