Myanmar: Gays are finding the courage to come out following the Southeast Asian Games hosted in Myanmar which was billed as a ‘coming out’ party for the former pariah state emerging after decades of military rule and isolation from the rest of the world.
Tin Ko Ko and Myo Min Htet who fell in love 10 years ago, and immediately encountered barriers – rejection by family members, money problems when they first started to live together, are all set to get married, reports mmtimes.com.
Now they will mark the 10th anniversary of their relationship by getting married, before relatives and friends. Theirs will be the first public gay marriage in Myanmar, though the location of the ceremony is a secret.
Other gay couples have married, but preferred to do so in private because of prevailing social attitudes. The government won’t stop a gay marriage, but nor is it officially allowed.
“Words can’t express how happy I am. I never dreamt that he would do something great like this for our anniversary. I thank him for his surprise gift,” Myo Min Htet said, adding, “I look forward to celebrating our 20th or 25th anniversary as well.”
Both will wear European suits at the ceremony, signing a document to declare their fidelity before witnesses. “I am happy that I can make a difference that other people in our community have never done before,” Tin Ko Ko told mmtimes.com.
In 2004, Tin Ko Ko, then aged 28, left Yangon for a construction job in Magwe Region, where he met Myo Min Htet, an 18-year-old college student. At first they were friends, spending their days together, talking deep into the night and sharing everything. They had no secrets from each other. “Our friendship soon deepened into love. My parents thought we were friends, that we loved each other like brothers,” said Ko Myo Min Htet. “When our fondness grew, we decided to build a family and live under one roof together,” he added.
“We both dress like men and behave like normal men. That doesn’t provoke a reaction from people. We don’t have problems with the neighbors,” Tin Ko Ko said.
The couple plans to adopt a child.
When Myo Min Htet left his family, who are Buddhists, to live with Tin Ko Ko, they endured bitter reproaches from cousins over their “unnatural relationship,” though his parents were accepting. In Buddhism, a common belief is that if a man is gay in this life it means he has sexually assaulted a woman in a past life. “They were ashamed and said they had never seen this kind of relationship before,” he said.
Myo Min Tun works with LGBT healthcare at the Aye Nyein Myittar organisation.
However, not many couples have their courage to struggle free from parental influences and people’s deep-rooted attitudes toward gays by living well independently, reports mmtimes.com.
In December Myanmar hosted the SEA Games after a 44-year wait, showcasing the nation’s rich 900-year heritage and transformation from reclusive state to an emerging nation. International media said the Games represent Myanmar’s “coming-out” party as it moves out of a decades-long junta rule.