Sunday, February 1, 2009

Strength and Beauty Crosses all Genders

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The Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok will sell you just about anything. Hop off the Sky Train, slip through the metal detectors and you have access to Lamborghini’s, architectural remnants of Buddhist temples plus Prada, Gucci, et al. This retail nirvana was the setting for our interview with Hua, a 28-year-old Chinese/Thai transgender. Tall and slender and dressed in a black blouse and skirt, Hua strode up to the curvy red couch in front of the Starbuck’s where we had agreed to meet. An LGBT activist, originally from Phrae, a small town in the north of Thailand, Hua, who will change her name to Kunyarat (strong and beautiful) was assured and confident . Our conversation ranged across a varied terrain that for many in her situation could be a minefield, but one she has managed to navigate with grace.

On sense of self: “It was very difficult in the beginning. Difficult to say I am not man, not woman. Now I always say I am myself. All people are different in terms of their gender and sexuality.”

On growing up Trans in rural Thailand: “Thais are familiar with people who are different. If they don’t like you, they don’t say and they don’t act strange. In high school I had one friend who was Trans. There was no sexual harassment, but some verbal abuse.”

On family relations: “My family accepts me, I’m lucky. I take my boyfriends home to meet them.” It wasn’t always so, however, and Hua’s father still thinks of him as male.

On religious beliefs: “I am Buddhist and (some) Buddhists believe that being Trans is a result of bad karma in a previous life and that you can’t become a monk if you are Trans or Gay.”

On being Trans: “It is easy to have gender reassignment surgery in Thailand but you must sign a paper that states you have gender identity disorder. I disagree with this. Being Trans is not about having a vagina.”

What’s next? “I am the coordinator for a conference on sexuality in August and in March I will begin working on an MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) project of TREAT Asia (, an organization funded by AMFAR (

On the personal front: “Right now I am single. I would like to adopt a kid someday, but it is not necessary to have a husband or boyfriend to do that.”

Photo: Hua and Robert chatting at Siam Paragon

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