tree-lined grounds and slightly threadbare classrooms, there is nothing
obviously unusual about the Kampang Secondary School.
It is situated in Thailand's impoverished north-east, and most of the pupils
Every morning at 0800 they all gather outside to sing the national anthem and
Then they have a chance to use the toilets, before heading off the first
Kampang is proud of its toilets. Spotless, and surrounded by flowering
But there is something else about them too. Between the girls' toilet and the
This is the transsexual toilet, and outside, in front of the mirrors, some
The headteacher, Sitisak Sumontha, estimates that in any year between 10% and
"They used to be teased every time they used the boys' toilets," he said, "so
So the school offered to build the transgender boys their own facility, and
Triwate Phamanee is a slightly built 13-year-old who is adamant that he will
"We're not boys," he told me, "so we don't want to use the boys' toilet - we
Vichai Saengsakul, 15, agrees.
"People need to know that being a transsexual is not a joke," he says, "it's
The transgender boys in Kampang tend to stick together as a group, practising
They still have to wear male uniforms, make-up is not allowed (although some
But they appear to be treated perfectly normally by other pupils and teachers
I asked the headmaster whether they were not too young to be making decisions
He said that, in his 35 years of working in the Thai education system, he had
Thailand is well known for its tolerance of transgender men, and they are
'Sweet and soft'
The Kampang school's initiative, far from stirring up controversy, has
A ratio of 10% to 20% of boys calling themselves transsexual in a provincial
Which brought up a question that has been rattling around my head ever since
I asked Suttirat Simsiriwong, who became a campaigner for transgender rights
Poised, articulate and very feminine, it is hard to tell that she was not
"Maybe the numbers of gays, of people with sexual identity issues, might be
So does building a special toilet in school advance the cause of winning
"At that age it's good for them to have a specific place," she said.
"But when they graduate from school or university, they will know how to have
Tolerance, said Suttirat, is not the same thing as acceptance.
Despite their high profile in Thailand, transsexuals complain that they are
And their biggest complaint is that they cannot change their legal status.
Despite a proposal during the drafting of a new constitution last year, to
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Third Toilet For The Third Gender (Maybe Unc/Aunt Pet Can Apply)
Don't you just love their tolerance? Maybe Unc/Aunt Pet can apply. ;-) From the Beebs: