STORY OF CHICHANG - Proud to be Us Laos - a co-partner of MCNV - Laos
Hi everyone! My name is Chichang, I'm 20 years old and live in Laos. I"m a girl who is sexually attracted to other girls. I participated as the main actress in the shadow drama ‘Forbidden Love", that was shown as part of the Voice-funded project Innovative Communication Methods: its use and learning led by MCNV in which ‘Proud to be Us Laos" was a partner. Below you can read an interview with me about my experiences during and after the project! Enjoy.....
Q: Can you say something about your life before participating in the shadow play “Forbidden Love”?
A: Before getting involved in “Forbidden Love”, I was introvert and timid, lacking self-confidence. I was not brave enough to have a girlfriend. I thought society would not accept it if I dated or had a romantic relationship with someone's daughter. I was afraid it might lead to problems in the family and my lover would be forced to make a choice between her lover or her biological family. Because of this, I thought it would be better to stay on my own for the rest of my life. I did not dare to pursue love. Living alone would not make me happy, but it would be the only solution to avoid family issues. Do you want to know what it feels like? Living without love, feels like you are just waiting to die.
Q: How has the participation in the shadow play changed your life?
A: Although it was a short play, it was very meaningful. I played the main character who took pills for suicide because of an obstructed love. I gained immediate courage from the play. It"s a sad story and I realised I did not want the real life of LGBTQI persons to be like this. I wanted to fight and show the society that LGBTQI persons have loving hearts too. They can have relationships with their loved ones without considering their sexual orientation as an issue. I got the confidence and felt the freedom to express myself. The shadow play has changed my view on my position in society and has taught me to keep fighting - I must be strong!
Q: You have participated in an exchange trip to Cambodia together with the Laos Disabled Peoples Organisation. How has that influenced your life?
A: I indeed had the opportunity to meet people with disabilities. They had different disabilities and lived their lives in a variety of ways. I felt a lot of pity for them, but I was also proud to see them smiling happily. Despite their disabilities, they have a strong heart. They tried to do things that they can do. Things that I learned from them include courage and focus. After the visit, I changed some of my bad habits in life. I now drive more slowly, eat much more vegetables, take care of my health and remind others around to look after themselves.
Q: You have also attended the International Lesbian and Gay Association Asia Conference last December in Phnom Penh. What was your experience?
A: After attending the ILGA Asia Conference in Phnom Penh, my life has changed a lot. I learned a lot of things from LGBTQI persons when people shared their own life experiences. They shared how they deal with society and their families to gain acceptance. They were smart, and I admired their abilities very much. There are a lot of countries that legally allow same-sex marriage. I hope that one day I can also legally marry my partner. At least, now I am already brave enough to have a girlfriend. I changed my thought from “I should live alone forever” to “I should find someone to be my girlfriend”.
Q: How are you dealing with questions from your surroundings?
A: Before attending the ILGA conference, when people asked me if I was “a girl or a boy?”, I was timid and replied that I was a girl. After attending the conference, I smile at the "questioners" and tell them that I am a tomboy. I am biologically female, but have a short haircut, dress like a boy and love other girls.
Some of them understand, but others still ask me things as: “How you can have children?”. I now smile and reply: “I may not produce children, but me and my partner can still love each other and live together with respect. There are also straight married couples who are happily childless”.
Nowadays, I still get many questions from people around me, but I am not afraid to answer them. In fact, I am happy to be asked; it means that people have an interest to learn. When they know more about this issue and understand, they will start being comfortable with the LGBTQI community. I hope to live peacefully without troubles with others. Being a good citizen will eventually lead to social acceptance.
Q: Do you have any opportunities for additional work now because of the MCNV project?
A: After I got involved with ‘Proud to be Us" Laos, I had the opportunity to attend meetings and gatherings. This allowed me to learn about the work and operations of various organisations. I was also given the opportunity to join a Youth Policy project run by UNESCO in Thailand in collaboration with the Lao Youth Union. This project is now under development and my main responsibility is to be one of the leaders of the survey on young LGBTQI persons in Laos. It"s in the planning stages right now.
Note: this interview with Chichang was carried out by a Proud To Be Us member and written up by Akke Schuurmans, former employee with MCNV and in charge of the Voice-funded project Innovative Communication Methods. If this story inspired you to watch the shadow play you can do so here.
Sadly Chichang committed suicide in July 2018, a risk especially amongyoung LGBTI persons. We remember Chichang with fondness and deep respect.