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U.N. Volunteers team, with poster
Teams of native Khmers and expats took to the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last month in costumes and decorated tuk-tuks, the kingdom's ubiquitous carriage-and-motorbike combo, for a Gay Pride scavenger hunt and race. Though homosexuality is legal in the kingdom and the culture seems poised on the cusp of change — over the past year, various government officials expressed support of eventual recognition of same-sex marriage — LGBT identity remains deeply socially controversial.
A recent nongovernmental organization study found that almost a third of those who self-identified to researchers as LGBT still planned to never come out, fearful of family disappointment and social stigma. So strong is the stigma that Khmer LGBT activist and graphic designer of Pride Week's logo Nix (Vichet Nou) told The Advocate that he advises teens to stay closeted for as long as they are dependent on their families. To reflect the stigma, he designed Pride Week's logo to resemble lotus petals made of shattered glass — shattered because many LGBT people here feel "broken." The only thing that can eventually change the stigma, he says, is the openness Pride represents, making the high-visibility race so important.
Photographs and text by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.