updated 18 Nov 2012, 02:46
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Tue, Nov 13, 2012
The New Paper
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Transgenders still ostracised by Thai society?

They want to be accepted.

To Thai married couple Sittichai “Pond” Suafug and Benhamaporn “Ben” Rotjutakul, love is blind.

But that doesn’t mean others see them the same way.

The jeering and scornful stares that greet the couple whenever they are spotted holding hands or hugging in public, suggests that some are less tolerant of transgenders, even in a generally tolerant city like Bangkok.

It’s hard to hide their sexuality, even when Ms Rotjutakul walks with a forced swagger.

Says Mr Suafug: “Initially, we faced difficulty as people had never seen a tomboy and ladyboy together.

They would shout, ‘Hey, that’s the transgender couple’.

“It’s hard but we have to ignore them. We don’t think we are strange.”

After being together for five years, people who know the couple have slowly come to terms with their relationship.

Still, there’s a long way to go.

Both Mr Suafug and Ms Rotjutakul do not lead the popularly perceived lifestyles of sexually permissive Thai transgenders.

They’re private people, their lives illuminated only by a twist of fate.

Says Ms Rotjutakul: “Love is beautiful. Our sexuality is just different, that’s all.

“Even though Thai society still isn’t open to this issue (of transgenders), we will try to move on with our lives as best as we can.”

While their marriage is rare, there have been a number of cases where transgender couples (of the same sex) go through the customary marriage ceremony but not the registration at the district office, says Thai lawyer Kert Stavorn.

He explains that Thai law does not recognise same-sex marriages.

It also has no concept of “civil union” or “de facto relationship” as is known in other parts of the world where partners can have their relationship recognised.

Says Mr Stavorn, a partner at Siam Legal: “But in the case of Pondand Ben, they are unique in the sense that they are both transgenders.

“I don’t really see any legal implications when the couple decide to have children or have gender reassignment.

“But should the couple decide to call it a day and apply for divorce, a gender reassignment would certainly fall into the category whereby divorce would be granted.”

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