Kathmandu (Pahichan) May 26 – With its gently whirring ceiling fans, high louver windows and white-jacketed staff, not to mention the statue of a stern-faced Queen Victoria center stage in the garden, the British ambassador’s residence in Bangkok visitor is all that is to be expected of a U.K. diplomatic mission in the Far East.
The very modern family that resides there now, however, is a much less traditional affair.
Brian Davidson, Britain’s man in Bangkok and the epitome of a thoroughly contemporary ambassador, shares the Colonial-style home, with Scott Chang, his Chinese-American husband, and their baby son Eliot, born to a surrogate mother in California.
In the convention-bound world of the diplomatic circuit, their cosmopolitan domestic set-up would until recently have been unthinkable. Although bans on homosexuality were lifted for the foreign services in Britain and America in the early 1990s, prejudice and stigma often lingered and it has taken two decades for out gay career diplomats to rise through the ranks to such senior positions.
‘World is Changing’
Davidson is at the forefront of the first generation of ambassadors who are openly gay, and often also now married, to represent their countries. The 53-year-old Northern Irishman juggles the usual range of duties and responsibilities for a senior diplomat. But he also has used the standing and access afforded by his position to put a focus on LGBTI causes—often simply by talking about the life that he shares his husband and their son.
“This our life. It’s really nothing unusual, though it may still seem unconventional to some,” he said. “We are very lucky to live in a world that allows us to be ourselves. We know there is an importance to making our lives visible to others, to show what is possible and that the world is changing.”
That is what he will be doing on Wednesday when he is a speaker at a day-long conference in the Thai capital to mark IDAHOT Day (pronounced as in the U.S. state of Idaho)—or, to give it the full name, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The largest worldwide LGBTI solidarity event is held every May 17—to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder—and the 2017 theme is “family” in all its diversity.
It also will be marked this year by the release from prison in the U.S. of Chelsea Manning, who as Private Bradley Manning disclosed a huge trove of American military secrets to WikiLeaks.
Davidson and Chang, 35 first became inadvertent gay role models in 2014 in China—where they both were previously posted—after their marriage conducted at the British embassy in Beijing provoked a viral firestorm on social media. In Bangkok, the ambassador has opened the doors to their home for the welcoming reception for the international gay and lesbian group ILGA, festooning his 90-year-old home in rainbow flags for a night. He also provided the platform for a panel discussion with participants from several Asian countries where LGBTI rights are under threat. Next up will be the talk about his “rainbow family” on Wednesday.
Davidson spoke to Newsweek about the message that he will deliver. “In many respects our family is a much bigger entity than just the three of us and our immediate relatives,” he said.
“It also includes many friends, gay and straight, who have supported us on this journey and will play a role in raising Eliot in a loving, diverse community. They have talked through with us the challenges of parenthood and how we would explain to our son were he came from and any issues with him that might arise over having two dads. Our support for IDAHOT is part of a hope and aspiration that Eliot—and his peers—will grow up in a world where the family he belongs to is judged by the love and support he gets from it, rather than the gender of his parents or construct of the unit.”
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