Street and State Discrimination: Thai Transgender Women in Europe
The large numbers of Thai transgender women (Kathoey) in Thailand and their visible roles in Thai society are assumed by casual visitors that Thailand is open and accepting of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) culture. Thailand is often dubbed as gender tolerant and culturally sensitive. However, the accumulated injustice of Thai state on transgender right policies - same sex marriage, social welfare, change of gender on identification card and employment discrimination - is the main push factor for groups of Thai transgender women to migrate to Europe, in accordance to their romanticized notions of the West. In Sweden, Denmark, Holland and UK, where the governments support equal rights of transgender people, Thai transgender women find better lives where they are allowed to legally marry, revel in professional progress and access social welfares. Thai transgender women, however, still experience discrimination and transprejudice on street level in Europe. This research aims to study the phenomenon of Thai transgender women migration to Europe and their perception and reality of having Western spouse. It compares the levels of discrimination in Thailand and Europe as well as their discourse of social acceptance through hetero-beauty myth. The study also investigates transgender prostitution industry in Europe and Thai transgender women’s narratives on European lives.