Myanmar’s Pro-Democracy Protests Are Giving a Voice to LGBTQ+ People

Sue Sha Shin Thant, a transgender woman, has experienced a lifetime of discrimination and social exclusion in Myanmar, where LGBTQ+ people have no recognized rights or protections and the only words used to describe them in their own language are derogatory. Now, the Mandalay-based activist is among thousands of LGBTQ+ people marching under rainbow flags as they join mass protests against dictatorship. Millions of people, according to some estimates, have demonstrated since Myanmar’s generals seized power on Feb. 1, arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 40 elected officials. The army has responded with violence, gunning down at least 61 people including at least four children. State forces have also beaten medics responding to the wounded, and arrested 1,500 people as of Mar. 3, taking many from their homes at night. But, as protesters across the country join together to stand for democracy, an opening has emerged to advance the long-term social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. In Yangon and Mandalay—Myanmar’s largest and second-largest cities—LGBTQ+ people are marching by the hundreds, and in other cities and towns smaller contingents are waving rainbow flags as well.