Transgender Running For Thai Political Office

The vast majority of the media political spotlight in Thai is shone upon Bangkok at Federal parliament level and very little at Provincial or local, unless there is a political murder of course, which is rather common in Thailand. Yollada “Nok” Suanyot, better known by her nickname “Nok” is stealing some of that spotlight though, as the gorgeous ‘ladyboy’ has nominated to run for a provincial level political post in the northern province of Nan. Although it may not be politically correct in a boring western country, political correctness is not in the Thai culture yet. If you visit the kingdom, you will have a much easier time leaving your political correctnes at the airport until your departure from Thailand to avoid offence. A “ladyboy” is simple a local English slang for a trans-gender person.

She is a new name on the political scenes but by no means a new name in the Thai media. ‘Nok’ has been busy lady, she runs a satellite television station, gained her PHD, owns a jewellery business, is the current President of the Trans Female Association of Thailand and been a strong campaigner of trans-gender and homosexual rights in Thailand’s society. This will be the first provincial election in Thailand where a trans-gender has stood for election.

I refer to Yollada Suanyot ‘Nok’ as she, well under Thai law her name is actually Mr Yollada Sauanyot, son of a Nan Provence Police Officer. ‘Nok’ had a sex change surgical procedure when 16 years old, and has since lived as a women in every way including being in a successful heterosexual relationship. Compared to any other country I have been to, trans-sexuals are defiantly appear to be tolerated and on the surface accepted in the Thai culture more as nothing out of the ordinary. However, some I have spoken to are quick to point out that tolerance is not the same as acceptance. Going on to say they they are stereotyped and almost restricted to employment in the beauty industry, entertainer or as prostitutes and that it is very hard to break into the corporate positions and climb the ladder. There are exceptions of course, of recent note is PC Air with trans-gender cabin crew on their Airbus fleet.

I noticed the underlying biggest issue is that they still have Mr on their ID cards, this set off a surprising amount of emotion and anger. There has been proposal in parliament but they continue to be stalled. There is hope that ‘Nok’ can help push this along if she is elected, even though she is in a different political sitting. Many other countries do legally acknowledge trans-gender individuals. Australia does this on official document like a passport by the use of a X where there would normally be a M or F for male or female. As much as anything, it is for practical reasons as well for law enforcement. An immigration office or police officer initially accuse or be confused as suspect fraud when a lady has a male passport.

Below is an interesting solution to toilets in some Thai schools from the BBC. Have also seen restaurants that have male, female and trans-gender toilets.
Transsexual Toilet in Thailand

As with every group though, often it is the silent majority and a minority that gain media attention and or destroy reputations of the majority. Unfortunately in the Thai trans-gender world there is a tiny element that is the face of Thai ladyboys to foreign visitors. In the main tourist areas prostitution is in your face, many of the ladyboy prostitutes seem to be rather aggressive drug addicts and criminally orientated and have strength to back them selves up. These tend to be almost exclusively ladyboys who have not had the operation yet. It was pointed out to me, that most trans-sexuals would like to “wipe-out” about 300 violent ladyboys that give the rest a bad name.



  • Joey Richardson

    I like how it’s not the first transgender candidate to office, but the highest ranking so far. Seriously, there is a lesson to be learned here. You will know them by their fruits. I’ve always wondered why Thailand has a lot of trans women. Someone please enlighten me!

  • Yvette Round

    Nok is an inspiration and exceptionally brave. So proud of her. It is almost hard to believe that in 2012 we are still having to fight for the right of human beings to self – define who they are. No invested interested – just moved by Nok’s mission, ambition and natural leadership skills. Go girl!