Before we arrived in Thailand, I tried to reach out to different LGBT associations asking them if they could help me identify Rainbow families. We managed to identify 2 families of lesbians with kids but unfortunately we were not able to meet them face to face. We still wanted to have a testimony from a rainbow family from Thailand, that’s why we decided to do a skype interview with Matcha Phorn In.
Matcha defines herself as “an Ethnic minority, lesbian, mother and human right educator”. She became an activist on LGBT issues about 7 years ago and since 3 or 4 years she is now fighting for rainbow families rights.
Matcha is the director of Sangsan Anakot Yawachon (Building the Future of Youth), a youth development project in Thailand empowering ethnic minority, and often stateless youth through education and life skills training, while giving them the confidence and voice to defend their rights and become community leaders.
“A family is a place where you feel safe and you feel home”
Matcha left her family when she was 18. She defined family as a place where you feel safe and you feel home. “When I was a university student I was always surrounded by LGBT and we created our own family”.
Matcha met her partner seven years ago. Five years ago, her niece, who was 9 years old, came to visit them and decided to stay with the couple. Matcha explained that “Back then she was both calling us Auntie, but suddenly, one day, she called me mom. I was shocked, I never planned that. So we realized with my partner that now we became moms”. Their daughter is now 15 years old and a very talented artist (see for yourself in the picture below).
“ We are really OUT & PROUD!”
Matcha’s neighbors, her daughter’s teacher are all well aware that she is in a lesbian couple. “As my partner looks “Butch”, people quickly understand that we are in a lesbian relationship.”
But Matcha and her family live in a rural area of Thailand where the norm is still to be in a heterosexual relationship. Not all the neighbors are accepting that a lesbian couple is leaving in the area. Matcha told us : “A year ago they even burned the surroundings of my house 5 times in 10 days. They really wanted to scare us and they wanted to keep me, my family and my organization out of this area.” The cause of the issue with the neighbors was multiple, it was homophobic for sure but it was also because Matcha is a human right defender. She is welcoming lots of kids who are marginalized and she is conducting a lot of activities toward Human rights defense in her house.
Matcha and her family had to relocate for a couple of months while they were setting up basic security in the house. Matcha is traveling a lot, attending Human rights conference all over the world and she wanted her family to feel safe when she is out of town.
The invisible Rainbow families of Thailand
I have asked Matcha if besides her family there were other rainbow families in Thailand. She explained to me that yes, there were other rainbow families in Thailand but that they were invisible. “If they mentioned they have gay or lesbian parents, kids from rainbow families will be bullied at school as if they were LGBT themselves”.
What’s next for LGBTQ families in Thailand?
Same sex marriage is a topic which had been raised in the past few years in Thailand. “But we don’t talk much about LGBTQ families in the debate right now” underlined Matcha. Thailand is working on a Partnership Act for same sex couple which is not equal to the marriage and does not take into account same sex couple rights for adoption or access to medical assisted procreation. Matcha is questioning this drafting law as she does not considered it as a comprehensive law. For Matcha, as a LGBT activist :”the bill has not been openly discussed and the LGBTQ community did not participate at all. The law will not prevent from discrimination against LGBTQ people and does not guarantee equal rights”.
If you want to learn more or follow Matcha, here are some links :
If you want to know more about LGBT rights in Thailand, you can download here a very interesting document edited by the USAID and UNDP: https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1861/Being_LGBT_in_Asia_Thailand_Country_Report.pdf