Hear Us Out: The Brave Voices of the LGBTQ+ and Women's Resilience

Editorial Note

The countries in the Asia-Pacific region differ in cultural and social circumstances. These differences have influenced the progress in promoting gender diversity and the legalization of same-sex marriage. New Zealand and Australia legalized same-sex marriage in 2013 and 2017, respectively, while Taiwan became the first in Asia to do so in 2019. Nepal followed suit in November 2023, and in Thailand, legislation was passed at the end of March this year. Other countries such as India, South Korea, and Japan continue to push for legalization through court litigation, constitutional interpretation, and other means. Though such legislation is crucial to the creation of inclusive societies, laws cannot directly eliminate the stigma and prejudice against minorities in society. To promote diversity and inclusiveness in public society, therefore, is a duty that contemporary museums must take on and uphold.

Efforts to advance these causes have given rise to uncertainty and anxiety for cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries in practice. To address this growing issue, the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) published Trans-Inclusive Culture: Guidance on advancing trans inclusion for museums, galleries, archives and heritage organisations in September 2023. The Guidance first emphasizes that the core of trans inclusion "can, and must, sit squarely alongside their commitment and their work to be anti-racist, to challenge sexism and support women's rights, to combat ableism and all forms of prejudice and discrimination." It also includes a number of concrete actions and strategies, firmly believing that "there is plenty of room in museums for all of us."

Certain mainstream values in the Asia-Pacific region have caused sexual minorities to be excluded from history, while sexual violence amidst conflicts is deliberately downplayed. The act of speaking out bravely despite suppression not only brings the scars of history into clear view, but also forms communities for self-identification and a sense of belonging through the recounting of personal history, preservation of community memories, and creation of new spaces in society for gender diversity. This issue of FIHRM-AP features four articles from Japan, Nepal, Australia, and Costa Rica that each explore how diversity can be represented through practices including exhibitions, publications, initiatives, and art.

In the news "Unveiling Survival Challenges of LGBT Refugees - Fleeing from War or Persecution?”, Satomi Shimada, the founder of Rainbow Refugee Japan Connection (RRCJ), shares the experience of LGBTQ+ refugees who were persecuted due to anti-gay laws in Kenya. In addition to launching aid campaigns, RRCJ has engaged in advocacy work and held exhibitions in Japan to inform the general public about the plight of these refugees.

The second news, "Chronicles of Silence: Resolute Utterance of Women from Conflict-Related Sexual Violence," comes from Pooja Pant, the founder of Voices of Women Media (VOW Media). Pooja Pant shines a light on the patriarchal society of Nepal, where the voices of women who suffered sexual violence in the Maoist conflicts of the Nepalese Civil War have long been unheard and neglected. Through workshops and exhibitions, these women have been given the opportunity to tell their own stories. A collective poetry collection, Chronicles of Silence, was also published in 2019.

A curator of the Counihan Gallery interviews queer artist Brady Michael (also known as "MIKE!") about his exhibition, “My Pop Life,” in the article "From Bedroom to Gallery: Exploring Queer Identity in 1980s Australia." A recreation and reimagining of Michael’s teenage bedroom, “My Pop Life” presents the pain and discrimination faced by teenagers in a time of growing homophobia during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as his fear, identity, and pride of being a queer person.

The article "Mine, Yours and Ours: MIO Museum as a Project for the Preservation of Memory" introduces the Museo de la Identidad y el Orgullo (Museum of Identity and Pride, MIO) in Costa Rica through Co-Chair Eunice Báez Sánchez. MIO means "mine" in Spanish, symbolizing the museum's dedication to the LGBTQ+ community, identity, and sense of pride. The museum has produced podcast programs for a long time in efforts to preserve the collective memories of the community.