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FEATURE STORY

Humans of Bangkok: Kowit Phadungruangkij

May 15, 2017


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To commemorate International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) 2017, the World Bank partnered with Humans of Bangkok to create a series of inspiring stories to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate the families and relationships that LGBTI people have, created, or chosen, in all their diversity, in Thailand. 

"I belong to an older generation, brought up with the idea that being gay is some sort of anomaly. As a child I wasn’t sure. I started observing my identity when studying in university and then at work. Still… I was in denial because deep inside I tried to hide it. When people said ‘Is he gay?’ I felt offended and I thought to myself, NO, I am not gay. I told myself that I'll have a normal life one day – get married, start a family.  At one point I had a girlfriend. We were happy with each other, and it lasted a year. Did I try to fool myself? I couldn't say. It sounds funny but what opened me up to the world was the internet. Through the internet, I got to see that men can actually [have relationships] with men. I went into chat rooms. That became an entire new world for me. During the day, I went to work. At night, I went into chat rooms. The internet was a space for me to express my “other” identity.”

"Gradually I learned…and accepted my [real] identity. It was clear that I did not fancy women. So I began dating a man. I spent a long time trying to embrace my own identity. It was a gradual process. One day I told myself that even though I don't fancy women, there is nothing wrong about myself! That's the first hurdle I overcame. The next hurdle was to tell people I am close to. I told my best friend and his response was, "You held it inside you all these years, aren't you frustrated?". Nobody around me made an issue of it but actually scolded me for taking so long to tell [them]!”

“Now about my family. At that time, I was using my older brother's computer to surf the internet. So whatever websites I visited he surely would know. My sister told me before, "Whatever you are, mom and dad surely can accept." My mom and dad were probably had their suspicions  but we never really had a serious conversation about it. When I brought home my current partner, it was a way for me to confirm my identity with them. They accepted us at the family dinner table and we also arranged for our two families to meet. We think that's de facto acceptance on their part. No words were necessary.”

"My environment played a big part in self-realization. Initially, I worked in a not-so-open office setting. Then I moved to the magazine industry where there's a greater degree of openness. Had I been in this setting from the start, I probably would have come out a long time ago. Being in a family that can accept [my homosexuality] makes me feel that I am not abnormal. Telling my best friend was like tearing down the walls that I built to protect myself. Once those walls fell, there were no more barriers. My life and work now fuse as one. Having overcome those hurdles, I no longer get angry or upset at what people say. They don't bother me because people I care for understand me. When we don’t spend our whole life suppressing who we are, we will be free, and able to release are full potential. It feels darn good!" 



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