You’re fourteen, at school and you need to go for a pee. You leave your science lesson and rush to the toilet. Then you stop. You’re confused. In front of you are three separate toilets. One with a symbol for boys, another for girls, and there’s another with a symbol you’ve never seen before. It’s half blue and half pink Oh yes of course, it’s the transgender toilet. A toilet for those boys who feel like girls.
And that’s exactly what has just opened in a school in northern Thailand. The principle of the school says it’s important because they are teased if they use the boys’ toilets and they feel uncomfortable in the girls’ toilets. He says that between 10 and 20 percent of the pupils there consider themselves to be transgender.
Suttirat Simsiriwong goes by the name of Crystal and is now an adult. She knows fully well the problems of being at school and feeling different. She applauds the headmaster’s initiative.
“The master of the school felt this was a problem and confronted it by accepting the truth and built the third toilet. He showed that this school takes care of all the students no matter who they are and what they are.” Crystal is now a campaigner for transgender rights in Thailand and is trying to change attitudes in the country. It’s not that Thai society doesn’t accept transgenders, far from it, but to be accepted you have to be beautiful. Ugly transgenders have a far harder time.
“We try to educate the society in Thailand that to be a transgender woman you don’t have to be beautiful. You can be a lawyer, an accountant, a beauty adviser or a doctor. The concept is changing now. You don’t have to be very beautiful but you have to have a brain to survive in this society.”
Crystal is now at the forefront of transgender rights because of being refused entry at a club run by a well-known hotel chain. The guard looked at her identity card, saw she was a man and said she couldn’t enter. Crystal immediately contacted Bangkok’s gay and lesbian organisation and soon her story was on the front pages of national newspapers.
“I requested for them to have a press conference to apologise to me. This was the first time in my life that I was treated like that, so I have to fight for my rights. And my case has got into the drafting of the constitution of Thailand and so it’s really the right time, the right person and the right way.”
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