A Cabaret show featuring transvestite performers from Thailand was held in front of enthusiastic audiences at the Myanmar Convention Centre in Yangon on October 25 and 26.
The “First Musical Show” featured members of the Thailand-based Membo cabaret troupe, who combined comedy with pop music covers from the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
Nan Su Kay Swan, a yoga teacher and presenter at the concert, said she “appreciated” how the transvestite performers were “enjoying their life”.
“For human beings, they are just trying to live their life meaningfully, with happiness and in the way they choose. They have found the best way to live their lives, and I respect that,” she said.
Audience members showed great support for the concert, including 64-year-old Saw Nandar (aka David). He is a founder of Moe Gyo Nget Nge Lay Myar (Thunder Birds), a gay performance group founded in Yangon in 1967.
He applauded the Thai entertainers, but added that Myanmar performers can rival foreign acts in terms of creativity and presentation.
“The Thai performers have had surgery on every part of their bodies because they come from a country with the technology for such procedures,” Saw Nandar said.
“We don’t have the chance to do that in Myanmar because we lack proper serves and also money, but we try to be as beautiful as we can with our natural bodies.”
He said the Thai performers also have an advantage because they use supporting props and elaborate stage sets.
“In Myanmar, we must attract audiences with our performance alone because we lack stage sets and props, and there is no air conditioning. We even do our own makeup and create our own dresses,” he said.
Saw Nandar said the support of his family has been important in helping him find his way in life.
“When my parents found out I was gay, they didn’t give me any pressure. They just helped me discover what I was good at, and then supported me in pursuing it,” he said.
“Some parents of gay children aren’t like that. They treat their kids rudely and pressure them to ‘change back into a man’. This kind of reaction can lead children in the wrong direction, like running away from home so they can live without parental control. I’ve seen many lives ruined right in front of my eyes because of their way their families reacted.”
Saw Nandar said the support of his family gave him the confidence to form Moe Gyo Nget Nge Lay Myar with his friends while they were in high school in the late 1960s.
He said life is much easier now for gay people in Myanmar as the population becomes more knowledgeable about the gay community.
“In the past there was a lot of discrimination, even for job opportunities. Gay people were rejected in favour of non-gays, even if the gay person was more qualified or smarter,” Saw Nandar said.
“But nowadays we see many gay people not only getting jobs, but also holding good positions in their companies.”