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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Explained: How Thailand Treats Its Transgender Community

Thailand has one of the largest transgender communities in the world. The country seems to be an inclusive society in terms of its “tolerance” of change and different lifestyles. They have a profitable medical industry that specializes in gender-affirming procedures and offers a comparatively cheaper price for the surgeries. 

For the world outside Thailand, Thailand is considered a “haven” for the transgender community, and it brings in tourists, especially from the LGBTQ+ community, who want to live free and safe in their own identity.

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“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status,” states Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

They are well recognised and portrayed as accepted in the media, but to what extent are they really accepted in society? Are they legally protected by the state like any other normal citizen is?

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Medical Tourism and Social Acceptance

Thailand is known for its affordable and high-quality gender re-assigning procedures. The hospitality provided there is more than normal. According to a 2022 report on medical tourism in Thailand, sales of the Thailand Medical Tourism Market are estimated to have an increase of 18.4% CAGR. It brings a lot of money into their economy.

LGBTQ+ Empowerment
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But trans women are facing discrimination based on their identity in other healthcare centres.

Their appearance and their name or prefix do not match. They choose not to do regular health checkups due to the humiliation they face, which denies them their basic rights as human beings. 

The real problem lies in the non-addressing of gender identities by the legal authorities. Since same-sex marriages are not legalized in Thailand, there is always an issue with regards to signing ‘consent forms’ for medical procedures.

On one side, they are favoring reassigning surgeries, but trans people from their own country often deny insurance because of their non-legalized gender identities.

There is a high level of tolerance among people in the transgender community, but that doesn’t mean they are fully accepted by society to live a peaceful life. They face discrimination from schools to workplaces.

Thailand’s 2015 Gender Equality Act provides legal protection against discrimination. Section 3 of this Act states: “Unfair gender discrimination” means any act or omission of the act which causes division, discrimination, or limitation of any right and benefit either directly or indirectly without justification due to

the fact that the person is male or female or of a different appearance from his or her own sex by birth”. 

Though there is legal protection against discrimination, there is no codified law or passed act regarding the recognition of different gender identities in legal documents as such.

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The Thai government has taken steps by working with civil society groups and other organizations like the United Nations. One of the outcomes of such collaboration is a proposal to legalize same-sex marriages.

Though this can’t be achieved in a short time, it’s not completely impossible either. If same-sex marriages are legalised, then adoption rights will follow. However, it all depends on how society as a whole accepts them.

Is it really a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community?

The country’s Tourism Authority has introduced a new campaign specifically targeting the LGBTQ+ community called “Go Thai. Be Free”. This brought many tourists to their country.

But are the tourists really safe in a country where there are barely any rights that are protected by law for the LGBTQ+ community? They promote their country as a haven for the LGBTQ+ community, but the reality is different.

In 2021, Bumrungrad, Thailand’s top private hospital, opened a specialized clinic for the LGBTQ community, which goes by the name “Pride Clinic,” and it has some good inclusive treatments and customized care for their patients.

Though the initiative is appreciated, it is very unstable since it’s not a government initiative and it can be revoked at any time.

As for inclusivity and “tolerance” of the LGBTQ+ community, urban areas are more inclusive than rural ones. Thailand is far better than other countries in terms of their acceptance of diversity, but they have to take enough legal steps to call themselves a safe “haven”. 


HELINA JOSI J | THAILAND THE “HAVEN” FOR TRANSGENDERS: A STUDY ON THE PORTRAYED UTOPIANISM. Retrieved from a research paper of International Conference in Loyola College.

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