Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thai Gender Stories in the News

From Thai Visa, a website mainly aimed at ex-pats living in Thailand, I get regular reports of what's happening in Thailand.  There were a couple of gender-related stories - one showing progress and one showing some regression.   Below are excerpts and the headlines link to the rest of the stories.

Monks teach maleness to Thai 'ladyboys'
Feature - by Janesara Fugal

CHIANG KHONG, July 16, 2011 (AFP) - The 15-year-old aspiring "ladyboy" delicately applied a puff of talcum powder to his nose -- an act of rebellion at the Thai Buddhist temple where he is learning to "be a man".

"They have rules here that novice monks cannot use powder, make-up, or perfume, cannot run around and be girlish," said Pipop Thanajindawong, who was sent to Wat Kreung Tai Wittaya, in Chiang Khong on the Thai-Laos border, to tame his more feminine traits.

But the monks running the temple's programme to teach masculinity to boys who are "katoeys", the Thai term for transsexuals or ladyboys, have their controversial work cut out.

"Sometimes we give them money to buy snacks but he saved it up to buy mascara," headteacher Phra Pitsanu Witcharato said of Pipop. . .

. . . [Phra Pitsanu] told AFP that he hopes the teaching methods will be rolled out to other temple schools to "solve the deviant behavior in novices".

It is an attitude that enrages gay rights and diversity campaigner Natee Teerarojanapong, who said trying to alter the boys' sense of gender and sexuality was "extremely dangerous".

"These kids will become self-hating because they have been taught by respected monks that being gay is bad. That is terrible for them. They will never live happily," he told AFP.

Gay and katoey culture is visible and widely tolerated in Thailand, which has one of the largest transsexual populations in the world, and Natee said the temple's programme is "very out of date".  .  .

Female bodyguards for Thailand's next prime minister
By Budsarakham Sinlapalavan
Peeradej Tanruangporn
The Nation

When Yingluck Shinawatra takes up her post as leader of the new government, Thailand won't just have a female prime minister. Her bodyguards, too, are likely to be drawn from the fairer sex.

"Female bodyguards are able to remain closer to female VIPs," said Pol Lt-Colonel Korakarn Arunplod, who is among the first generation of female bodyguards in Thailand.

Korakarn started her career as a bodyguard in 1995. Among the VIPs she has taken care of are Hillary Rodham Clinton, Empress Michiko of Japan and members of the Thai Royal Family.

She suggested that PM-elect Yingluck should have both male and female bodyguards. Beyond issues of security, having bodyguards of both sexes would create the best image.

And there are more practical concerns: "It is not appropriate for male bodyguards to enter private spaces such as women's bathrooms." She added that women were better at coordinating than men, though men were generally stronger. . .

  . . . To become a bodyguard, the officers of the BPPB must be trained to protect very important persons (VIPs), he said. In addition to the usual police training, which includes guns, driving and parachuting, VIP protection training also teaches crowd-control tactics and techniques for remaining close and attending to the VIP.

Because the task is very physically demanding, requiring the person to be constantly vigilant and sometimes miss sleep, the team consists only of women aged 20 to 35, Prayoon said . .  .

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