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Queering Solidarity: Civil Society at the Fringes of ASEAN Regionalism and Alternatives for the LGBT

The neoliberal politics governing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) diplomacy has pushed this intergovernmental body to further close its doors from civil society. This deficit of political will to engage substantially with civil society puts the member states credibility into question as they proclaim to work for a people-oriented and people-centered regionalism. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons not falling into the categorical matrix of capitalist social reproduction—that of the heterosexual family—continue to face discrimination, harassment, and even death under the ineptness and toothless responses of Southeast Asian governments and the ASEAN as an intergovernmental body. Marginalized sectors such as workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, and women share similar and differing plights. The current situation, thus, deserves a rethinking at the onset of this already shrinking democratic space for civil society. This discussion paper champions the possibility of an alternative regional integration that emerges from the collective efforts of diverse Southeast Asian peoples and formations against the hegemonic development paradigm, which has left the LGBTQ+ far behind. In lobbing a critique of ASEANs heteropatriarchal neoliberal framework, the researchers suggest that solidarity with other sectors must be and is becoming central to LGBTQ+ and SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics)-based advocacy in Southeast Asia. Framing this reflection in Marxist and radical political economic queer theories that link neoliberalism and homophobia, this paper critiques the ASEAN and its toothless human rights mechanism for prioritizing profitmaking rather than the peoples concerns, of which the researchers figure the LGBTQ+ experience as part of. This paper also casts doubt on adopting a human rights discourse as the sole mechanism for LGBTQ+ and SOGIESC-based advocacy. Thus, this paper closes by showcasing three cases of alternative practices that contribute to realizing a regional integration in Southeast Asia that emphasizes civil society and includes and celebrates the LGBTQ+.


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