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Utopia Awards 2003

sponsored in part by

Regency Park Hotel, Bangkok

TQPR Thailand

Roxy Bar & Club

The 4th annual Utopia Awards were held on Friday, November 14, 2003 at Roxy Bar & Club 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 were Zack and Jiew from Utopia. The Award ceremony was timed to kick off Bangkok Pride weekend. This year's honorees were selected from Hong Kong S.A.R., Taiwan, and Thailand.

The unique design of the Utopia Award (above 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 2003 by Utopia.
Please contact us for permission to reproduce.

Thai Senator Jon UngpakornThe evening's first Utopia Award was presented to Senator Jon Ungpakorn for his pioneering chairmanship of Thailand's AIDS Access Foundation and his untiring use of his public position to promote the political and public health rights of all Thais living with HIV/AIDS. For many years a noted champion of gay and lesbian rights, he has campaigned tirelessly for those living with HIV/AIDS not to be excluded from the Thai national health insurance system. He has publicly opposed those who seek to enrich themselves by taking advantage of AIDS sufferers, and he has been a leader in the fight to convince international pharmaceutical companies to supply essential drugs at the lowest possible prices. Senator Ungpakorn has been a guiding light in the Access Foundation, which provides long-term care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS, including anonymous telephone counseling, welfare services, health clinics, home care and advocacy on drug access.

The second award of the evening was given to Wang Ping for her persistence in keeping gay and lesbian rights at the forefront of public debate in Taiwan, and for her inspiring leadership of Taiwan's premiere women's and GLBT rights organization. Wang Ping's activism began in the 1980s, when she championed the rights of Taiwanese women. Over the next two decades, she began to speak out on issues of importance to the gay and lesbian community, still to this day seriously marginalized in Taiwan. This culminated in her authorship of a comprehensive "Report on LGBT Human Rights in Taiwan", released in 2002. Wang Ping is Secretary-General of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association of Taiwan (GSRAT), founded in 1999. This has involved her in lobbying the Government for the legalization of same-sex unions, gay inheritance rights, and joint property, insurance and adoption rights. Her high public profile was recognized last year when she was given a prestigious medal by the Mayor of Taipei for her contribution to the social development of that city.

Our third award honored Chung To for his founding and chairmanship of the Chi Heng Foundation, the foremost gay rights advocacy group in Hong Kong, and for his pioneering role in AIDS awareness outreach programs in China. Chi Heng Foundation promotes the rights of the tongzhi (queer "comrade") community through political advocacy, public education, media campaigns and community building. Chung To has served as a full time volunteer without any salary, sponsoring gay film festivals, lobbying for legislative protection of minorities, and encouraging the development of tongzhi websites. Under Chung To's leadership, the Chi Heng Foundation has expanded into mainland China, focusing on AIDS prevention among MSM (men who have sex with men), the wider gay community, Internet users, and male sex workers. UNAIDS named Chi Heng's community-based MSM project as the Best Practice Model for China. Under a separate project in Henan, Chi Heng is sponsoring over 700 students whose parents have died of or are dying of AIDS. He has also been Chairman of AIDS Concern and a member of the AIDS Prevention and Care Committee appointed by the Hong Kong Government.

This year's final award was presented to Parinya Jaroenphon for her exceptional courage and outspokenness, which have made her a role model for transgendered people worldwide and given them hope that they also will be successful in finding and celebrating their true selves. Affectionately known as "Nong Toom" to all Thais, who have taken her to their hearts, Parinya Jaroenphon took up muay thai (kick-boxing) as a 12 year old boy in Chiang Mai. Her success in the ring was accompanied by her growing realization that she was in fact a woman, and she single-mindedly set out to earn enough from her boxing prowess to pay for a transformation to her true gender. Her inspiring story is told in the feature film, Beautiful Boxer. Although her situation was by no means unique, she was extraordinary for the determination with which she involved the public in her transformation, becoming a household name at the young age of 16 and appearing in music videos, advertisements and television soap operas. Although she is now a woman, she has steadfastly lent her support to gay causes, and was a co-founder and supporter of the original Bangkok Gay Festival. At 22, she is our youngest-ever Utopia Award winner.

Scenes from the 2003 Utopia Awards...

The fabulous Extreme Dancers provided entertainment
The fabulous Extreme Dancers provided entertainment.
Emcees Jiew and Zack from Utopia
Emcees Jiew (left) and Zack from Utopia.

The Roxy provided an elegant setting for the awards
The Roxy provided an elegant setting for the awards.
Parinya with sneak preview scenes from her life story as told in the forthcoming film Beautiful Boxer
Parinya with sneak preview scenes from her life story as told in the forthcoming film Beautiful Boxer.

The awardees posed together for photos
The awardees posed together for photos.
The fabulous Roxy staff kept the drinks (and smiles) flowing
The fabulous Roxy staff kept the drinks (and smiles) flowing throughout the evening.

Last year's awardees were Singaporean gay activist Alex Au, Thai performer and author Daychawut Chantakaro, restaurateur and philanthropist, Bruno Forrer, and ProGay Philippines.

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


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