Life histories of transpeople in Asia
Kui was a participant in questionnaire research undertaken by Winter and others around 2002. Her account here combines interview material with material from that questionnaire.
CopyrightTransgenderASIA, for Kui. Please submit requests to Sam Winter for reproduction and dissemination falling under copyright laws must be made
November 2002, uploaded 6/11/2002
I was born in 1982. I am now 20 years old. I am a university student studying third year marketing at a university in Bangkok.
I was born male but think I have the mind and heart of a woman. I began to feel different when I was aged 10 years, and realised that I was female inside when I was 13. I think of myself now as a ‘phuying praphet song’ (‘a second type of woman’). I would prefer to be a real woman and, if I had a chance to start life again, would want to be born as one. And I believe that in this life I will always live as a ‘phuying praphet song’ because I believe I am fundamentally a woman inside.
My real name is Koracoch Singmeung. I am a Thai/Chinese ethnic mix. I grew up in a poor family in Rayong, south-east of Bangkok. I have three elder sisters and an elder brother.
When I was around 7 I was already using the words Thai girls use to refer to themselves (i.e. the Thai versions of the English ‘I’). At 17 I started taking hormones to change my appearance. Soon after, at age 18, I was beginning to use polite forms in speech like ‘ka’ that only girls otherwise use. I also started growing my hair long and living everyday life in female clothes.
I think Thai people generally have an accepting attitude towards people like me. As for my parents, my father tolerated (rather than accepted) the earliest years of my transition, but he died of throat cancer by the time I was 15, so that I have no way of knowing what he would think now. My mother tolerated it too, but now she is very accepting. I have helped her in this by working very hard. I have almost finished my first semester exams and I think I have done well. She supports me financially in my studies.
I think that I am kathoey because of something I was biologically born with. I am not sure whether I share the view of other kathoey that it is karma. I don’t think that my parents or relatives influenced me, but maybe my three elder sisters had something to do with it (I really don’t know). My friends certainly did not influence me.
I am only attracted to men, but I guess, like other kathoey who like men, I am what you would call bisexual. But I think a man who is attracted to a kathoey is heterosexual.
In my relationships with people I think I am confident and have some pretty high self-esteem. I think I am very attractive. I am fairly happy, but also anxious sometimes. I am not at all aggressive.
I have a small and feminine body. I am just 167cm tall and weigh 50kg. I have had no operations yet. I would like to have silicone in my face or body, and breast implants too. I am not sure about sex reassignment surgery. As for other operations, I would not like to have them at all.
One of the nice things about Thailand is that, so long as you behave in a properly female way, and are not too extravagant in your behaviour, the life is quite easy most of the time. Actually, these things about proper female behaviour seems to matter more to people than whether your appearance is like a lady.
One of the more difficult aspects of being a kathoey is that there is still some prejudice towards kathoey in Thailand. Some people, once they know, treat you badly. They look at you in a way that demeans you, talk disrespectfully to you, and gossip about you in a very obvious way in front of you.
I used to think I would like a company job when I get my marketing degree. But it can be difficult getting a job when you are a kathoey. Your I.D. always shows that you are man. That is true even if you have had a sex change operation. So now I think I would like to start a small business selling something, maybe imported goods. That way I can be my own boss.
I would like to marry the right guy some time. Kathoey can’t do that officially in Thailand. That’s because the government says the kathoey is a man, and men can’t marry men. But it would be possible to marry in an informal ceremony that means something to both of us. Adopting children would be difficult. You can’t do it officially if you are a kathoey, but you might be able to do it informally, looking after a child of a relative.
I really hope that the Thai government changes the laws so that kathoey can become legally female and change their I.D. So many things would be easier.
I only have one kathoey friend. Most of the others are gays (we enjoy each other’s company because we are both members of marginalised groups). I have a few lady friends. None of my friends are from university. I just go there to study and then come back home.
May 2004 update
Kui graduated from University and, despite her worst fears, managed to get a job -- working as a sales manager with a large furniture company shipping worldwide. She is helping to set up a Centre ('Si Chompoo' - 'The Colour Pink') offering support and advocacy for transgendered people in Thailand. It will be the first of its kind. Kui lives with her boyfriend in suburban Bangkok.
Kui, aged 20
December 17th 2007 update
Kui left her work at the furniture company to manage a Support Centre, 'Sisters', providing services for transpeople in Pattaya and funded through an international NGO. Around two years later she left to live in Europe and enter a civil union with her partner.