Pattaya’s celebration of gay rights this weekend was the city’s first public parade in the unfolding post-Covid era where mask wearing has just become voluntary. Hundreds of people of all genders, sex workers, feminists and a large contingent of drag artists journeyed in an impressive display of unity and solidarity. As is now the norm in LGBTIQ+ demonstrations worldwide, glamor, gilt and glitter are the principal eye candy for onlookers.
The pink pound or gay dollar has always been an important cash source for international tourist-dominated Pattaya. Both City Hall and the Tourist Authority of Thailand were amongst the parade sponsors this year. The gay entertainment districts known as Boyztown and Jomtien Complex are in urgent need of resuscitation after more than two years in the financial desert. Yet the new commercialism goes deeper than that. For example, Starbucks and Swensens were both offering a discount ticket worth 100 baht (roughly two pounds or three US dollars) for anyone showing a hotel keycard or an email booking.
The parade comes at a pivotal moment for gay rights in Thailand as a bill to grant same-sex civil union status is currently wending its bureaucratic way through parliament. This is seen as more likely to pass than full marriage because of opposition to complete equality in sections of the military-backed government. The Pattaya pressure group Alliance for Gender Equality says not to worry as, even in the UK, gay civil unions historically preceded marriage. They point out that homosexuality was classified in Thailand as a psychiatric disorder as recently as 2005. Never try to hurry the Orient is the rule of thumb.
As ever, Pattaya’s resident drag queen population had some refreshing perspectives. Eggz Benedict – a candidate for the title Miss Tiffany Universe sporting a see-through scarlet dress, scant underwear, green eye shadow and blue lipstick – only wanted everyone to understand she is just the same as they are. Dawn Patrol – emphasizing it wasn’t her real name – offered an unusual insight into Thai immigration procedures. “My Swedish boyfriend wants to marry me so that his retirement visa will require a smaller deposit in the Thai bank.” Nuff said.
Photos Below: As is now the norm in LGBTIQ+ demonstrations worldwide, glamor, gilt and glitter are the principal eye candy for onlookers.