Cambodia Gets Its First LGBT Magazine

Cambodia Gets Its First LGBT Magazine

The land of Cambodia is so far removed from our world, that the southeast Asian nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is only now getting its first publication aimed at LGBT readers: Q Cambodia.

The magazine's first edition, according to NBC News, is fittingly titled "The Pride Issue."

"In the West, the LGBT community has had to fight to gain rights and recognition, battles that still continue of course, but in Cambodia, there has been very little of that even though most people in the community that I know face the same fears of being fired, being kicked out of the house, being discriminated against," Q Cambodia's editor-in-chief, Sorel Thongvan told NBC News following the magazine's launch party at a "gay-men-only" hotel in Phnom Penh.

Still shaking off the bloody legacy of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, which ended in 1979, Cambodia is a contradictory country for LGBT people. While actively being LGB T is not illegal — and even though a handful of provincial officials have approved licenses for same-sex weddings — antigay cultural norms are sometimes the impetus for expulsion from home, school, work and from Cambodia itself, according to NBC News.

But as far back as 2004, Cambodia's former king, Norodom Sihanouk, proclaimed that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry in his country.

After watching TV images of same-sex couples getting married in San Francisco, the late king said in a written statement that because the Cambodian government chose in 1993 to be a "liberal democracy," it should allow "marriage between man and man... or between woman and woman."

But then, in 2007, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in office since 1998, strangely announced that he was legally disowning his adopted daughter because she is a lesbian.

"My adopted daughter now has a wife. I'm quite disappointed,'' Hun Sen said in a speech at the time.

According to Thongvan, Cambodia is changing, but has a long way to go. He believes the launch of Q Cambodia will prove to be the next step needed to accelerate improvement in the lives of LGBT Cambodians.

"I'm trying to reach as many people in the community as I can, but getting people to talk openly turned out to be a lot more difficult that I'd imagine," Thongvan, 55, told NBC News. "Even those who seemed to live their sexuality openly backed out of interviews as soon as I told them that their name and picture will be printed along with the interviews."

Attendees at Q Cambodia's launch party acknowledged that even though it's not unusual to see same-sex couples holding hands in big cities like Phnom Pen, Seim Reap, and Sihanoukville, even LGBT Cambodians who think of themselves as out still frequently conceal their identities as gender and sexual minorities.  

"Gay people don't need to hide themselves," Vuthy Chan, an attendee at launch told NBC News. "They need to be open."

Tags: World, Media

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