LGBTIQ people in the Southeast Asian region continue to face so many challenges and difficulties. Consensual same-sex acts are still criminalised in some countries. In addition, there is a strong drive to institutionalise conversion therapy in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. All of these are reinforced by the notion that being LGBTIQ is not compatible with ASEAN values and that our identities — our very existence even — is a mere ideology from the West. This kind of environment can easily make us feel despair and anger.
But we refuse to give up. LGBTIQ people in Southeast Asia have always found ways to insist that we belong in our communities and in the region. We want to show that diversity of sexual and gender identities has always been part of our histories — this diversity even pre-dated colonisation and modern nation states that introduced laws that declared that our existence as illegal. Thus, we in ASEAN SOGIE Caucus came up with the first ever Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival, with the theme, Be/Longings. This online festival has brought together over 40 queer artists, individual and activists, allies and stakeholders from Southeast Asia, to reclaim, re-imagine, insist on and celebrate queer belonging in the region.
The festival is organised by a handful of hardworking and dedicated individuals, including the organising team comprised of Ivanka and AR as the coordinator and assistant coordinator respectively; Ryan as regional coordinator of ASC, Lini and Rachel as communications team, our creative consultants, Aaron and Colley, as well as our amazing advisory board comprised of Mikee, Pang, Yi-Sheng. We couldn’t have done this festival without the support of Voice. With the help of Voice, this monumental festival was made possible, and LGBTIQ people from the region are given a space to come together despite the many challenges that we are facing, a space where they can truly belong.