The fight for equality rages on, and by that, we mean proper equality, in which everyone can enjoy life and love free of prejudice: no ill-thought, no fear, nothing. The human rights of all people are universal and indivisible. Everyone should enjoy the same fundamental human rights, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sexual characteristics.
A majority of LGBTIQ+ people are still afraid to hold hands in public, according to a recent report. That means there’s a long way ahead. But while it’s easy to grow frustrated with stalling progress, pride is about celebrating the achievements thus far – of which there have been many.
Every great social movement has its heroes. When it comes to Cambodia, Jason Argenta is one among them. Jason, Founder / Director at Beautiful Life Organisation, is an Australian with Italian roots. He first came to Cambodia in 2013 and fell in love with the country. In 2014, he moved to Cambodia, volunteered in different projects, and eventually started his dream project, a drop-in centre in Siem Reap, in 2017.
Beautiful Life Organisation: A Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Individuals
Beautiful Life Organisation (BLO) is a locally-registered non-governmental organisation in Siem Reap, Cambodia. BLO runs a drop-in centre called A Place To Be Yourself, a safe space for LGBTIQ+ individuals to meet, learn through peer support about gender and sexuality, and access information about healthcare (both sexual and mental), counselling services that are available to them, and their rights in Cambodia. BLO advocates alongside LGBTIQ+ individuals to promote exposure, challenge stereotypes, and decrease stigma across social, familial and professional realms.
Jason said, “At Beautiful Life Organisation, we are deeply committed to upholding the values of Respect, Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion. We firmly believe in treating all people with dignity and respect, ensuring that everyone is valued and appreciated. Our approach to community engagement is holistic, culturally sensitive, inclusive and innovative, allowing us to connect with a diverse range of individuals and communities.”
“We recognise the importance of promoting gender equality as a fundamental aspect of social justice, and we strive to create an environment where everyone, regardless of their background, gender, race, ethnicity, or economic status, feels welcome and supported. We are dedicated to serving all communities and fostering a more beautiful, harmonious, and inclusive world.”
A Place to Be Yourself: Activities and Support
BLO’s drop-in centre, A Place to Be Yourself, offers a variety of fun and educational events, such as colouring-in days, game days, youth discussion groups, movie nights, make-up days, and karaoke days. The centre is staffed by local LGBTIQ+ identifying individuals who offer peer support to visitors.
In addition to providing a safe space for LGBTIQ+ individuals, BLO offers free private and confidential counselling services, led by Khmer LGBTIQ+ identifying professional health counsellors (whose university courses were funded by BLO). Common themes discussed in these sessions include self-acceptance, self-confidence, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, stress management, grief, loneliness, discrimination, bullying, self-control, and childhood trauma.
BLO also offers scholarships to Khmer LGBTIQ+ individuals to pursue professional courses and organises various health-focused activities like fitness sessions, cycling, yoga, meditation, Zumba and swimming classes.
Supporting Jason Argenta and Beautiful Life Organisation
Despite the significant impact that Jason Argenta and Beautiful Life Organisation have on the lives of LGBTIQ+ individuals in Cambodia, they face difficulties in finding funds for their organisation. Jason teaches English online and supports BLO with his own income. BLO was also awarded a joint grant in 2022 which continues to support a portion of their activities and some of their staff wages, however, it is not enough to sustain the organisation long-term.
As an unsung hero, Jason’s work deserves recognition and support to continue making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. By sharing their story and contributing to their cause, we can help Jason and Beautiful Life Organisation continue to create a safe, inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTIQ+ individuals in Cambodia.
“Jason Argenta, a true champion of equality and inclusion, has dedicated his life to creating a haven for LGBTIQ+ individuals in Cambodia. Through his unwavering commitment and passion, he has touched countless lives and inspired many to embrace their true selves. Jason’s work with Beautiful Life Organisation is a testament to the power of love, understanding and community in making the world a better place for all.”