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The Land of Smiles and Equality

March 26, 2020

For the past fifty years or so, the author has always believed there is both racial and sexual equality in Thailand. Most Thai men would deny that. From the beginning of this time period, there were strong and successful Thai women in business; the black GI's on R&R from the Vietnam War fit in well with the local scene and every bar had one or more transgender performers. Since that time, the acceptance level has reached one that is unlike many more allegedly open and tolerant societies.

In 1995, the Story clan took a trip to northern Thailand and, when waiting in the small Chiang Mai departure lounge, the girls noticed the large number of beautiful Thai ladies nearby. One asked had it been a "Miss Thailand contest" and I had to say it was most likely a transgender beauty contest given the size of their feet. Well, since then, Thailand has become the center for transgender beauty contests.
Recently, The Bangkok Post published an article entitled Transgender Queen Crowned in Pattaya. In Pattaya, Thailand, Mexico's Valentina Fluchaire was crowned as winner of the world's biggest transgender pageant. In the moribund world of COVID-19, it was refreshing to see an event carry on with proper precautions though there were empty seats. Pattaya went through an extensive disinfection process with temperature checks of all participants.

Although Thailand was the first country outside China to record a coronavirus infection, the level of infection stabilized very quickly. However, recently Thailand increased to be the seventh country in number of infections below China, Italy, Iran, the United States, South Korea and Japan. It appears a lack of social distancing and the indigenous love of Thai people for kick boxing events and bars reversed the trend.

The pageant has a fifteen-year history and has built a reputation as a place with a relaxed reputation toward gender and sexual diversity. In fact, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1956. More importantly, for over fifty years, there is no indication whatsoever that anyone cares. As evident below, everyone refrained from kissing in accord with health guidelines.
The racial equality side is best demonstrated by another contestant image shown below.
Now, comes the clincher. I doubt that many of you out there, with the exception of the All Blacks New Zealand Rugby team, have ever played in an elephant polo tournament against a transgender elephant polo team. Well, The Elephant Story team, shown below, successfully defeated the King Power transgender team from Pattaya, Thailand in the 2013 Kings Cup in Hua Hin, Thailand. I recall the All Blacks experience in that they had difficulty staying on their elephant mounts. They came the closest of any rider to have enough height and weight to provide stability. However, the actual reason was the massive alcohol consumption before play began that contributed to their unbalanced status. The King Power team put up a good fight but the All Blacks' vision finally cleared and they prevailed.
Given the discord in today's world about people who are different which often results in massive populist lambasts, it is kind of nice to find a measure of respect from a relatively small country to others who have differences. The Thai people are not perfect but life there is pretty special in the "Land of Smiles."


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