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Meet the 21 heroes changing LGBTI Asia for the better

Meet the 21 heroes changing LGBTI Asia for the better

From India to Japan and everywhere in between, the LGBTI movement in Asia is gathering pace.

So meet 21 of its greatest heroes.

They’ve written books, made films, founded organizations, fought in the courts and taken on the most challenging work.

Most of all they’ve stood up for their fellow LGBTIs – and often been rewarded only with harassment, persecution and even imprisonment.

But now they are being recognized. They are all nominated for the second Asia LGBT Milestone Awards (ALMAs).

Judging is now under way and the winners will be announced at a ceremony in Bangkok on 14 April with tickets available here.

In addition to these individuals, 11 companies are also nominated for the awards, including Barclays, HSBC, IBM and Langham Hotels. Find out why they have been shortlisted here.

Hero of the Year

Nisha Ayub
Head of transwoman group Justice For Sisters, Malaysia. Together with lawyer Aston Paiva and the three unnamed transgender defendants, she helped to win the landmark Malaysian case that ruled a religious law against cross-dressing was discriminatory towards them.

Pinki Pramanik
A former female Indian track athlete and international gold medal winner, Pinki Pramanik came into national news in India in 2012 when a woman she lived with accused her of rape and of being a male in disguise.

In an ordeal lasting almost two years, the police humiliated Pramanik publicly, took her to a private nursing home without a court order and forcefully conducted a physical examination of her genitals.

She was repeatedly subjected to ‘sex-determination tests’ and her medical reports were shared in public without her consent. She was characterized as a deviant and even a potential murderer by some media.

But she put up a brave fight and became one of the few open voices of intersex people. In 2014, she was finally acquitted of all charges by the Calcutta High Court.

Wei Tingting
Wei Tingting raises the visibility of bisexuals in China, fights for social justice, including LGBTI issues and for feminism. She was arrested by police in March this year to prevent her activism and remains in detention.

Role Model of the Year

Amanda Lee Koe
The youngest ever winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for fiction at 27, for her short story collection – Ministry of Moral Panic.

Her work engages unapologetically with questions of gender and sexual identity. Her writing’s popularity across the generations and the discussion it generates paves the ground for new understanding of LGBTI individuals by mainstream society.

The Ministry of Moral Panic is considered to have revitalized literary prose fiction scene in Singapore.

Julian and Weeny
A Vietnamese lesbian couple of 10 years, more formally known as Tang Ai Linh and Pham Thi Thanh Phuong. Their highly publicized wedding ceremony delighted and inspired LGBTI people in the region.

Vincent Huang
The leader of Disabled Queer, the first disabled LGBTI group in Taiwan and a member of Hand Job Taiwan, a group to provide sex for disabled.

As a disabled LGBTI himself, he has been involved in the movement for years and established Disabled Queer to raise issues about emotional, sexual and social needs.

Icon of the Year

Aamir Khan
An Indian TV personality who advocated for LGBTI rights through his popular TV program Satyamevjayate in October 2014.

Geena Rocero
A Filipino transgender model and founder of Gender Proud. The last year has seen Rocero’s tireless efforts in educating everyone about the plight of the transgendered communities from a TedX lecture to going around the Philippines speaking about the everyday life and struggles of the trans community.

Jolin Tsai
In the pop star’s latest album Play, she pushed two music videos supporting the LGBTI community – one about lesbian couple and same-sex marriage, another promoting gender diversity.

As the Queen of Pop in Taiwan, her public support for same-sex marriage has had a huge positive influence on society.

Visual Inspiration of the Year

Fan Popo
His film, Mama Rainbow, about six mothers and their gay sons had made a big impact in China as well as scoring well at international film festivals. He also fights against the censorship.

Nguyen Thi Tham
Filmmaker behind the movie The Last Journey of Madam Phung who spent many months living with trans people in South Vietnam.

Unusually for a film of its kind, it sold out in cinemas and drew a lot of attention to trans issues in the country.

Sridhar Rangayan
A filmmaker, writer, activist and festival director who has consistently given a voice to LGBTI issues in India through his work.

His award winning films The Pink Mirror, Yours Emotionally, 68 Pages, Project Bolo and Purple Skies present hard-hitting social issues with warmth, compassion and humor.

He is also the director of Flashpoint Human Rights Film Festival and Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, South Asia’s biggest LGBTI film festival.

Community Leader of the Year

Abby Lee and Betty Grisoni
A married couple who do everything together as a team.

The pair are founders and coordinators of the only lesbian social network in Hong Kong: Les Peches. They have been involved in almost every LGBTI event and cause in Hong Kong in the last decade.

In 2014 the pair were among the founders of Double Happiness – an organization to fight for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong. As a result of their pressure, the French Consulate in Hong Kong agreed in the summer of 2014 to marry same-sex French citizens.

They are regularly called upon to represent lesbian views and to be interviewed in all types of media and are two of the best-known lesbian faces in Hong Kong.

Candy Darim Yun
A leader in transgender rights in Korea for many years, she fought for legal protection for trans people and raised the profile of issues that were even more overlooked that sexual orientation discrimination.

She is now the coordinator of the Transgender Patchwork Project which builds awareness, publishes media guidelines, interviews trans people and documents it all online.

William Shen
The founder of Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association and a board member of Taiwan LGBT Pride who has been working for LGBTI rights since the 1990s.

His work in the last year has raised the profile of older LGBTI people and helped lift the ban on HIV-positive immigrants coming in to the country as well as improving access to treatment for HIV.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Geng Le
Geng Le has come far in his journey to bring the gay-dating app he founded, Danlan and Blued, to success. He has overcome challenges from the authorities and fought social stigma. It is now the biggest app of its kind in the region.

Koyuki Higashi & Hiroko Masuhara
An openly lesbian couple who run the Trois Couleurs company. In addition, Kokyuki Higashi is a visible lesbian activist in Japan and appeared in an ad for shampoo for Unilever.

The pair hit the headlines when they married in Disneyland in 2012.

Sungjun Park
The CEO of Ivancity, the biggest online gay community in Korea.

He is also a big financial supporter of LGBTI cultural activities who has ensured many queer films are made and who held the Red Party fundraiser to fight AIDS.

The ALMA awards are the brainchild of the team behind Singapore’s online gay magazine ELEMENT. Find out how you can attend here. Read the list of corporate nominees here. Gay Star News is a media partner of the awards.