Life histories of transpeople in Asia
Nun is in her final year as an undergraduate humanities student at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok. This is her account, as told by Sam Winter.
Copyright Sam Winter to whom requests for reproduction and dissemination falling under copyright laws must be made
I was born on 11th June 1980 in Bangkok. I had one elder sister at that time. My parents took care of me just as they would take care of a girl. They dressed me in girls' clothes, and gave me girls' dolls to play with. Aunts helped take care of my sister and me. Throughout elementary school I had only girls as friends.
When I was older I went to a 'boys only' high school. I suddenly found myself surrounded by boys, and realised that I was very different to most if not all of them. I became confused about whether I was male or female.
When I was thirteen I met a boy who became my boyfriend. We had sex together. I was shocked to find out that he was just like me undressed. I suddenly realised that, however I felt inside, I was physically a boy. I met a 'ladyboy' (or 'kathoey') in my class, and I realised that I was one also. My boyfriend gave me information about how I could become a ladyboy. I began to take hormones, wear make up, and wear ladies' clothes outside school. Then when I was fifteen my mother asked me to become properly male again. She was afraid that if I continued being a ladyboy my life would be very hard. But when she looked at me she could see how unhappy her words made me. So she just told me to be anything I wanted to be, so long as I stayed away from anything that could actually do me harm (like drugs) and pursued my education. At that point I began to grow my hair long.
When I was nineteen I had an experience with another boyfriend. He had lived as a ladyboy for some time, but had gone back to living as a man. After we had been going out for several months we began to argue a lot, and I learned that he was gay; he liked other boys. I wondered how it could be that a man could like other men. I could not accept having a gay boyfriend. I suddenly realised that sex and gender came in many colours, and that we were not suitable for each other. Finally I met another boyfriend who is happy with me as I am - a ladyboy - and treats me as a woman.
I had several operations between the age of nineteen and twenty. I have had silicon placed into my chin, have shaved off my Adam's Apple, obtained breast implants, reshaped my nose, and had sex reassignment surgery. After I had the sex change I felt confused. I began to realise that I was still not a real woman because, despite all the changes, I have a side of me that is still a boy.
I am a student at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. I am studying a humanities degree and am due to graduate in April 2002. I want to work as a tour guide, but am looking for any job at the moment, so long as it a 'normal' one - a daytime job that anyone might want to do. It is so difficult to get a job offer. I have been turned down lots of times, and I really don't know whether it is because I am a kathoey. I fear that might be part of it.
Finally, I have an uncle who is gay, a cousin (on my mother's beside) two years younger than me who is a ladyboy and lives with my mother now. I think there may be others in my family who will become ladyboys as they grow up.
December 2007 update
Nun graduated from University, and began to live with her Thai boyfriend in Bangkok. Soon afterwards she fell ill, only slowly recovering and getting her life back together. During her illness her relationship with her boyfriendended. Today she lives with her family, and works in a hotel restaurant in Bangkok, but hopes soon to get a job in a Government Office.
Nun, aged 20