One of the Miss International Queens contestants gives an interview to one of the press representative.
Tiffany’s Show stands out as perhaps Pattaya’s single most famous and important - entertainment venue. That’s saying a lot because this exotic seaside resort is devoted to providing over the top thrills to millions of tourists each year. But in addition to the show’s dazzling glamour, there is a serious side to Tiffany’s Show.
Tiffany’s Show has played a strong role in advancing the status of and opportunities for the transgendered, also referred to as kathoey or ladyboys. While the idea of an entire Broadway type song and dance show featuring performances by ladyboys doesn’t seem so radical today, thirty years ago it was. And now literally millions of people from around the world have had the issue of transgendering brought to their attention in avery positive light.
Recently Tiffany’s Show sponsored the Miss International Queen 2009 pageant which Managing Director Khun Sutham describes as, in part, being about international human rights awareness. Eighteen contestants representing thirteen countries participated in the gala pageant.
In interviews all of the contestants expressed confidence that personal respect in their countries for transsexuals was improving. However, Roxanne Fonseka, the Malaysian representative reported that a recent edict handed down from a regional Islamic authority has prohibited transgendering. “Up until then it wasn’t such a big issue, but it is now.” she said. Roxanne, by the way, is a Buddhist.
Camillia Dzelma, from Singapore, is taking her chances by going public. As modern and progressive as Singapore is, transsexualsare highly stigmatized, as are homosexuals, transvestites and prostitutes and too often forced to live on society’s fringes.
Anna Marie, one of four contestants from the Philippines said that the transgendered there are also lumped together with homosexuals, but she doesn’t perceive much discrimination. “It’s just not a big deal in the Philippines.”
Asunta Mae represented the United Kingdom where she has been attending university for the past two years. She is originally from the Philippines where she lived until her family moved to Chicago when she was sixteen. She doesn’t feel as stigmatized in the Philippines as she did in the U.S. or the U.K. However she feels most comfortable in Thailand and plans to relocate there.
Nepal is home to contestant Sandhya Lama. She reported that following the recent abolition of the very conservative monarchy and the growing influence of the Maoist party, the Blue Diamond Society has championed the cause of the transgendered as well as gays and lesbians. “We fought for our rights and we got them!” she said confidently. Sandhya recently met and posed with Madhav Kumar Nepal, Honorable Prime Minister of Nepal on World AIDS Day 2009. According to the January 9th Travel Section of The New York Times, in the roughly two years since the Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered that gay, lesbians and transgendered people be afforded equal rights, this conservative, mostly-Hindu country appears to be moving ahead full throttle. A “third gender” category is an option on national I.D. cards. The Times reported that Nepal was becoming a gay friendly travel destination. Gay friendly clubs now dot its capital. (See www.utopia-asia.com for listings.)
The winner of the Miss International Queen 2009 crown was Japan’s 37 year old Haruna Ai who already has a degree of celebrity status. She appears frequently on Japanese TV hosting as well as singing. Despite her duties as Miss International Queen, she still finds time to make numerous TV appearances and promote her new photo book. In spite of her successes, she reportsthat, “The way of life in Japan is more traditional and transsexuals cannot live freely, but in Thailand they can do what they want.”
Generally, by definition, transsexual men (and women) would like to permanently transition into the gender with which they identify. This process is referred to as sex reassignment therapy and includes hormone therapy as well as surgeries.
This process can take years and is financially out of reach for most. However, many can manage the cost of birth control pills containing the female hormone estrogen which will begin the feminization process and may result in some breast growth. The next priority is usually breast enhancement surgery which cost between one and two thousand US dollars in Thailand.
All of the Miss International Queen 2009 contestants were lovely and feminine. For the most part they were open about how far along they were in the sex reassignment process. A few reported that they were “100% woman” while others were still on the journey. As mentioned, the top prize was $10,000 USD. But also there were nine highly prized $500USD gift vouchers from the Pratunam Poly Clinic which is a sex reassignment clinic in Bangkok. The clinic is very popular with young Thai wishing to transgender.
Prof. Dr. Seri, an advisor to the Miss International Queen pageant, writes, “We are proud to be part of the development of the worth of this minority group in society and we are committed to pursue this goal.” The spirit exhibited by this international group of beauties representing the “gender of the third category” reflected a strong commitment to improving opportunities for transsexuals in their home countries and around the world.
In January of this year a meeting was held at Pattaya’s Grand Sole Hotel to discuss the establishment of a new publicly supported organization
aimed at improving the quality of life for the many transgendered living in the area. Better access to healthcare, professional personal advice and seminars about the process of gender reassignment would be at the forefront of the new organization’s agenda.
The meeting was attended by representatives from the Chonburi Provincial Administration, Pattaya City Hall and, of course, the Tiffany’s Show. The leaders and supporters of Tiffany’s Show deserve to be congratulated and recognized as effective and important agents for supportive change for the transgendered community in Thailand and beyond.
Foot note: Amanda Simpson started work January 5th as a senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department, becoming America’s first openly transgendered presidential appointee. Simpson – an expert in military technology and former test pilot – said the fact that she used to be Mitch Simpson shouldn’t matter, “but on the other hand it does.”
“There are many employed and successful transgender individuals,” says Joanne Herman in The Huffington Post, “but you don’t often hear their stories because they are living ‘stealth’ (without disclosing transgender status).”Because of the courage and vision shown by Amanda Simpson, The Tiffany’s Show, new, hopeful opportunities are emerging for the transsexual community.
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