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Filmmakers seek $20,000 to campaign for civil unions in Thailand

Documentary that shows lives of gay women in Thailand made by San Franciscan lesbian couple needs $20,000 (€15,000) to finish before a vote on civil unions in the Thai parliament
Image from Visible Silence: Thai Tomboys and the Ladies who Love Them

American filmmakers are seeking crowd-funding to finish a film about lesbians in Thailand so it can contribute to the campaign for civil union rights for same-sex couples in the Southeast Asian country.

The film, Visible Silence: Thai Tomboys and the Ladies who Love Them, is a documentary about lesbian culture in Thailand where women usually identify as 'tom' (tomboy) or 'dee' (femme).

San Franciscan couple Ruth Gamnit and Marguerite Salmon have been asked by LGBT rights activists in Thailand to finish the film before August so they can use it in their campaign for civil unions same-sex couples, which parliament is due to vote on that month.

The filmmakers, who documented the experience of Karen refugees from Burma in previous projects, are seeking to raise $20,000 (€15,000) to finish the movie.

In an interview with Gay Star News, Gamnit said that she was 'horrified' to learn that 'in a country that is not perceived to be violent... in 2012 the UN called for the investigation into the murder of 15 toms and dees over the previous six years'.

Gamnit said that during the making of the film she heard many stories of physical and mental abuse from Thai lesbian women.

'Tom/dee relationships are not only seen as deviant, they are frequently considered a joke,' said Gamnit.

'The discrimination and lack of support of the relationship makes many unsustainable. Toms' masculine gender presentation makes it hard to get jobs. Dees who can "pass" have an easier time getting jobs, so often end up supporting the couple.

'Disempowered toms are vulnerable to depression and addiction. Dees (and some toms) are pressured by their families to marry a man and have children. Some dees submit, which creates a stereotype that dees will ultimately do a u-turn and return to men. Toms, in anticipation of being left, sometimes stray, reinforcing the stereotype that they are unfaithful "players". Suicide is not uncommon, often prompted by a forced break-up.'

Gamnit said that she hopes the Thai gay women who see her film 'gain strength from seeing themselves on screen'.

'One of the goals of the film is to provide a concrete tool for reducing isolation and developing a stronger support network of toms and dees,' said Gamnit. 'This solidarity is crucial to the fight for tom/dee and other women’s civil rights within Thailand.'

Watch a trailer for Visible Silence: Thai Tomboys and the Ladies who Love Them here:

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