LGBT Forum - Day Three - Storytelling and International Connections




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Oct 05, 2016
by Louise Hallman
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LGBT Forum - Day Three - Storytelling and International Connections

Filmmakers, ambassadors and lawmakers discuss storytelling and strengthening international ties on third day of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum B-change Founder Laurindo Garcia with B-change filmmakers and contributors taking part in the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum.

The third day of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum in Chiang Rai, Thailand saw participants focus on storytelling and strengthening international connections with panels featuring filmmakers, lawmakers and diplomats.

The Power of Sharing Our Lives Through Video and Film

Representations of LGBT people and characters in TV and film have been increasing in recent years, but how do we make sure we have the opportunity to tell our own stories? What sorts of stories should they be – positive or negative? And who do we want to share these stories with?

These were just some of the questions facing the panelist of filmmakers from China, Myanmar, the Philippines and Nepal. 

“Filmmaking is a communication between you and the people in front of your camera, between them and the audience,” shared one of the filmmakers. 

What we want to communicate is important. Films often reflect the personalities of their makers – the more positive they are the more positive their films are likely to be. One panelist admitted he had been accused of being “too positive” in his films, a series of which show LGBT people and their families’ acceptance – an experience not shared by all LGBT people. When asked what inspires her more – the negative stories or the positive – another filmmaker-panelist responded: “I want to tell the story of now.” That “now” may be negative or positive or constantly changing – the immediacy and genuineness of the film is more important than whether it is relentlessly positive or brutally negative.

Queer film festivals are growing in the region with international networks forming to help promote such festivals in communities with less experience or success so far. However, these film festivals are still mostly only reaching a niche audience. 

“When I first became a filmmaker, I was a lesbian but I never identified as a LGBT filmmaker,” admitted one panelist who has worked primarily in mainstream rather than LGBT cinema. “I thought that if I establish myself as a filmmaker first, then I can later make films that matter more to me – and my audience will accept me.”

She added: “We don't want just LGBT people to watch LGBT films, we want the entire population to see our stories.” 

Sharing these stories are important not only to help foster acceptance and understanding of those outside the LGBT community towards LGBT people, but also to offer reassurance to those within the community: you are not alone.  

Rooted within the Family? A look at families, gender and sexuality in Asia

Continuing with the storytelling and families themes of the week, a further panel on day three had participants from Bhutan, Cambodia, Korea, Nepal and India share their own experiences and country-wide trends and attitudes towards three aspects of our family lives: the families we’re born into, the families we choose to create, and the families we raise. 

Family is important in cultures across Asia. In many countries across the region, it is typical for multiple generations of families to live together in the same house, leaving minimal opportunities for independence and privacy. Nepalese and Bhutanese participants told the international audience of their compatriots’ ancient beliefs that one cannot die in peace until one has seen the face of their grandchild. A family’s “honor” is important in countries such India, with certain behaviors or actions considered “dishonorable” and worthy of a variety of often severe punishments. 

All of these attitudes can have serious negative implications for LGBT people, with a number of the participants sharing personal stories or anecdotes of how they or their friends have been cast out of their families for being LGBT. Many then seek to establish “alternative” families or “families of choice” that offer them the love and security they did not find with their families of birth. 

“I have found an alternative family where we have love and care,” shared one participant, who had been cut off from his family and had at one point turned to sex work to help fund his university studies. His new family includes parental figures as well as siblings. 

For those LGBT people who choose to raise their own families, legal protections are sparse in the region, leaving children vulnerable should anything happen to their biological parent – there is little guarantee that their deceased biological parent’s partner will be able to continue to care for them. Advocates are working to change the laws in many countries, but some communities, such as in Cambodia, have found legal support at lower, local levels, where a contract can be signed by two individuals agreeing to take shared responsibility for caring for a child, which is enforced by local village chiefs. 

After inputs from the panelists, participants discussed the three elements of families in groups. These discussions will feed into their main thematic working groups being held throughout the week. The purpose of these groups is to encourage the participants to share their own stories and experiences of families – be that the families they were born into, choose to build, or raise – with these stories later becoming part of an exhibition to be hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in Berlin, Germany in May 2017.

Strengthening International Connections

Another key theme of this year’s Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is “strengthening international connections,” building on the Forum’s existing work of bringing together LGBT rights activists and advocates with government ministries, agencies and embassies to examine how they can collaboratively and independently work to advance LGBT rights in countries across the world.

Bhutanese politician Ugyen Wangdi, Venezuelan politician Tamara Adrian, Canadian Ambassador to Thailand Donica Pottie, UK Ambassador to Thailand Brian Davidson, Swedish Ambassador to Thailand Staffan Herrström all spoke on the panel, moderated by Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia. 

Read the full report of the Ambassadors’ Conversation panel here.

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 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.