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Transgender Thailand



A project exploring transgender acceptance in Thailand with a comparison to the United States.

A project exploring transgender acceptance in Thailand with a comparison to the United States.



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  • Much more research on kathoey (included in language) than Tom/Dees

Transgender Thailand Transgender Thailand Presentation Transcript

  • Trans Thailand Leisl Johnson Cross- Cultural Leadership
  • Research QuestionDoes a place inlanguage meanthat a grouphas an acceptedplace insociety?
  • Cultural Influences: Language• There is no differentiation between sex, sexuality and gender in Thai language • Phet: sex, sexuality and gender • Sao praphet song: second kind of girl • Phet tee sam: third gender/sex • Kathoey or pumea: ladyboy – transgendered • Nang fajam leng – transformed angels• Flexibility in language implies the potentials of other genders or sex categories in society
  • Thai Influences• The only South East Asian country that was never colonized by European powers• Buddhism is the main religion, little influenced by Christian notions• Bangkok is the country’s largest city with a population of roughly 9 million people• Most of the data for research come from Bangkok, with a denser population and more hospitable venues to express oneself.
  • CulturalInfluences -Gender• Conflicts arise about what makes us male and/or female, and what society perceives as acceptable behaviors• Natal Anatomy & Social Psychology are the two general ways a culture views gender
  • Models of Gender Identity Natal Anatomic Social Psychological• We are born male or female and • We are born with our remain so our entire lives physical sex characteristics• A baby is male if he has a penis but develop our genders• A baby is female if she has a alongside sexual / hormonal vagina development• Based on a Christian rooted • Gender identity is decided in model: i.e. gender abnormalities the brain, not by anatomy are deviant, depraved, or disordered • Does not consider transgender issues to be a• This includes homosexuals, disorder lesbians, intersexed, as well as transgendered • The main problem of transgender is with society
  • Cultural Influences: Religion• Buddhism teaches that each of us is the composition of five elements: – Physical state – Sensations – Perceptions – Our Thoughts – Consciousness• The Self is a mental reality as much as a physical state• Attributes to culture-wide acceptance of transgendered males
  • The Third Sex –Kathoeys• Thailand recognizes a third sex: Kathoey or Ladyboys – an identifier strictly reserved for male to female transgendered• They are “accepted or tolerated” more readily here than most other countries• This is seen, not only in the language, but in other highly visible tourist venues as showgirls and “Miss Tiffany Universe Pageants”
  • The Third Sex – Kathoey Self – Perception & LanguageCertain words are gender-linked and formedaccording to one’s gender identityEnglish: 1st person pronoun: “I” “me” “my” and “mine”Thai: 1st person pronoun / male: “phom”Thai” 1st person pronoun / female: “chan” “dichan”“noo”This practice begins alongside language development
  • The Third Sex – • Over 30% of fathers and 50%Kathoey of mothers accepted orSocialAcceptance encouraged a kathoey son • Buddhism allows this society’s population to walk their own path • Allowed to begin hormones at an earlier age , which makes for a smoother transition • Twenty-three different brands of hormones are in urban pharmacies
  • The Third Sex – • Most gender identity issues areKathoey due to social, not individualsSocial Alienation • Unable to change sex status on legal paperwork, such as passports, licenses, marriage certificates, adoption, etc. • Unable to enter into “heterosexual” marriages • Government limits employment opportunities and advancement (such as teachers, engineers, etc.) • Safety against violence (domestic, street, police, etc.)
  • Roles for Kathoey: BeautyQueen; Showgirl; Stripper; Prostitute
  • Toms & DeesMale-identified lesbiansand their high-femmepartnersSocially allowed tomirror heterosexualsocial rolesMoving outside rolesmay bring social onalienation
  • Thailand vs. united statesThailand United States• Students view kathoey as a • Believes in binary sexuality – 3rd sex female and not a male the natal anatomic model• 53% believe that kathoey is • 62% of students believe that an aspect of human diversity transgendered individuals• Language creates a pocket for suffer from a psychiatric an accepting attitude disorder• 12% of the kathoey • No room in language to population stated they express other gender identities wanted to be reincarnated as • Issues of transgender: low self- kathoey again esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies
  • • Thai Language opens the gatewayAnalysis for the potential acceptance and definite inclusion of many genders within a culture. • Kathoey are accepted of primarily because of their beauty. • The Kathoey are accepted when they follow prescribed roles – they are exploited for sex or exploited for their beauty. • Presently, Thailand trans- communities (including the rigid roles of TomDees) are beginning to break down preconceived notions, gaining more visibility and protected human rights that mainstream Thailand populations take for granted.
  • Works cited• Channel News Asia. “The evolving situation of transgender people in Thailand (parts 1 through 5).” Almost Famous. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_BjyDSEogs. Air date: September 5, 2009. Uploaded on September 6, 2009.• Sanders, Douglass. “Human rights and sexual orientation in international law.” University of British Columbia School of Law. April 20, 2012.• Sinnott, Megan. “Toms and dees: Transgender identity and same-sex relationships in Thailand. University of Hawai’I Press. Updated: December 10, 2009.• Winter, Sam. “Transphobia, a price worth paying for gender identity disorder?” University of Hong Kong. http://transxtest.transgender/at/Lib/Soc/S Winter_Geneva06.doc. Updated: October 2, 2012• Winn, Patrick. “Don’t call me a lesbian: tom-dee culture in Thailand.” CNNGO.com. http://www.enngo.com/bangkok/none/don’t-call-me- lesbian-tomdee-culture-thailand-176517. April 1, 2010.• Winter, Sam. “Language and identity in transgender: gender wars, anatomania and the Thai kathoey. Updated September 12, 2012.