Love in the factories
Sor Kaninka: My mother and my relatives can’t tolerate my sexuality, they are really against it. It breaks my heart that it’s not acceptable. The only thing that my parents want is for me to get married and have a good family. That’s the only thing that they need to be happy. It’s a Cambodian tradition to carry on the bloodline.
Sor Kaninka: My name is Sor Kaninka. My mum was pressuring me to get married to secure my future happiness. I had to leave home so I could have more freedom.
I sell silver accessories at Takmao Market, and my girlfriend works at a garment factory. She’s worked at the factory for more than six years. She has problems at work, like her boss blamed her for some mistakes. Also, she doesn’t get enough food to eat. There are so many difficulties for factory workers.
All my life, I have wanted to live outside my family. There are a bunch of [gay] people at Chak Angre factory community. I think about 20 to 30 percent of people here at LGBT.
In this room, we can have other LGBT friends over. This place has more freedom. In other places we couldn’t do anything like that. It’s difficult, people really discriminate against us. They mad-mouth us, so that’s why I want my freedom. That’s why I need this space. It’s a safe space where I can meet all kinds of people.
Sothy Chanthey: My name is Sothy Chanthey, I’m 37 and I live in Phnom Penh.
Lamh Sokhievs: I met Sothy in late 1999, or early 2000, working in the factory.
Sothy Chanthey: I remember the time we met, well I wasn’t very well-behaved.
Reporter: How many girls have you dated?
Sothy Chanthey: In total, probably ten.
But they didn’t last long.
Reporter: How long?
Sothy Chanthey: Usually between six months and a year or two. I had a relationship that lasted two years, but now that woman has a family. Before she decided to marry a man, she discussed it with me. I let her marry and moved on, because I had someone else on my mind already. That’s why I’ve had a lot of relationships.
Houn Sorphon: My name is Houn Sorphon, I come from Kandal Province, and I work at a factory. My first lover was at Kampong Thom province, we worked in the same factory, but not living in the same rented house. My relatives and mother found out, they separated us by forcing me to change my workplace to a factory in Siem Reap. I was heartbroken, but my mum said: ‘Child, your girlfriend is pretty, and you’re also still young. You need to give her a chance to live her life, and you also need to focus on your future.’ My mum doesn’t hate how I am, but she fears I could destroy someone else’s child’s fortune.
Houn Sorphon: My sister hit me once, but after she slapped me she cried.
Sor Kaninka: I ran away from home two years ago, because my parents tried to force me to marry. They were really worried about me. Sometimes I think I hurt them. At the moment I’m a runaway again, but if I go back I’ll do anything they want me to. I used to tell my mum that if she made me get married, I’ll run away from the wedding. I used to say that, up to a couple of years ago. But now, I don’t think like that anymore, I need to be grateful. I don’t want to, but I can’t disagree with my parents. The big part of my heart says I don’t want to marry a man, but also the other part of me thinks, I really need to be grateful and obey my parents. Even if I still have fear, and don’t want to at all, I feel like I’ll lose my mind and soul.
I went and met a sorcerer at Dey Hoy market, my mum brought me there because she wanted me to find out who I am deep down. She was figuring out if someone had put a magic spell on me so that I can’t have any children. It cost us almost $100. During the ceremony they sprinkled water and prayed and gave me string bracelets for my wrist and waist. They made me pray with them for so long that my back ached. But I don’t believe in all that, it’s what my mum believes.
Sothy Chanthey: My wife’s mother brought a traditional pig’s head for our wedding celebration. She also cooked some other dishes, and I was wondering what was happening, but I didn’t ask; I just waited and wondered. My wife asked her mother what was happening, then her mother answered: ‘You can celebrate your wedding’. It seemed like she wanted to surprise us. She told us to hold hands, and live with each other for the rest of our lives. That’s what happened that day.
Houn Sorphon: In the future I want to save money, because I want to get married like other people. I hope after my girlfriend and I are married, we could live happily like straight couples. Because love, love is all the same, whether it’s straight or not. Although in the future we can’t have children. I hope in the near future, after I get married, if we are stable enough we could adopt a child. I want society to fully accept same-sex love like ours. Hopefully parents will learn to accept this type of relationship, because we were all born unique and different. Like when you’re a woman, but your heart is a man, you can’t resist it, or change it in any way.