LGBT Forum - Day One - Solidarity and Diversity




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Oct 03, 2016
by Louise Hallman
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LGBT Forum - Day One - Solidarity and Diversity

Opening panel shares successes and challenges for the Asia-Pacific region LGBT Forum Founder & Chair Klaus Mueller welcomes participants Cha Roque and Pipi Say

Solidarity and diversity were two key takeaways from the first day of discussions at the fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion.

Opening the session, the first of the Forum to be held in Thailand and in partnership with the UNDP and Being LGBTI in Asia, a panel of speakers from China, Thailand, Nepal and South Korea shared insights on challenges and progresses in Asia-Pacific with an audience from the region and beyond.

Legal progresses have been made in some countries, such as in Nepal where a third gender can now be officially declared in all government documents including passports. But legal recognition and protections are still lacking in many other countries in the region. For example, in Korea civil partnerships or marriage are not recognized, and in Thailand, a country with a highly visible LGBT community, gay adoptions are not recognized, leading one participant to share her fears of what might happen to her daughter if she were to die as her wife would not be legally entitled to continue to care for their child. 

However, as one panelist rightly pointed out: “Laws do not guarantee equality... we need to look at the attitudes and acceptance of public and society.”

In many countries, while laws were starting to offer protection to LGBT people and communities (albeit not all these laws are “inclusive, representative and consultative” of communities they're supposed to protect), societal attitudes have yet to catch up, with stigmatization and bullying prevalent, especially in schools where uniforms often constrain preferred gender expressions.

To counter these legal and societal backlashes, there were calls from the panel and the audience for LGBT groups to join in solidarity with each other and build coalitions with other rights groups, such as workers’ and women’s groups, in order to advance all human rights. 

“When it is cold, we need to all band together for warmth,” remarked one participant.

The intersectionality of issues was also highlighted, as LGBT issues touch on many other areas such as bullying in school, access to relevant health services, discrimination in the work place, etc. 

However, a counterpoint was also raised: in many countries vocal and visible groups within the LGBT communities (such as gay men in China and trans people in Nepal) have led to a conflation of identities, with the public and politicians mistakenly assuming that all members of the LGBT community are represented by and share the same problems as the more prominent “face” of LGBT people. 

“As LGBTI people, we don't all have the same issues!” stated one participant, with another adding: “How can we show and include the many faces of LGBT people?” 

As the session moves into its next four days of panels, roundtable discussions, working groups and intimate storytelling and sharing sessions, this question and how these many faces can be better included in societies – in Asia and beyond – will continue to resonate. 


As Fellows arrived in Chiang Rai for the first-ever session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum to be held in Asia, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed its first independent expert to investigate the violence and discrimination faced by the LGBT community: Thai professor, Vitit Muntarbhorn.

Participants of the 4th session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum congratulate Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn on his appointment as the first United Nations independent expert on LGBT rights

The fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is being held in Chiang Rai, Thailand in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Being LGBTI in Asia programme.

Funding for this joint Salzburg Global-UNDP session was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington. The Being LGBTI in Asia programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Additional session support was provided by the Austrian Embassy New Delhi, Austrian Development Cooperation, Capital Group Companies, Dreilinden gGmbH, the Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship Fund, the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Recaps and interviews with participants will be published on a regular basis throughout the session on and You can also follow the event on social media using the hashtags #SGSlgbt and #BeingLGBTI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

*LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.