Celebrating Pride through Worldly Experiences: Remote Year Sits Down with Two LGBTQ City Managers

Remote Year sits down with local experience managers in Mexico and Thailand to understand how they put the diverse program members top of mind when planning, specifically the LGBTQ community.

We're excited to introduce to you two people who know Remote Year experiences like the back of their hand - Ton Surachart, our City Manager in Chiang Mai, and Omar Hernandez, our City Manager for Mexico City.

Ton Surachart, Chiang Mai City Manager

Ton Surachart, Chiang Mai City Manager

What do you look for when you’re planning your local experiences?

There are two main priorities for me, they need to be fun and educational. I want to make sure that I am offering something which has a unique twist for the Remotes, and not something they could experience anywhere else. 

I want the Remotes to experience the most well-known and less known parts of Thai culture, but always feel comfortable when going into something, by setting the expectations ahead of time. To do this, I have to consider all the Remotes in a group, whether age, gender, or fitness level, and make sure there is something for everybody.

How does your identity impact the way you curate and select local experiences to support other LGBTQ travelling to your city? 

As a gay man who has lived in UK, the US, and Australia, I am aware of the differences between cultures between them and Thailand. We make sure we cover this in the initial welcome and orientation talk when any group first arrives. 

Before 2019, the last Pride in Chiang Mai was in 2009. This was in February for us, not June. Sadly we received some unwanted attention, with eggs being thrown at us and verbal abuse. Due to political unrest, the next Pride wasn’t until another 10 years later. I had a Remote group in the city at the time so I organized for us to go. Not only had I secretly sorted that we could take part in the parade, but some of the Remotes were given spots on one of the floats! This was a huge surprise for them. In 2019 the overall atmosphere was very different. It was a huge success with no unwanted attention, a sign that in the last 10 years, public attitudes towards LGBTQ in Thailand is much more open and progressive. 

What are some exciting local experiences that you curate that showcase LGBTQ culture in your city?

Our most popular experience is a monthly ‘Ladies Night Out’. Sometimes misunderstood to be a girls-only night, this event has far more impact.

There are famous ladyboy cabaret shows in Chiang Mai which are a must-go for visitors, so I take every group to see the shows. The difference is that before they see the show, they have a chance to sit down and have a conversation and do Q&A session with the performers who are LGBTQ members. This is to help Remotes to understand LGBTQ situations in Thailand which are mostly socially accepted but not legally accepted. It also helps Remotes to learn why those ladies like to perform and what struggles they have been through in their life as a ladyboy and a member of LGBTQ community in Chiang Mai and Thailand. While some have day jobs and perform for extra money in the evening, many of the trans performers are not given fair chance for any other kind of work as preference is given to cis people. 

It’s this level of understanding of marginalization and discrimination in some cases, and true hard work to perform night after night, that gives the Remotes a far deeper appreciation of the show and the performers, rather than it being just a tourist ‘must-see’.“

Omar Hernandez, Mexico City City Manager

Omar Hernandez, Mexico City City Manager

What do you look for when you’re planning your local experiences?

My personality is very open and extroverted, I am very interested in mindfulness, spiritual growth, and human development. Because of this, in each experience, my main objective is to create an impact on the body, mind, or spirit of the Remote as well as significant learnings that will connect each person. I think this is my little, or big, contribution to the world and knowing I can impact others from a global perspective through my Remotes. 

How does your identity impact the way you curate and select local experiences to support other LGBTQ travelling to your city? 

Since I am part of the LGBTQ community, it is crucial to me to disintegrate any kind of barriers, limitations, or judgments. These barriers come out once you are exposed to what is different from you, and therein lies the awareness of it and the opportunity for change. This progresses to love and self-fulfillment which actually comes from acceptance of yourself - which directly correlates to the level of acceptance you have to others. I think this acceptance of others and yourself, in the end, would be the true measure of happiness you get to experience in life. 

For me, having this amazing opportunity of creating and developing experiences for a whole community of people, gives me a big responsibility about the values and direction our community should have.  This is beautiful and I am so very grateful to have this chance to contribute to others - and at the same time, I know they contribute to me. 

If you experience any kind of non-inclusion,  it doesn't matter if we are talking about women, the LGBTQ community, skin color, or any other group, for me all of that is just ignorance that needs to be transformed now. My Remote Year experiences are designed to be exposed to this type of scenario in a fun way and show the diversity, beauty, and richness of the world.

As we continue to celebrate PRIDE here at Remote Year, we are forever grateful to have thoughtful City Teams like Ton and Omar to make every curated experience one that is safe and welcoming for all members, as well as one they will never forget.

Interested in learning more?

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