Myanmar’s LGBTI welcome first community cafe

LGBTI cafe My Place opens in Myanmar's commercial hub, Yangon

Myanmar last month opened what could well be the country’s first LGBTI cafe, named My Place.

Well-known actress Khine Hnin Wai and her partner Junior Dennis set up the cafe in the country’s commercial hub, Yangon.

‘I want them [LGBTI] to feel warm, relax, and equality when they come to My Place.’ said Junior Dennis.

Homosexual sex is illegal in Myanmar under article 377 of the colonial-era penal code, although it is rarely enforced.

LGBTI people in Myanmar do, however, face widespread stigma and discrimination.

Local LGBTI people and allies have welcomed the community space.

Facebook users reviewing the cafe described it as ‘friendly,’ ‘warm,’ ‘welcoming’ and said that it ‘empowered’ the local LGBTI community.

‘Why not Myanmar?’

Junior Dennis explained that neighboring China and Thailand have many LGBTI venues. ‘Why not Myanmar?’ the owner asked.

No one will look down on people at My Place, said Junior Dennis.

‘[Customers] are all equal to any other human beings and have all the rights of human society,’ the owner said.

The couple adorned the cafe’s walls with photos of LGBTI celebrities including Sam Smith, Kristen Stewart, and Ellen DeGeneres.

The cafe sells rainbow accessories including shirts and flags and offers leaflets and advice LGBTI issues.

It serves up local coffee and Thai food with half of profits going to a charity founded by Khine Hnin Wai.

Myanmar's first LGBTI cafe in commercial hub, Yangon.

Myanmar’s first LGBTI cafe in commercial hub, Yangon.

More safe spaces

HlaMyat Tun of local LGBTI group Colors Rainbow welcomed the new space for the community.

But, the activist, said: ‘Importantly, existing spaces should also be non-discriminatory.’

‘We need more safe spaces in daily life, such as schools, home, and workplaces,’ he told Gay Star News.

‘People look down [on LGBTI] for no concrete reason and start discriminating by isolating them from the society,’ he explained.

In January, thousands attended Myanmar’s first public LGBTI pride party.

Last month, Myanmar actor and model Okkar Min Maung (also known as Ye Htoo Win) sent shockwaves through society when he publicly came out as gay.

‘I am who I am, I love who I love. I won’t give up,’ he said in a video that went viral.