Let’s be honest - have most of you even heard of Myanmar before?
Today, Public National Radio posted an article about Myanmar’s annual Taung Byone Festival.
Walking across the sun-warmed stone of the main shrine in Taung Byone, the air is thick with the scent of flowers, offerings to the two spirits, or nats, at the heart of the festivities.
Most people here believe that if they pay enough respect and money to the spirits, they can make contact with them. But they have to go through a spirit medium, or a nat-sayer. A nat-sayer with tapered red nails and flowers in his long hair is wearing a dress.
This festival offers the LGBT community in Myanmar the opportunity to celebrate and find acceptance because it is thought that, because gay and transgendered people have elements of both femininity and masculinity, they can connect with spirits more effectively.
“If you are being possessed by a female nat, you dress like a female. If you are being a male nat, you dress like a male. You can change instantly,” according to Zaw Myo Naung, one of the official nat mediums.
He says gay men like him tend to be better at connecting with the spirits, because they have both a male and a female side.
Now this doesn’t mean that Myanmar expresses acceptance of its LGBT citizens all year long. In fact, in Myanmar, it is illegal for men to have sex with other men and there are no gay bars or open gay celebrities. This festival serves as the LGBT community’s only opportunity to celebrate their true-selves out of the entire year.
For one week, they are the most revered people in the country — connecting the spirit world with humans. And for the gay community of Myanmar, for that one week, there is no judgement.
For me, this phenomenon of having a once-a-year opportunity to be openly gay is very peculiar and nothing that I’ve ever expected to read about. Perhaps this will spark some interesting thoughts.
To read the whole article, visit this link.
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