How to Be Gay in Asia

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Imagining Gay ParadiseImagining Gay Paradise: Bali, Bangkok, and Cyber-Singapore
by Gary L. Atkins
Hong Kong University Press. 316 pages, $25.

 

THIS FASCINATING STUDY explores three places in Asia and the Pacific where gays have created and defended a community for themselves. Atkins, a communications professor at Seattle University, tells the stories of Bali, Bangkok, and Singapore on their separate journeys to becoming, respectively, the æsthetic capital, the pleasure capital, and the intellectual capital of the region.

Atkins begins with Bangkok and Vajiravudh, heir to the throne of what was known in the early 20th century as the kingdom of Siam. Vajiravudh, educated in England, succeeded his father and worked hard to navigate between traditional Siamese culture and the demands of European powers to “civilize” the kingdom and accept Western standards. For instance, the kingdom relied on the relationships between a man and his multiple wives and their children to maintain order. Vajiravudh’s father had 77 children by 35 wives. This was a major offense to the colonial powers’ values, as was the gender-neutral clothing worn by many Siamese people.

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