Myanmar spirit festival offers rare space for gay community

Waving their floral offerings in the air, devotees danced through a temple to celebrate Myanmar's biggest spirit festival which has also become a rare host for the country's marginalised gay community. The six-day spirit or "nat" celebration in Taungbyone village, around 20 kilometres from the central city of Mandalay, draws thousands of revellers each year in search of karmic reward as well as all-night parties.

Gay people in the former junta-run nation still routinely suffer discrimination despite sweeping modernisation in recent years that has started to create more openness. At Taungbyone, however, there is a warm welcome and many of the most well-regarded mediums are gay or transvestite, providing advice and a direct line to the spirits by day and spending evenings dancing in elaborate costumes as part of the celebrations.

Same-sex relations are criminalised under Myanmar's colonial-era penal code, and although the law is not strictly enforced, activists say it is still used by authorities to discriminate and extort. But taboos around homosexuality have begun to be relaxed after a quasi-civilian government replaced military rule in 2011.  Read More via Bangkok Post