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These photos capture the lives and loves of Myanmar’s trans community

These photos capture the lives and loves of Myanmar’s trans community

Htet Htet runs a beauty salon, which also serves as a safe space for LGBT youths. (Photo: Grace Baey)

Singapore-based photographer Grace Baey spent a month getting to know, and photographing, Myanmar’s trans men and women.

‘I’ve been working with the trans community in Singapore for several years now, and was curious to learn more about what the dynamics were like in [Myanmar’s biggest city] Yangon’ the photographer told Gay Star News.

Her ongoing photo project explores the lives of transgender communities in Southeast Asia.

21 year-old Ow Wei is the youngest member of a transgender dance group called Moe Goe Nyan Gyer, which means “Thunder Little Birds”. She joined when she was 11 years old, after being estranged from her family. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her, but hopes that she can find employment as a make-up artist. (Photo: Grace Baey)
21 year-old Ow Wei is the youngest member of a transgender dance group called Moe Goe Nyan Gyer, which means “Thunder Little Birds”. She joined when she was 11 years old, after being estranged from her family. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her, but hopes that she can find employment as a make-up artist. (Photo: Grace Baey)

Myanmar criminalizes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. The British introduced it in 1860 and those found guilty face up to 10 years in jail. It is the same law India’s Supreme Court recently ruled was unconstitutional.

In Myanmar, LGBTI individuals face widespread discrimination in schools, the media, at work, and in their families.

Chris has an uneasy relationship with her grandfather who dotes on her, and doesn’t mind her putting on make-up at home. He is particularly concerned about her future, and struggles to fully understand why she would want to transition to be a woman. (Photo: Grace Baey)
Chris has an uneasy relationship with her grandfather who dotes on her, and doesn’t mind her putting on make-up at home. He is particularly concerned about her future, and struggles to fully understand why she would want to transition to be a woman. (Photo: Grace Baey)

‘International media portrayals about the trans community in Yangon tend to focus predominantly on issues of harassment, abuse and discrimination’ explained Baey.

‘It struck me that there’s so much happening on the ground that doesn’t get reported’ she said. ‘So I decided to start on a clean slate and learn through meeting as many people from the community as I could’.

Thu Thu posing for a shoot at a commercial photo studio. She is a brand ambassador for many leading brands in the make-up and clothing industry. (Photo: Grace Baey)
Thu Thu posing for a shoot at a commercial photo studio. She is a brand ambassador for many leading brands in the make-up and clothing industry. (Photo: Grace Baey)

In her photography series, Baey highlights the ‘resilience, courage, and camaraderie that defines the trans community in Yangon’.

‘I was interested to learn about the different kinds of familial support and social networks that the community has established against the backdrop of societal stigma and discrimination’.

She deliberately reached out to trans men and women from different backgrounds to get a fuller picture of the community.

Shin Thant works as an advocacy officer at Colors Rainbow. After experiencing several incidents of police abuse in Mandalay, she came to know about the work of Colors Rainbow through a training course on LGBT rights. She is now a strong advocate for LGBT rights in her community. (Photo: Grace Baey)
Shin Thant works as an advocacy officer at Colors Rainbow. After experiencing several incidents of police abuse in Mandalay, she came to know about the work of Colors Rainbow through a training course on LGBT rights. She is now a strong advocate for LGBT rights in her community. (Photo: Grace Baey)

Despite recent arrests under 377, Myanmar’s LGBTI community has seen signs of progress.

This year, the country celebrated its first public LGBTI pride event in its largest city, Yangon. Baey described the festival as ‘truly invigorating’.

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