Femininity in Transition: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Experiences of Thai Transgender Migrants in Europe


  • Cheera Thongkrajai Khon Kaen University




Kathoey and Migration, Queer Migration, Sexual Migration, Thai Migration in Europe, Thai Transgender


Many queer foreigners perceive Thailand as a gay paradise. They have an image of the country as having a tolerant attitude towards LGBTIQ+. However, for Thai LGBTIQ+, Western countries evoke wealth, progress, and acceptance where people with a different gender identity or sexual orientation can fully enjoy their rights. Thai LGBTIQ+, like men and women, strive to go abroad seeking a life they dream of. This article aims to give an account of one of these marginalized groups’ experience that is often neglected by both Thai and Western transnational scholars. Based on an ethnographic study in four European countries with 26 Thai transgender informants, this article argues that migration needs to be considered as a search for one’s well-being, not only in terms of economic aspects, but also in terms of sentimental or emotional needs – that is, the possibility of living their gender and being socially and legally accepted. In this transcultural context, not only do people move across borders, but they also export with them perceptions and understandings about sex, gender, and sexuality from their home country. These aspects are renegotiated and rearticulated in the new socio-cultural milieu of the host countries in order to maximize these new conditions for their own interest. They may or may not reveal their transgender identity, depending on contexts, social interactions, and whom they are dealing with. Their transgender identity can offer them advantages, particularly in the realm of sex.

Author Biography

Cheera Thongkrajai, Khon Kaen University

Dr. Cheera Thongkrajai works at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in Khon Kaen University, Thailand. She graduated from Aix-Marseilles University, France in 2014 with a Ph.D. in anthropology. Her research was on Thai transgender migration experiences in Europe. Interested in LGBTIQ issues, she has recently conducted several researches on transgender and LGBTIQ rights in Thailand, which has led to many publications, including an article entitled “Thai Law and Binary of Sex: Case study of transgender teachers’ experiences” and a report on “Gender and Sexual Diversity in Civil Services and Government Agencies in Thailand.” Dr. Cheera defines herself as ciswoman ally of the LGBTIQ community. She has participated in many academic conferences, as well as in activism in the Thai queer movement.


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