Ladyboys in Jail

| Jul 25, 2016
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To the big wide world, Thailand appears to have  a unique position on issues relating to Transgender people.

Widely known as T and gay friendly, according to some respected estimates, LGBT travelers bring billions of Baht to the beach/resort tourist and medical tourism industry every year—and are, accordingly, welcomed throughout the country.

As I’ve said before, though, as with many things in this fascinating country, we do tend to have double standards when it suits.

Renowned for its beautiful Ladyboys; for its world class facial feminization and gender affirmation procedures, and tolerance of indigenous LGBT people, the country appears to be a utopia of sorts for many minorities.

Yet, on the other hand, we have discrete discrimination in respect of daily life, jobs and careers; and a very much: it’s all right for anyone to be T or gay as long as it’s not someone close to me or in my family attitude. Then we have the snide remarks and teasing which goes on daily to those in the LGBT sub-set—culminating in some cases in physical assaults.

In the past, the entity responsible for prison management in Thailand, The Department of Corrections (DoC), always managed to avoid addressing the very real issue of gender in its facilities. However, to the surprise of many, the DoC recently announced that it will clear out an operating prison and use it to house only LGBT inmates.

One of the key motivations for this move is that DoC has finally come to accept believes that LGBT inmates have always been at risk when placed amongst the general prison population—although, to be fair, several prison remand centers in the larger cities such as Pattaya have been segregating LGBT prisoners for some time.

One of the key ironies here is that the DoC, not usually known for its foresight, has acted in such a straightforward manner when LGBT rights are so lacking, and addressing key issues seems so complicated and difficult to resolve in the rest of Thai society.

The DoC estimates that the LGBT population is some 4,500 out of 300,000 prisoners in Thai jails or around 1.5% of the number of inmates, so this move will bring relief to many who fear for their safety on a daily basis—but still not enough to remove this fear completely.

Whilst T activists have welcomed this initiative, as with many other things related to LGBT matters anywhere in the world, it’s not without potential complications—one of which being that those who are not open about their gender issues or sexuality may have problems either with family members who come to visit them whilst interred or, whilst pending a move to the new facility, may potentially have problems if they prematurely disclose their gender or sexuality to other inmates or even the prison authorities themselves.

T activists also continue to lament the fact that T people still can’t change their names on ID cards owing to outdated laws (some of the photos on the Thai National ID card of, say a MtF T person bear absolutely no resemblance at all to their physical appearance, thereby rendering the ID card as a means of identification almost useless anyway!).

In short, whilst the DoC move is a positive step there is still a long road ahead to enhance education, and new laws are still needed to allow LGBT people be seen as full citizens and be treated with dignity and respect—and with the full protection of the law!

Here’s hoping…

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Category: Transgender Community News

Christine B

About the Author ()

Christine has written numerous (at least 150) articles, columns, op-eds, features & stories for well known T magazines, websites & e-zines; she also works as a part time fiction editor for Club Lighthouse Publishing, and is a co-editor of an award winning T-girl Magazine. In addition, she has written 8 adult books mainly in the T sub-genre which have been published by Club Lighthouse Publishing, for whom she has been the best selling author for the last 5 years.

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