It’s 7.30am and we’re at breakfast already, ready for the day. Those of you who know us know that there is no way that we are ever out the door at this time of the day, despite getting up early. But here we are.
Since yesterday Sarah has been messaging Srorn about a purchase for the members of Pacific Pride Choir. There’s a Facebook Page, Rainbow Cat (Rainbow Cambodia Advocate Team), founded to support the human rights of everyone, not just LGBT as it is known here. They support social enterprise and provide funding to help the poor and the disadvantaged start small businesses. As little as $100 USD can fund a street seller.
Srorn tells about Pheng Sahn, a trans man who lives across the Mekong River. Seems there is quite a trans community here. Sahn is a weaver and weaves rainbow kromer, the traditional Khmer scarves, to support his family. We see photos of the stunning fabric. Sahn and his female partner have been together since 1979, says Srorn; before Sarah was born (‘only by a year,’ says Mel).
We’d planned to buy a couple of traditional kromer for ourselves and had been going to look for them in Siem Reap. We know a guy who knows a guy who sells them and another who will hem them.
Quick change of plan. We do the maths and run the logistics (getting the kromer, getting them back to Sydney and then over to Hanoi), as both Srorn and Sahn are heading off on Friday to tour to Prey Veng, where Sahn will speak to the village community about his life as a trans man as part of the My Voice, My Story exhibition.
We order 35, enough for each member of the 2019 tour and a few extra. Facebook Messenger is a wonderful tool (can’t believe we said that). We place the order and Sahn will arrive Friday at 9am with the scarves. Activists like Srorn and Sahn don’t have salaries for their work. Our purchase will fund their families and their advocacy.
The softly-spoken Mr Bee and his colleagues at Rambutan help us translate for Sahn when he arrives on his moto. He recognises Rambutan as the site of last year’s Pride Pool Party. Mr Bee is nominated by his co-workers as ‘the photographer’, and so he artfully arranges our kromer and snaps away, posing our hands in the symbol for ‘love’. He shows us another way to wear kromer on his phone: in a photo an exceptionally buff young man reclines on his side, framed by blue sky, wearing nothing but a vibrant rainbow kromer wrapped sarong-style around his groin. ‘This is me,’ shy Mr Bee has to point out to us.
As we leave for the day in Mr Viriya’s gold Lexus, complete with wicker heart dangling from the mirror, Sahn and the Rambutan’s gruff butch security guard are hanging out together out front, clearly old friends. We’ve learned something new about two of the Rambutan’s staff this morning, all thanks to rainbow powerhouse Sahn.