Almost 6000 people turned up on Sunday to celebrate the first legal pride party in Myanmar.
The &Proud Festival is usually just a film festival held in the a private location at the French Institute.
But this year organizers were given the green light from authorities to go public with the festival which saw numbers of attendees double on just the first day.
‘I would say this is not just for the LGBT community. This is for the whole country, acknowledging equality and basic human rights,’ festival co-director Hla Myat Tun told AFP.
Like many former British colonies, Myanmar still has Section 377 of the Penal Code which outlaws ‘sexual acts against the order of nature’ and is used against the LGBTI community.
‘Last year, we only had between 3,500 and 4,000 in a total of four days. So, we can say this year is a big success,” festival organizer Sai Maung Oo told The Myanmar Times.
Sunday’s event included live performances, drag queen races, a handbag throwing competition and a Human Library.
The Library was one of the most popular events at the festival because it allowed LGBTI people to share their life experiences.
For many people in Myanmar the only information they get about the LGBTI community is from the media where LGBTI people are often the source of ridicule.
‘Some people don’t know about LGBT people,’ 20-year-old Thaw Zin told AFP.
‘You get people who are LGBT but they don’t know what that is. They don’t understand. So that’s why it’s difficult for other people to understand as well.’
&Proud will run over two weekend with the film festival portion happening this weekend.
Festival goers will have the opportunity to watch 20 different films and attend panel discussion over four days from 1 February.
The opening film, A Simple Love Story, was directed by Hnin Phyu Phyu Soe.
A Simple Love Story was never screened publicly because of objections from the film censorship board.
‘Myanmar has seen a lot of changes during these years,’ Hnin Phyu Phyu Soe told the Myanmar Time.
‘One of the biggest changes for us is having the festival take place in a public space. But with films, we’re still stuck in the role of mocking and discriminating [LGBT people].’