While in Thailand, I have heard the term “lady boys” more times than I can count. And as a surprise to me, it is very accepted here. Before arriving here, I assumed and expected most people in Thailand to follow very traditional gender roles but I quickly found out women are the only gender to truly be held to those gender roles. At our group orientation the topic of the gender continuum in Thailand came up and Acharn Cathy explained that men are allowed to fall on the feminine side of the continuum and be transgender, but women are not generally accepted when they move into the masculine side of the continuum. This was a moment of intense curiosity for me. Why is that so? Why are women held to a double standard? I understand different cultures have different values and accept different things, but I really want to be able to dig deeper into this specific occurrence because it is incredibly interesting to me.
As soon as my interest was sparked during the conversation about gender, I began to think about gender roles and the gender continuum in America. I am a woman and cannot speak for men, but from my understanding a lot of men get incredible amounts of pressure to “be a man” and the amount of scrutiny and harassment a transgender person often receives is heartbreaking and must feel unbearable at times. Of course many people are accepting, but these types of expectations are still very much present in America. I find the connection between the differences of the continuums here in Thailand and at home to be fascinating. And of course, women in America still receive so much pressure to fit into the desired gender role, but it’s the different gender roles expectations in Thailand that really stick out to me.