Thailand is widely known as the trans capital of the world, where gender reassignment surgeries are quite the norm there. There are an abundance of transgender women in Thailand, commonly known as ‘ladyboys’ or ‘Katoeys’ in Thai culture.
These trans women do not identify as men, yet every year, Thais who are born as men and over 21 years old must attend a military draft day where they draw lots to determine whether they need to enlist themselves in the military for two years.
Currently, Thai law forbids their citizens to change their gender on their ID documents, even if they do not identify as the gender they were born with. Trans women must attend draft day, but if chosen to enlist, they can submit exemption certificates which are obtained through a time-consuming process.
The exemption certificates were only available for trans women after a 6-year-long battle by a trans women community and finally the Administrative court ruled that a person’s biological sex doesn’t have to match his or her gender. This paved the way for trans people to be exempt from conscription.
Before this new ruling, transgenders were classified as a mental illness by the military and had caused future employment problems for the transgenders.
This year, among the military hopefuls is Patra Wirunthanakij, or Nadia, as she is known to her fans. She has previously won the title of Miss Mimosa Queen of Thailand.
Rusanan Reuanmoon said,
“I don’t want to be a soldier. I want to be a woman. I’m not 100 per cent yet as I haven’t had my extra bits removed.”
Wisanu Nuanjan, from the Wangthong sub-district of Phrae, also said,
“I work in Chiang Mai. I haven’t switched over entirely yet. I have been in many beauty contests and I always come in first. I was scared of being a soldier – it is great not to be chosen.”
About 100,000 men attend the draft day every year in April but for Thai trans women, attending this event often brings much embarrassment and stress to them.
According to Khaosodenglish.com, this is because the trans women are often subjected to verbal and physical abuse by the officers and other men. Sometimes, they receive sexual propositions or are harassed by the men, by asking them to bare their breasts or give massages.
Luckily for the eight trans women in Phrae, they successfully avoided being drafted into the military. Only 60 men were chosen, from the 500 attendees of the day.
The media has been encouraged to stop ridiculing these Thai trans women and highlight their plight instead. Ronnapoom Samakkeekarom of the Transgender Alliance for Human Rights said it’s time to stop treating people like a joke.
Hopefully, transgender people around the world will be treated like equal human beings!