Third gender in Thailand

There has been much talk over the years of amending certain laws with regards to transsexuals in Thailand. Even though not much has come of it one interesting matter stands out highlighted in the Bangkok Post. The current legal status of transsexuals in Thailand or Katoeys has been debated for some time. I find it rather interesting as the US government are now also debating the issue with regards to the status of transsexuals in America.

Third gender in Thailand This is a brief look at one specific matter in Thailand which has drawn much attention as it involves the Thai Army. You have all the qualifications for your chosen position, but your hopes of securing employment are shattered as soon as your prospective employer see the words ”Permanent Mental Disorder” on your Sor Dor 43 conscription certificate. This is exactly what happened to Samart Meecharoen, or Namwan, a 22-year-old katoey.

The problem is that the reason given by the army for many katoeys failing the draft is that they are afflicted with a permanent mental disorder. And with that on their Sor Dor 43 forms, their chances of securing a good job disappear forever. For some katoeys, failing the draft might be simply described as having an ”irregular breast size”, but many are not so lucky. They are labeled with terms suggesting psychological problems such as ”mental disorder”, ”psychologically sick”, ”psychologically demented” or ”psychologically degenerate”.

With support from the commission, the Sexual Diversity Fund (an organization that helps fight legal battles against discrimination), the Lawyers Council of Thailand, Fa Si Roong and the Saphan Group, which represents same-sex lovers, Namwan filed a petition at the Administrative Court last November to seek changes in the army’s statement on her conscription certificate which exempted her from service for having a ”mental disorder”.

She is not seeking punitive damages. All she wants is for the Ministry of Defense to do away with prejudicial labeling of katoeys on SorDor 43 documents, and to formulate a standard policy for all draft officials to abide by, explains Namwan.

Should the law be changed, one wonders how far back this would be allowed to go. Would someone who has undergone surgery be reclassed as female, what about other rights such marriage? Only time will tell where Thailand and the US government goes with regards to transsexuals and their status.