TRY went through Asia Catalyst’s human rights documentation and advocacy program, focused on stopping the arbitrary arrests of LGBT people in Mandalay, Myanmar. They collected data on where the arrests were happening, set up meetings with police officials, and organized a legal help team so that LGBT people no longer have to live in fear. This Pride, we caught up with TRY to hear how their work is progressing. Below is a summary of their conversation with our Senior Program Officer, Khine Su Win.

During COVID-19, TRY has worked to address gender-based violence, which has gotten worse under lockdown. TRY saw a significant rise in cases in the pandemic. Staff spoke with women who were beaten and forced to leave home. Many said their partners were drinking heavily and have fallen back into addictive behaviors to try to cope with the stress, which is leading to more violence at home. TRY has been working with legal groups and the Mandalay Women Committee to lead mediations with women experiencing violence and support those in need of medical care.

A workshop on gender-based violence in Mandalay.

Transgender women have been particularly hard hit. Many trans women in Mandalay work as makeup artists or sex workers, and are now struggling to support their families without any income. TRY is pushing to make sure non-binary people and trans women are seen and included in laws on gender-based violence.

Because of semi-lockdown restrictions, TRY has primarily been reaching out to women and receiving complaints by phone or online. But as soon as Mandalay’s restrictions are lifted, they plan to visit slums and city outskirts to meet with survivors in person. They want to meet with local officials, who have been disregarding complaints to focus exclusively on COVID-19, and persuade them to take gender-based violence more seriously.

How does TRY celebrate Pride in a pandemic? This year, instead of holding their annual Pride beauty pageant for trans women, which doubles as an event to raise awareness about gender identity and LGBT rights, TRY is creating an online video experience of people talking about what being proud means to them. They also give out awards to LGBT activists, allies, and parents.

Read p5 here about TRY’s and Asia Catalyst’s collaboration, which describes how we work with grassroots groups to discover and master the tools they need to protect their rights and expand access to justice in their communities.

Happy Pride and thanks for reading!

Special thanks to our Lai See Society: Laurence Bates, Bruce Rabb, Randall Chamberlain, Yvonne Chan, Jerome & Joan Cohen, Joanne Csete, Kelley Currie, Deborah Davis, Leslie Day & Ernie Sander, Ann Hotung, Linda Lakhdhir, Sarah Lubman & Michael Dardia, Joy Rasin, Steve Rasin, Michael J. Schmale, James Seymour, Minky Worden, Deanne Wilson, Shannon Wu & Joseph Kahn, Tina Zonars