APCOM HERO Awards 2022’s honourees list

By November 15, 2022 December 2nd, 2022 Newsroom, Regional, What We Do

COMMUNITY HERO Honourees

Supported by our Community Partner – ILGA Asia


Best Chitsanupong

Thailand

1. Tell us about yourself

Best Chitsanupong Nithiwana was born and raised in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2017, I and other transgender graduates were not allowed to wear clothes matching their identities. Therefore, they created an online petition on Change.org calling for the regulation change and received more than 2,000 online signatures. Subsequently, the university urgently declared a new regulation to allow us to wear uniforms according to our gender identity. Since then, I have become a human rights defender for transgender and young LGBTQ+ persons.

2. Tell us about your work

In 2018, I founded Young Pride Club, the LGBTQ+ youth community that provides educational content and youth leadership workshops for young people in Thailand. In addition, I was a public information assistant consultant at the UN Headquarters. I supported the digital campaign of Youth Peace Security to gain the meaningful participation of women and youth in peace processes worldwide. I was recently selected as one of the Chevening Scholars to study MA education, gender, and international development at University College London, the United Kingdom.

3. What one achievement you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of?

In collaboration with the U.S. embassy in Bangkok and key organizations working on the rights of youth in Thailand, Young Pride Club successfully organized Youth Pride Thailand. It is the first pride organized by LGBTQ+ youth and for LGBTQ+ youth. Over 500 participants from all over Thailand joined workshops and showcased their activism works.

4. What do you find most challenging about your work?

In the international development field, it is hard for youth to echo our unheard voices to other countries because there are gatekeepers that never contribute resources to younger generations and only give us an unmeaningful participation. In 2021, this was a big occasion for me to express our deep concern regarding the Thai government and its lack of attention to the LGBTQ+ community’s voice in Thailand at the Human Rights Council. During my presentation, I was nervous but extremely excited at the same time. To me, it was such a challenging yet fulfilling and proud moment.

5. What do you do to recharge your battery?

Even though society will judge activists to be role models. I used to force myself to be like others in this field through the way I dress and the way I talk. But I strongly believe that human rights defenders are human. We deserve to have a relaxing time like others. Now I usually reconnect with my interests and hobbies, including makeup, going out, and reconnecting with my beloved friends and families.

6. What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it?

Young people in Thailand are considered minors, have less power and lack seniority in the hierarchical society. Being transgender in Thailand is conditionally accepted only if you work in the entertainment industry. During high school, I chose to study BA in political science in international affairs. My teacher asked me why I studied this because a person like me would never be successful. After 5 years, I proved that a transgender youth like me could be accepted in the international community. I became the first transgender participant in the U.S. Exchange program, YSEALI Academic Fellows. 

7. You have been nominated for the Community Hero category of the HERO Awards. What was your reaction?

In 2018, I used to go to the HERO Award and I was very nervous. I did not know anyone and did not know that a person like me could be part of a gender equality movement. When I realized that I was nominated, I felt like my work as an Executive Director of the Young Pride Club had made an impact. We show that young LGBTQ+ people like us can be a part of this community when we work together and at the same time we continue to support others.

8. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what hopeful message would you like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific?

There is no universal tool to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and solve it in one day. While we are working on it, we should not forget to look at our friends, families, and loved ones and support each other during this challenging time.


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