When starting this blog, I did not know that much about the transgender community, although I knew somethings, I was very curious for what it entails and what their experiences were. After writing it I know a lot more and I can understand them better than I did before.
This blog is about the transgender community in Thailand. How do people experience their youth/ lives when they notice that they are different from the society? Thailand is one of the most transgender friendly countries in Asia. It’s on the verge of legalizing same- sex civil partnerships, has a thriving transgender population, has healthcare treatments specializing in transgender patients, and even offers medical leave for gender reassignment surgery. However, this does not imply that Thailand is a transgender tourist paradise. Thailand still has a tense relationship with such communities, something you should be aware of before visiting. But why do they have all these opportunities (medically speaking) while the population might not be okay with it. That is what I am going to find out and tell you in this blog.
The first thing that I found interesting is that even if a transgender person has had sex reassignment surgery, they are not allowed to change their legal sex on their identification documents. This is strange because you might think that if you feel like a woman, you look like a woman, you are a woman no matter if you are born as a man. Human Rights Watch reported that Thailand has limited legal safeguards that provide some security to transgender persons, but they fall well short of comprehensive protections. The persons’ Name Act, established by Thailand’s legislature in 2007, permits transgender people to apply to change their names, so this may count as a win even if it is small. However, the act did not allow anyone to apply to change their ‘official’ gender in legal documents. Requests for name changes are granted at the discretion of individual administrators. In Thailand the governmental healthcare does not offer free treatments for transsexual patients.
In a documentary that I have watched (Why Are There So Many Trans Women In Thailand? | ASIAN BOSS, 2018), a reporter interviewed people on the streets about transgenders and “ladyboys” the thing that was very prominent in this interview was that everyone could recognize them, and that it was not true that there are that many ladyboy in Thailand as the world thinks there are. But that it was good for tourism that people think this. Also, they all seem very accepting about the fact that people want to change their sex which is strange due to the fact that it is illegal to change it in your identification document. In the documentary the question to a ladyboy was “has anyone ever mistaken you for a woman when dating?” It might be just me, but I find this question a bit weird because she wants to be a woman and she dresses as a woman so why would she be “mistaken for a woman” while in fact she is a women. The same lady also says that it might seem as if Thailand is very accepting about the transgender and the LGBTQ+ community, but in the end, they still have to hide it in their academics and there is still a lot of teasing, discriminating and harassment.
When watching different documentaries and searching on the internet I noticed that mostly women are truly accepting transgenders and men have a bit more trouble with it. It is understandable that parents have trouble with it and that they need time to adjust to the situation that your child does not feel like the sex they are born with. But most of the time the mother is accepting it sooner.
Various messages come across when watching documentaries and googling the topic. On the internet it states that transgender people in Thailand constantly face harassment and discrimination and are often excluded from education and employment. While when watching documentaries you hear way more positive things about transgenders, people don’t mind and are friends with them. Also, the transgenders self are quite positive, of course they face their challenges and it is not always rainbows and sunshine but it is way more positive than when you google it. I wonder if the internet is exaggerating or if the transgender people in the documentaries are not truly honest about how they really feel, because they might be scared of the responses that could come from it?
Since the majority of the population in Thailand are Buddhist (95%) this plays a role in accepting/ tolerating transgenders. Buddhists are unable to cite explicit religious teachings or laws against homosexuality, transsexuals, or gay marriage. Tolerance of individuals who conduct differently or hold different viewpoints is on of Buddhism’s core percepts. At first glance, Thailands tolerance (if not acceptance) of transsexuals appears to be widespread. In truth, transsexuals are well accepted into society, and physical or verbal abuse against transsexuals in public is quite uncommon. The last sentence might seem odd, due to the fact that ladyboys do experience discrimination and harassment on the streets and in their daily lives. How is it possible that there are two very different messages send to the outside world? On one hand it may seem as if being a transgender person in Thailand is accepted, tolerated and you will be able to live your life as you wish. But on the other hand, there are messages about transgender persons not being able to be themselves or being rejected for being who they want to be. A shocking thing that I saw on the internet is that Thai people believe that people are born kathouy because they are being punished on this life of their misdemeanor of a previous one. I am very curious how they come up with this, can’t it just be that mother nature has made a mismatch? That someone should be a woman but that the sex just was wrongly placed? I mean why would it be a punishment for your former life? A lot of questions came to my mind when I was reading this article.
The perspective of Thai people has changed overtime. They went from “transgender people should not get a surgical procedure; transsexual people were considered to be not highly educated and no taste and were to believe to work only in the sex industry” besides these horrific statements Thai people also thought that when you did the surgery it would give loads and loads of complications and that it would not be worth it.
The western point of few would be, everyone can and may be who they like to be. If that is a man or a woman or maybe both, good for you! I will support you and I would never discriminate anyone about they preferences or feelings or whatsoever. I guess that overtime the perspective of the western people has changed into a broader point of view. We are all kind of done with the boxes and being placed in a box and there you go you must live like the standards. I am very happy that we made that change.
To conclude this blog, I think I could say that it was confusing when googling about this topic. A lot of contradicting information came to my attention and negative and positive messages lay close to each other. Also, what I found surprising is that it is legal to change your sex with surgery, but you cannot change it in your documents. Thailand has evolved over the years with being more accepting and I hope with all my heart that they will continue with this, and that in a few years it is entirely normalized, and everyone can be who they feel and want to be.
O’Connell, R. (2021, August 12). How Friendly is Thailand for LGBTQ+ Travelers? Worldnomads. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.worldnomads.com/travel-safety/southeast-asia/thailand/thailand-for-lgbtqi-travellers
Thailand: Transgender People Denied Equal Rights. (2021, December 16). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/16/thailand-transgender-people-denied-equal-rights
Being A Ladyboy (Trans Woman) In Thailand | THE VOICELESS #6. (2018, November 15). YouTube. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M53WBYa_n4c&list=PLs147e8sXHQYZjgdumSYIHQ-en0unjWe7&index=14
NCBI – WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic. (n.d.). NCBI. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3977439/
Why Are There So Many Trans Women In Thailand? | ASIAN BOSS. (2018, November 13). YouTube. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06M9wBX4chQ&list=PLs147e8sXHQYZjgdumSYIHQ-en0unjWe7&index=1