[Recorded Lecture]: “BL Series and the Rise of Celebrity Activism for LGBTQ+ Rights in Thailand”

Thai BL stars Earth Pirapat (L) and Mix Sahaphap (R)

While I will unfortunately be unable to attend in person, I am presenting a paper emerging from my research on Thai Boys Love series and its celebrity culture this weekend at the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies in Boston. My presentation is entitled “Boys Love Series, Gay and Bisexual Men, and the Rise of Celebrity and Fan Activism for LGBTQ+ Rights in Contemporary Thailand” and will be held at approximately 4:45PM on Saturday, 18th March at the Hynes Convention Center Meeting Room 209.

Here is the abstract:

Debates over the supposedly problematic representational politics of Boys Love (BL) media are central to the transnational fandom for Thai BL live action dramas, particularly among gay and bisexual men. Since their inception in 2014, BL series and their celebrity fandom cultures have now become mainstream across the Thai media landscape. Buoyed in part by the enthusiastic consumption of BL series and related celebrity merchandise by young women, the Thai BL boom has produced a transnational fandom that is raising the profile of Thai popular culture across East and Southeast Asian markets. Central to this transnational fandom are gay and bisexual men, who form a significant minority which often critiques the genre for disengaging from explicitly political questions and activist practice. This presentation draws upon eight years of longitudinal ethnographic observation of Thai BL fandom in Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan to explore the rise of explicitly activist BL celebrities and series which tie this popular culture phenomenon to ongoing debates in Thailand concerning the rights of sexual minorities and the introduction of marriage equality. Focussing on the actions of three prominent BL celebrity couples named MaxTul, EarthMix, and ZeeNunew, I explore how the affective “shipping” culture that drives Thai BL fandom is being deployed by these couples to perform allyship and shape debates concerning LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand. I conclude by considering the reception of their activism among gay and bisexual male fans and how a new discourse concerning BL’s positive role in queer politics has emerged in Thailand.

The presentation forms part of the amazing panel put together by my colleague Professor James Welker entitled “For the Gays? Intersections between the Boys Love (BL) Genre and LGBTQ Issues in East and Southeast Asia” and features work by Prof Fujimoto Yukai, Prof Nagaike Kazumi, and Asst. Prof Kristine Santos, all big names in BL studies.

There is a recording available of this presentation if you would like to watch it. Please access it here:


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