A Test of Tolerance
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Saturday, June 15, 2024


A Test of Tolerance



A Karen singer’s complaint that he was blacklisted by a foundation in Burma because he was gay has triggered a debate about sexual prejudice in Burmese society.

The barred singer, Saw Yuri, told The Irrawaddy that the Rangoon-based Klo and Kweh Foundation had informed him he couldn’t perform for the organization any more, telling him “there are no gays in the Karen ethnic group.”

The Klo and Kweh Foundation, founded in 2001 by Karen people living in the United States and Burma, organizes social work and events for Karen communities. 

Yuri worked for the music awards scheme of the foundation since its formation. He has published two albums of Karen songs.

Yuri now lives with a Thai man in Thailand since the pair celebrated a marriage ceremony there three years ago. Gay marriage is prohibited in Burma. .

Saw Yuri

Several leading figures in Burma’s arts and entertainment scene condemned the Klo and Khwe Foundation’s action in blacklisting Yuri.

The popular author Nu Nu Ye (aka Inwa) said Burmese society should accept gays and “allow them to enjoy their rights, including marriage.”

Phyu Phyu Thin, a Rangoon-based HIV/AIDS activist, told The Irrawaddy that some Burmese believe gays should be shunned because it is thought they spread the HIV virus.

“Instead of saying whether they should be in society, we’d better think about how to deal with them,” she said. “As long as we don’t recognize them, gays will remain hidden away. Without openness and understanding, the spread of AIDS is likely to increase.”

Khaing Mar, a young Rangoon man, told The Irrawaddy that Burmese attitudes towards gays had changed, but only slightly. “There are still many limitations for gay couples,” he said.

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Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
Gayism is not our culture although we have always tolerated. It is an individual choice and must not be 'instituionalised'. Kayin groups, or indeed any group, can choose to exclude gays and lesbians; it is their fundamental human right to exclude. They are private associations. Even in the liberal West, majority do not accept gays and lesbians.

We congratulate our Kayin brethrens for sticking up for our 'shared values'.

Who is Khaing Mar? He does not respresent any Burmese group, let alone Burmese people. Don't brainwash people to become gays. This is a very dangerous 'Dracula Syndrome'. Stop contaminating Burmese blood!

It is our human right not to be deprived of our right to be 'pure'. We don't mind what gays and lesbians do with their own bodies but leave others alone. Not all gays are born gay; most become gay because they cannot get 'it' as hetrosexuals. Shameless lust!

And when you get AIDS, don't expect the society to pay.

Free Man Wrote:
I am not sure if it is that important whether the leading figures have condemned the K&K for its action. The thing is if the K&K dismissed Saw Yuri on the grounds of sexual orientation, then it should be reprimanded. I wonder if K&K would want to sever its connection with Karens who have de facto relationship, use contraceptives, are divorced, etc. as there are no such things in Karen culture, huh? If so, they will also have to expel themselves and cut their connections with many Karens living along the border and in diaspora.

Ko Laing,

Apart from men and women, there are hermaphrodites. It is said that no men and women are fully men and women genetically. There are very hairy women, women with "male" voice, muscular women, feminine-looking men, men with "female" voice, slim and slender men, very gentle men, very macho women, men with breasts, men with only one testicle, women with flat chests, women with clitorises virtually similar to male organs, etc, etc.

kanyaw Wrote:
Absolutely agree with Kwe Klo. Irrawaddy is just a tool for a few persons to attack anyone who disagrees with them. This is normal to see. They have no journalistic ethics at all. So sad.

Ko Laing Wrote:
Dear Saw Yuri and Irrawaddy,

I am sorry to say this. But the truth is that there are only two kinds of human on earth - female and male (woman and man).

Anyone who is neither woman nor man is alien or guest. So, real man and woman have to defend their homeland from invasion of aliens.

By common sense, alien or guest should follow the requirements of host. If they do not agree with the terms and conditions of the host, they must go somewhere else.

In brief, if there are someone who don't belong to the categories of woman and man, they should find somewhere where they belong.

It is no good to blame people saying - "oh! you have no tolerance on sexuality". Because there are only two sexes - female and male!!!

Nawtali Wrote:
Shame on you, The Clo and Kweh! What's so wrong with people marrying whom they love, whether it be same sex or opposite sex. If you disagree with same sex marriage, then just don't marry people who have the same sex as you!

inthesot Wrote:
Where does homophobia come from? Why are people homophobic? Usually when people develop a prejudice towards an individual or a group of people based on their sexuality, their skin color, their religion, their disability, their ethnicity or whatever, it is based on fear of the unknown, the way they have been brought up (i.e. the beliefs and values of their parents, community, environment) or from plain ignorance. Perhaps we can hold the church and religions to account for perpetuating outdated practices and beliefs. Homosexual people are people first and their sexuality is what makes them who they are - individuals with unique genes (which include eye color, hair type, weight, height, etc). Let us all work towards changing these restricting and damaging attitudes so that we can all live together in a diverse world where respect is based on the good that you do not on the genes you inherit. Those who have suffered ethnic discrimination really should be leading by example!

Free Man Wrote:
My background is rooted in Karen culture. But being a human being is more important to me since culture is man-made.

IF it is true that the Klo and Kwe Foundation expelled Saw Yuri based on his sexual orientation, I condemn it for that. I repeat, I condemn it.

Some people tend to think that being gay is a value that you can choose. The fact is it is not. They are what they are, like anyone of us. Why don't we do a little bit of study on this instead of willfully letting ourselves be incarcerated in the prison of ignorance?

It is totally a display of ignorance to say that "there are no gays in the Karen ethnic group." Or this is just a total lie.

Lastly, HIV virus spreads not because of gays, but because of unsafe sex.

Naing Aung Wrote:
Dear Yuri and Irrawaddy,

Thanks for bring up this issue for debate as it is needed for the general population to understand the voice of the marginalized and true values of human rights.

1. Being gay or lesbian is not a disease or abnormality. Hating and discriminating someone who is not the same as the majority population is against the principle of democracy as well.

2. Cultivating love and kindness among the people irrespective of sex, race, gender and appearance should be welcomed more than hatred and war.

3. I also found the interesting point that Yuri was accepted before by the community when he was individual gay but now he is rejected after being married. It is contradicting view of that community.

4. Definitely, activists who wish for
freedom, equality and justice have to work hard to achieve peaceful world.

Kweh Klo Wrote:
You said: "Several leading figures in Burma’s arts and entertainment scene condemned the Klo and Khwe Foundation’s action in blacklisting Yuri." Please tell me who the "leading figures" are? And, please reveal how and when they "condemned" the Klo & Kweh Foundation. I have never heard the condemnation. Please do not do a cheap shot like that. Thank you.

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