Thailand's Transgender People Aren't Just 'Ladyboys' Anymore

Published: February 8, 2015

Jay Michaelson
Original Article:

Thailand made headlines last month for proposing that its new constitution should prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.  That would put the Southeast Asian nation ahead of 32 U.S. states and all but a few countries.

What does this mean? And why Thailand? The answers to these questions are easily misunderstood, because sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI in international-policy-speak) mean different things in different cultural contexts.  In this case, third-gender Thai people are both recognized and stigmatized. Traditional attitudes are both problem and solution.

First, this is a significant step forward.  “This is a historic move in Thailand and a breakthrough for the Thai transgender community and Thai activists,” said Joe Wong of the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), a regional organization based in Bangkok.

And yet the widely-reported notion that Thailand is explicitly protecting “third gender” people is not quite accurate, according to activists.

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