Femininity in Transition: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Experiences of Thai Transgender Migrants in Europe
Keywords: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.
Borrillo, D. (2017). Mariage pour tous et homoparentalité: Les péripéties du conservatisme de gauche. In B. Perreau (Ed.), Les défis de la République: Genre, territoires, citoyenneté (pp. 87-110). Presses de Sciences Po.
Briquet, J.-L. (2003). Partir. Critique internationale, 19(2), 138-140.
Brummelhuis, H. T. (1999). Transformations of transgender: The case of the Thai kathoey. In P. Jackson & G. Sullivan (Eds.), Lady Boys, Tom Boys, rent Boys: male and female homosexualities in contemporary Thailand (pp. 121-139). Haworth Press.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge.
Butratana, K., & Trupp, A. (2021). Gender, class, and paradoxical mobilities of Thai marriage migrants in Austria. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 42, 85-106.
Carrillo, H. (2004). Sexual migration, cross-cultural sexual encounters, and sexual health. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 1, 58-70.
Carrillo, H. (2017). Pathways of desire: The sexual migration of Mexican gay men. The University of Chicago Press.
Chossière, F. (2021). Refugeeness, sexuality, and gender: Spatialized lived experiences of intersectionality by queer asylum seekers and refugees in Paris. Frontier in Human Dynamics, 3, 634009. https://doi.org/10.3389/fhumd.2021.634009
Cohen, E. (2003). Transnational marriage in Thailand: The dynamics of extreme heterogamy. In T. Bauer & B. Mckercher (Eds.), Sex and Tourism: Journeys ofromance, love, and lust.(pp. 57-81). Haworth Hospitality Press.
Diminescu, D. (2002). L’usage du téléphone portable par les migrants en situation précaire. Homme et Migration, 1240(1), 66-79.
Formoso, B. (2001). Corps étrangers: Tourisme et prostitution en Thaïlande. Anthropologie et Sociétés, 25(2), 55-70.
Jackson, P. (1997). Kathoey >< gay >< man: The historical emergence of gay identity in Thailand. In L. Manderson & M. Jolly (Eds.), Sites of desire, economies of pleasure: Sexualities in Asia and the Pacific(pp. 166-190). The University of Chicago Press.
Kitiarsa, P. (2010). An ambiguous intimacy: Farang as Siamese Occidentalism. In R.V. Harrison & P.A. Jackson (Eds.), The ambiguous allure of the West: Traces of the colonial in Thailand (pp. 57-74). Hong Kong University Press.
Lapanun, P. (2019). Love, money and obligation: Transnational marriage in a Northeastern Thai village. NUS Press.
Lauderback, D. (2018, November 30). Rainbow politics: Comparing LGBT+ rights in Germany and the United States. The American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS). https://www.aicgs.org/2018/11/rainbow-politics-comparing-lgbt-rights-in-germany-and-the-united-states/
Lennon E., & Mistler, B.J. (2014). Cisgenderism. Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(1-2), 63-64.
Lévy, F.,& Lieber, M. (2009). La sexualité comme ressource migratoire. Revue française de sociologie, 50(4), 719-746.
Mahler, S. J.,& Pessar, P. R. (2001).Gendered geographies of power: Analyzing gender across transnational spaces. Identities, 7(4), 441-459.
Manalansan, M. F. (2005). Migrancy, modernity, mobility: Quotidian struggle and queer diasporic intima-cy. In E. Luibhéid & L. Cantú Jr. (Eds.), Queer migrations: Sexuality, U.S. citizenship and border crossings (pp. 146-160). University of Minnesota Press.
Matzner, A. (2001). The complexities of acceptance: Thai student attitudes towards kathoey. Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 15(2), 71-93.
Mole, R. C. M. (Ed.). (2021). Queer migration and asylum in Europe. UCL Press.
Morris, R. C. (1994). Three sexes and four sexualities: Redressing the discourses on gender and sexuality in contemporary Thailand. Positions, 2(1), 15-43.
Nedelcu, M. (2010). (Re)penser le transnationalisme et l’intégration à l’ère du numérique. Vers un tournant cosmopolitique dans l’étude des migrations internationales? Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 26(2), 33-55.
Ocha, W. (2020). Gold rush abroad: The trajectory of Singapore-based Thai transsexual (male to female) sex workers in global sex tourism. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(1), 123-141.
Pravattiyagul, J. (2021). Thai transgender women in Europe: Migration, gender and binational relation-ships. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 30(1), 79-101.
Rungmanee, S. (2021). Returning and departing: Livelihood challenges of returned migrants and intergenerational reproduction of migration in Northeast Thailand. Journal of Mekong Societies, 17(2), 121-139.
Scuzzarello, S., & Statham, P. (2022). Transgender kathoey socially imagining relationships with western men in Thailand: Aspirations for gender affirmation, upward social mobility, and family acceptance.Advances in Southeast Asian Studies, 15(2), 195-212.
Steenhof, L., & Harmsen, C. (n.d.). Same-sex couples in the Netherlands. https://www.cbs.nl
Sunanta, S., &. Angeles L. C. (2013) From rural life to transnational wife: Agrarian transition, gender mobility, and intimate globalization in transnational marriages in Northeast Thailand. Gender, Place & Culture, 20(6), 699–717.
Suksomboon, P. (2011). Cross-border marriage as a migration strategy: Thai women in the Netherlands. In: E. Kofman, M. Kohli, A. Kraler, & C. Schmoll (Eds.), Gender, generations and the family in international migration (pp. 221-241). Amsterdam University Press.
Suriyasarn, B. (2014). Gender identity and sexual orientation in Thailand: Promoting rights, diversity and equality in the world of work project. ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos People’s Democratic Republic.
Thongkrajai, C. (2010). Kathoey, un genre multiple: Le processus d’adaptation et de négociation identitaire des transsexuels MTF de Thaïlande. Moussons, 16. https://journals.openedition.org/moussons/150
Thongkrajai, C. (2012). Transgenres thaïlandaises en Europe: Le sexe, l’amour, l’argent et « mon genre ! ». SociologieS. https://journals.openedition.org/sociologies/3849
Thongkrajai, C. (2014). Kathoeys Mueang Nok: Expériences migratoires des personnes transgenres thaïlandaises en Europe. PhD dissertation, Institut d'ethnologie méditerranéenne, européenne et comparative, Aix-Marseille Université.
Van Esterik, P. (2000). Materializing Thailand. Berg.
Copyright (c) 2022 Cheera Thongkrajai
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
For all articles published in ASEAS before December 2014 and after July 2022, copyright is retained by the authors. For articles published between January 2015 and June 2022, the Society for South-East Asian Studies (SEAS) is the copyright holder. Articles published in ASEAS before December 2019 are licensed under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. Articles published after that date are licensed under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International. In both cases, this means that everybody is free to share (to copy, to distribute, and to transmit the work) under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
NoDerivatives — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.