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Burmese actor comes out as gay, shares cheeky kiss with boyfriend

Burmese actor comes out as gay, shares cheeky kiss with boyfriend

Burmese actor and model comes out as gay

Burmese actor and model Okkar Min Maung (also known as Ye Htoo Win) publicly came out as gay and revealed his boyfriend to the world with a cheeky onscreen kiss.

Maung posted a video to his Facebook page last Tuesday (26 June) confirming the news. This was after photos of him and his American partner went viral online.

It’s a controversial move, as same-sex sexual activity has a maximum penalty of life in prison. Same-sex couples also suffer from intense stigma within Myanmar society.

While the pair live together in New York, the news drew both applause and denunciation in Maung’s home country.

He wrote in Burmese in the caption of the video: ‘With regards to my photos going viral online, here is the authentic answer.’

In English, he followed it up with: ‘I am who I am, I love who I love. I won’t give up.’

In the video, he talks about his deceased partner in the past, as well as how proud he is to be a gay man. The video also shows his current partner coming to give him a kiss.

Earlier this week, a close friend of Maung’s leaked his private photos, showing him and his American partner lying together in bed.

These leaked photos – initially only shared among closed LGBTI circles – were later picked up by the local tabloids and went viral among the country’s 16 million social media users. The actor’s sexuality became the main topic of the day.

As expected, the young actor’s coming out story drew mixed criticism from his fans and the wider public. While the actor’s friends and fans showed support, many others responded negatively to the news. They wrote derogatory comments, cursing him and blaming him.

A Facebook user named Ohnma wrote: ‘It’s disgusting. If I were your parent, I would be ashamed for you. I am concerned this actor will spread his disease to young people.’

‘I feel sorry that you are born with the wrong soul’

There are a number of actors and public figures who are commonly known as gay in Myanmar. But no one has ever publicly confirmed their sexuality in the past for fear it would negatively affect their careers.

Maung’s coming out moment comes as a shocking revelation for many in Myanmar due to the actor’s macho appearance and the general understanding of the term ‘gay’ being limited to crossdressers or transgender people.

Another Facebook user wrote: ‘I feel sorry that you are born with the wrong soul. I prayed for you to be born in the right body in your next life.’

Actor Okkar Min Maung and his boyfriend
Actor Okkar Min Maung and his boyfriend. | Photo: Okkar Min Maung / Instagram

Myanmar is predominantly a Buddhist country and while they do not condemn homosexuality explicitly, it is widely believed that being gay is the result of misdeeds in past lives such as adultery or sexual misconducts.

Consequently, society sees gay people as abnormal and second class citizens.

Many believe if same-sex attraction becomes mainstream, it will be a disaster for the country. Myanmar is already going through the growing gender imbalance due to a large segment of working-age males leaving the country for job opportunities abroad.

‘It’s already very difficult to find a decent man these days,’ one Facebook user wrote. ‘If you guys are going for the same sex, the girls will be end up as nuns.’

Will he inspire other LGBTI people to come out?

Okkar Min Maung started his showbiz career as a model and recently won Mister Tourism World 2016.

He also starred in The Gemini, a movie about the secret relationship between two Burmese men. Although the movie was not commercially successful, it has became the first Burmese movie shown in American cinemas.

He is already known for participating in LGBTI-related events and activities, which are usually panned by celebrities to avoid criticisms.

Myanmar is known for crossdressing shaman performing the religious rituals and transvestite makeup artists.

The coming out stories of ‘straight acting’ guys like Okkar Min Maung is unprecedented.

Okkar Min Maung
Photo: Okkar Min Maung / Instagram

Successive Myanmar governments prosecuted and discriminated against the country’s LGBTI population.

The repressive laws and harsh social stigma make LGBTI people one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.

Section 377 of the Colonial-era Penal Code of Myanmar makes any kind of same-sex sexual act illegal. This is regardless of being consensual or not and are punishable by imprisonment for ten years to life.

An activist working for the improvement of LGBTI rights in Myanmar said that most gay men don’t have the capacity to be able to migrate to a LGBTI-friendly country find compatible partners and live safely as an openly gay man, just like Okka Min Maung did.

But the actor’s coming out story will undoubtedly inspire other gay men to talk publicly about their sexuality and increase awareness of the issue in the country.