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Where can the Love Bus take you?

By E.Khishigjargal

Do you take the bus to work every day? Most people have taken a bus ride at some point in their lives. But what if you were invited on a bus ride without having the slightest idea of its passengers and its destination? To board the bus, you have to follow only one rule: to respect and love everyone regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
This is the concept of the “Love Bus”, a performance event and tour around Ulaanbaatar, organized by the LGBT Centre in collaboration with their resident artist Nathan Stoneham and volunteers for the project. Thirty participants were selected to participate in a bus tour, stopping at sites in UB where stories and moments were shared between complete strangers, united in their sense of community and a hope for the wellbeing of humanity.
The Love Bus stopped at four locations in UB, each holding a special memory for the LGBT community, later extending to involve everyone.The first stop was at an ordinary backyard of an apartment complex in the 11th district, but the place had special significance to B., a member of the LGBT community, who told the story about how joining a church, which used to stand at that spot, changed his life forever. He read aloud a letter he had written to his 19-year-old self, telling himself about the events that would take place in the future and assuring himself to stay true to his identity.

The Love Bus participants stopped at the next location to pay tribute to Tumur and other victims of hate crimes. Tumur, a Mongolian songwriter, was murdered in response to rumors of his being gay. His story reminded people of the precious lives lost because of intolerance and the inability to accept people for who they are.
The last stop for the Love Bus was an art exhibition at Cafe De Amor, near the Cuban Embassy. The exhibition showcased the talents of Nymka, an artist with a unique perception of his surroundings.
At each stop, participants were seated beside new people and asked to share their stories and opinions based on questions provided in a Love Bus booklet. This gave riders an opportunity to freely express themselves without fear of judgment, because everyone on the bus was determined to have a great time and abide by the rules. These questions were designed to let people dream and hope for a better, brighter future for all.
Other stories were shared on the bus while it traveled the city. Members of the LGBT community spokeof their difficulties in living in this society, but also of the love and support they get from their allies.
The “performance” part of the project consisted of various songs that were sung at different locations and in transit. This heartfelt show of talent led to a deeper understanding of the situations of LGBT people.
This project was powered by the Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artist Fellowship. The idea for the Love Bus came from 2014/2015 fellowship recipient Nathan Stoneham, a community artist with an interest in social change. He has worked across the Asia-Pacific region on a variety of community and cultural development projects and hopes to let people share their stories in a creative way. During his time in Tonga, he came in contact with the LGBT Centre in Mongolia, who were interested in using art to help with their advocacy.
When asked about why he chose to advocate issues faced by LGBT people in this way, he replied, “I prefer performances that happen outside of art institutions, because they can be more casual, social and inspiring. I liked the idea of traveling across the city, stopping at places that are significant to the members of the LGBT community, because it sends a clear message that LGBT people live here too, even though they are usually not very visible. We also thought it would be fun to travel on a bus. It’s an interesting way to bring people together. I think it made the performance more memorable and helped the audience see Ulaanbaatar in a different way.”
The Love Bus gave participants an understanding of the environment and issues the LGBT community face. A 2014 case study about the lives of LGBT youth in Mongolia, conducted by the LGBT Centre, showed that only when the children and youth were able to “successfully” hide their true identity, did they succeed in learning and getting a decent education. The National Human Rights Commission said in 2012 that almost 80 percent of people surveyed who identified themselves as LGBT had experienced some form of human rights abuse within the last three years of being surveyed.
These issues were raised through the Love Bus, which aimed to cultivate the value of loving people for who they are within the community. In his message to the participants of the Love Bus, Executive Director of the LGBT Center N.Anaraa stated, “Just like people don’t choose which country they are born in and what color eyes and hair they have when they are born, sexual orientation is not chosen. Many scientific studies have proven that sexual orientation is innate and that every human being is equal before the law. Mongolia lacks safe environments for LGBT people, but we are working hard to achieve a safe and peaceful environment through advocacy projects such as the Love Bus.”
The Love Bus opened a discussion about LGBT rights and issues among participants of the project. It can be expanded to involve more people for a stronger advocacy movement. “It is a model that can easily be repeated and different stories and experiences could be shared each time,” says Nathan Stoneham.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=14187

Posted by on Apr 14 2015. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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