Thai Transsexual’s Experiences with Discrimination in Employment: Migration and Commercial Sex in Thailand and the Netherlands

This paper investigates the working and life histories of Thai transsexual (male to female) sex workers in Thailand’s sex tourist spots of Pattaya and Patpong. It also includes a narration of the situation of globetrotting Thai transsexual (male to female) sex workers who have been working in the famous Amsterdam’s Red Light District. The paper is based on the concept of “the ritual of passage” (Rites de Passage by Arnold van Gennep, 1977) in describing the marginalized identities situation through the multi-sited fieldwork method in Thailand and The Netherlands. It shall discuss the notion of liminality becoming the pushing factor for the Thai transsexuals to migrate to Europe.

The author focuses on two aspects of the sexual minorities’ experiences: (1) the discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in job recruitment process in homeland (Thailand), and (2) the diaspora and international connections resulting in migration to Europe (The Netherlands). The data is mainly qualitative in nature. In-depth interviews were performed with 50 Thai transsexual sex workers by tracking their lives/biographies as methodological and representational strategy (Marcus, 1995). The paper reveals that emerging marginalized sexual minorities still have limited employment prospects and find themselves channeled into the industries of entertainment and sex work. The paper contends that the sexual minorities’ liminality keeps them away from engaging in the mainstream jobs, which arguably may fit their ability and knowledge. Finally, the paper concludes with the assertion that sexual minorities have been deprived of specific types of rights, especially the rights to work and to self-determination. These transsexuals have indeed attempted to shrug off their liminality through these rites of passage, just to find that they have to suffer even more as they attempts to attain salvation.

Note – a root from Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Series One. Breaking the Silence


Author: Witchayanee Ocha

Topics: ICCPR

Output: Human Rights In Southeast Asia Series