Utopia Awards 2001

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The second annual Utopia Awards was celebrated on Friday, November 2, 2001 at Pharoah's Music Bar in Bangkok, to give recognition to individuals and organizations which have contributed to improving the quality of life for gay, lesbian, and transgendered communities in Asia. Hosting this year's Awards was Natayada na Songkhla, former editor of Thailand Tatler, and cabaret diva, Dechawut "Day" Chuntakaro. The Award ceremony was timed to coincide with the other events which made up the third annual Bangkok Gay Festival and Bangkok Pride 2001. This year's honorees were selected from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The unique design of the Utopia Award (right) incorporates the shape of a lotus bud, hand-glazed with the six colors of the gay pride rainbow, using the techniques of classic Thai benjarong porcelain.

all images are copyright © 2001 by Utopia.

Emcees Natayada (left) and Day hosted the 2001 ceremonies.

Dr. Dédé Oetomo in rainbow attire.

Khartini Slamah graciously accepted the award on behalf of the Pink Triangle Foundation.

Two of our winners sharing a laugh.

The evening's first Utopia Award was presented to Dédé Oetomo, Indonesia's most respected gay rights activist. Gay and lesbian rights activists in Indonesia, and indeed throughout Asia, have reason to acknowledge and honor Dr. Dédé Oetomo as one of the true pioneers of gay emancipation in Asia. He is the founder and coordinator of Gaya Nusantara, based in Surabaya, which works for the physical, psychological and social health of gay men, transgenders, and male sex workers. Under Dédé's guidance, Gaya Nusantara publishes a monthly national magazine, runs a twice-weekly telephone helpline, provides peer counseling by correspondence and in face-to-face encounters, and carries out outreach work to the media, human rights organizations and political parties. Dédé Oetomo has been working actively in pursuit of gay and lesbian rights for two decades and is currently technical advisor in the male sexual health division of the ASA (Aksi Stop AIDS) program in Indonesia.

The second honoree was Wannasak Sirilar, a pioneering Thai stage performer. Over the past few years, Thailand's lively performing arts scene has begun to realize that it has a true star in its midst, a young artist who explores important gay themes in his hilarious but thought- provoking one-man performances. Wannasak Sirilar is still only 32 and so we have many more years in which to be entertained and moved by his dramatic talents. During his university studies of Pali and Sanskrit he demonstrated a flair for drama and dance. HeHe studied these with several theatrical mentors, soon winning an award for Best New Talent. He has continued his work in mainstream professional theatre but, wishing to explore gay themes in new and challenging ways, he has written and performed his now famous one-man shows, which have introduced homosexual themes into Thai theater and broadened public discussion of gay issues.

This year's final award was presented to the Pink Triangle foundation, Malaysia's most prominent HIV activists. The Pink Triangle Foundation was the first NGO in Malaysia to work at the community level on HIV and sexuality issues, having begun work on behalf of Kuala Lumpur's marginalized gay community in 1987, shortly after the first cases of AIDS were diagnosed in Malaysia. By the early 1990s it was well established, with its own HIV education and support programs, one of the best-known of which is Positive Living, a support and care project specifically for people living with HIV/AIDS. Today the Pink Triangle Foundation has 18 staff and about 100 volunteers involved in its HIV prevention and support programs. The environment for gays and lesbians in Malaysia is still not a welcoming one, and the Pink Triangle Foundation has been truly heroic in its determination and single-mindedness in difficult circumstances.

More scenes from the Utopia Awards 2001...

Pharoah's Music Bar was the elegant location of the 2001 Awards.

Khun Day and Khun Anan (right) from Freeman Dance Arena.

Smiling faces in the crowd.

A divine duet delivered by Khun Day's team from Freeman Dance Arena.

Philip Cornwel-Smith of Bangkok's Metro Magazine, with emcee Natayada.

Last year's awardees were the AIDS activist Natee Teerarojjanapongs, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon director of the film Satreelex (Iron Ladies), the lesbian activist Anjaree Group, and the gay publishing house Floating Lotus.

For more information and photos from last year's award ceremony, please click here

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