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Gender and Sexuality in Asia

Special issue call for papers from Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Special Issue of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal

Angeline Lim
National University of Singapore

Chan-Hoong Leong
National University of Singapore

Gender and Sexuality in Asia

On 16 May 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian society to legalize same-sex marriage (CNA, 2019a). This momentous occasion was preceded by a wave of legislative changes and activism in Asia pertaining to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) rights that gave greater visibility to the LGBT community in this region. These events are not just politically contested but they also highlight an inherent conflict of social values. The notable events that advance LGBT rights in recent years include the decriminalization of gay sex in India in September 2018 (Anand, 2018), the Singapore Supreme Court’s decision to allow a gay men to adopt his biological son birthed by a United States surrogate in December 2018 (Supreme Court of Singapore, 2018), and the first pride boat parade in Myanmar in January 2019 (The Straits Times, 2019). Events that seemingly diminish the rights of the LGBT community include, Brunei’s imposition of the death penalty on men who have sex with men (Ochab, 2019), the banning of a Cathay Pacific advertisement showing a same-sex couple from Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and airport (Lee, 2019), and the rejection to LGBT rights by South Korean conservatives (AsiaOne, 2019), Singaporean churches (CNA, 2018), and the China government (CNA, 2019b; 2019c).

In spite of the increasing visibility of the LGBT community and the tensions faced by them in this part of the world, scholarly work in this area has been scant. At the moment, there is limited academic work on LGBT that is focused on Asia. More importantly the concept of gender and sexuality take on different meanings and connotations across cultural contexts in this region. The contemporary discourse on LGBT tend to be shaped by the individual-level perspective, with an emphasis on human rights (or lack of) and amplified by the perceived clash in societal values. 

But this need not be the only, or the inevitable, theoretical lens to study LGBT in Asia.  As articulated by anthropologist, Megan Sinnott. “Appreciation of local cultural understandings of sexual practices will be lost or subtly skewed if researchers use the categorizations of ‘homosexuality’ and ‘heterosexuality’ without conscious awareness of the implicit cultural meanings embedded within this binary construct (c.f. Enteen, 2007: 257). Within Thailand alone, the term gay has several different connotations (Borthwick, 1999). There are also the kathoeys in Thailand (Ocha, 2012), the hijras in India, the third gender or third sex in Indonesia, the babaylans in the Philippines, and many other gendered variations of what the Western world categorizes as LGBT.  This diverse but multifaceted perspective warrant a culture-centric approach to our study on gender and sexuality.

Extant research on the regional LGBT community has provided critical insights into issues faced by this segment of population across Asian cultures. Gender and sexual identities are taboo subjects of discussions in socially conservative Asian societies (Jackson, 1999). However, much work remains to be done; that includes issues of discrimination and acceptance at the organizational and societal levels, health and well-being issues, sexual practices, gender identities and orientations.

This special issue of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal aims to bring together scholars doing research on LGBT in Asia to advance research on this under-researched community. We invite papers that investigate gender and sexuality in a variety of cultural and societal settings within Asia. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

1.    How does culture shape or influence perceptions and/or conceptualizations of gender and sexuality? What are the intersections of gender and sexuality within each culture?
2.    What are the institutions that shape gender and sexuality discourse within each culture? How do institutions at the macro, meso, and micro level influence gender and sexuality?
3.    How do members of the LGBT community navigate work and social space within their own cultures? What challenges do they face? What strategies do they use?
4.    How do LGBT communities form within each culture? What forms do these communities take? What roles do they play?
5.    What types of work do members of the LGBT community undertake? Why do they choose to be in those occupations?
6.    How are members of the LGBT community perceived? What are the stereotypes and stigmas attached to their identity?
7.    How do members of the LGBT community conceal or disclose their identities?

We invite contributions that are both conceptual and empirical, and in line with the journal’s mission. Submissions may be interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary and from across relevant disciplines, including but not limited to psychology, sociology, management, culture studies, anthropology, and linguistics. Quantitative, qualitative, mixed method or theoretical contributions are all welcome.

Abstract Submission

Authors interested in submitting to this special issue should first submit a 1,000-word abstract to the Guest Editors to assess fit and suitability for the special issue. The abstract should include the research question(s), a brief review of the relevant literature, methodology, practical and theoretical implications. The abstract should be formatted as follows: A4 size, Times New Roman font size 12 with 1-inch wide margins all round in APA format. Abstracts should be submitted to the Guest Editors at

Full Paper Submission

Authors of shortlisted abstracts will be invited to submit full papers for review. Manuscripts should be submitted online at and should follow the Submission Guidelines available at: Please note that all submissions will be subject to the standard EDI double-blind review process.

Please select Special issue and submit under the title listed with the title: Gender and Sexuality in Asia.


Abstract submission deadline: 31 August 2019
Full paper invitations sent: 30 September 2019
Full paper deadline: 1 December 2019

For questions regarding this special issue, please contact any of the Guest Editors.



1.    Anand, N. (2018, September 6). The world’s biggest democracy just decriminalised sex between gay couples. Quartz India. Retrieved from
2.    AsiaOne. (2019, May 31). Thou shalt not march: South Korean conservatives denounce Pride event. Retrieved from
3.    Borthwick, P. (1999). HIV/AIDS projects with and for gay men in Northern Thailand. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 9(2-3), 61-79.
4.    CNA. (2019a, May 17). Taiwan approves same-sex marriage in first for Asia. Retrieved from
5.    CNA. (2019b, May 29). China signals won't follow Taiwan in allowing same-sex marriage. Retrieved from
6.    CNA. (2019c, May 16). Fewer rainbows, less social media for China's LGBT community.
Retrieved from
7.    CNA. (2018, September 14). National Council of Churches says it does not support repeal of gay sex law. Retrieved from
8.    Enteen, J. (2007). Lesbian studies in Thailand. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 11(3-4), 255-263.
9.    Jackson, P. A. (1999). An American death in Bangkok: The murder of Darrell Berrigan and the hybrid origins of gay identity in 1960s Thailand. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 5(3), 361-411.
10.    Lee, D. (2019, May 20). Cathay Pacific advert showing same-sex couple banned from Hong Kong’s MTR and airport. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
11.    Ocha, W. (2012). Transsexual emergence: Gender variant identities in Thailand. Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care, 14(5): 563-576.
12.    Ochab, E. U. (2019, May 13). Against the tide of humanity – Brunei’s new Penal Code. Forbes. Retrieved from
13.    Sim, D. (2019, June 3). Pink Dot: how Singapore’s LGBT movement became a ‘tangible force’ where others struggle to survive. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
14.    Supreme Court of Singapore. (2018, December 17). UKM v Attorney-General [2018] SGHCF 18. Retrieved from
15.    The Straits Times. (2019, January 27). Myanmar's first LGBT pride boat parade sets sail. Retrieved from