Welcome to Gay Thailand
The Thais are very tolerant generally and homosexuality is accepted in Thailand. There are no anti-gay laws and the age of consent is the same as for heterosexuals. Bear in mind though that Thais do not display affection in public so avoid excessive displays of affection. It is more acceptable for people of the same sex to show affection towards each other than people of the opposite sex but only in a friendly, non-overtly sexual way. You may often see Thai men or women holding hands. This denotes a friendship rather than a relationship. Thais tend to be discreet about homosexual relationships but there isn't the same social stigma that there is in the West. While as yet homosexual celebrities and politicians are not officially 'out', their preferences are widely known and accepted.
However while there are no laws against homosexuality, there are also no anti-discrimination laws protecting gay men and women. There is no gay rights organization apart from Anjaree, which is Thailand's only lesbian society. In 1996 to 1997 there was a ban on homosexuals becoming teachers which Anjaree successfully fought for gays and lesbians. As women in Thailand do not have the same freedom as men, and there are few lesbian venues, Thai lesbians can end up feeling isolated which is one of the issues that Anjaree is seeking to address. Homosexuality used to be seen as a mental health issue but this was reversed by the government in 1993. Gays and lesbians tend to be portrayed in the media in a way which perpetuates stereotypes. Gay-bashing, or violence against gays, is very unusual in Thailand as aggression is not part of their culture.
The gay scene tends to be higher profile than the lesbian scene, as in the West, but there are a few lesbian-only bars around. Venues tend to be karaoke bars, restaurants, bars, clubs, massage parlours, saunas and gyms. The main areas for gay nightlife are Bangkok, where there are gay and lesbian bars and clubs, and larger tourist resorts like Phuket. The more upmarket places tend to attract young Thai males looking for a rich farang (Western) boyfriend to supplement their income. There are Pride events and gay festivals in some areas of Thailand.
There are the gay equivalents to the go-go bars with live sex shows. Some of them have drag acts. These tend to be for gay men only with no lesbian equivalent. Some of the gay prostitutes are underage and also there are those who are straight but are working in the gay farang prostitution scene through economic necessity. HIV and AIDS is a big issue in Thailand whether you are straight or gay so use protection. There are clinics where you can get tested if you need to.
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