In Bankok, Thailand there are seperate bathrooms for teen boys who prefer to dress as girls at one rural high school. No more tough decisions about which toilet to take to or having to go to the teachers lounge.
The Kampang School in northeastern Thailand conducted a survey last term that showed more than 200 of the school’s 2,600 students considered themselves transgender, said school director Sitisak Sumontha. So, when classes resumed in May, the school unveiled a unisex restroom designated by a human figure split in half – part man in blue and part woman in red. Below it are the words “Transvestite Toilet.”
Three transgender students praised the new restroom as they plucked their eyebrows and applied face powder in front of the mirror outside the stalls. Most rural Thais are conservative in many ways, but the trailblazing toilet initiative at the school in northeastern Sisaket province reflects another aspect of Thai society: its tolerance of the country’s very visible transgender community. The term describes a wide range of identities including cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals and those born with the physical characteristics of both sexes.
Kampang is not Thailand’s first educational institution to set up unisex washrooms, though Sitisak said he believed it was a first for a secondary school. A 1,500-student technical college in the northern province of Chiang Mai set up a “Pink Lotus Bathroom” for its 15 transvestite students in 2003. Deputy Education Minister Boonlue Prasertsopar recently said the ministry plans to count the number of transgender university students.
He said he was not promoting transgender interests, “but if there are a lot of them in a university and it’s a problem, we may have to consider building toilets and dormitories for them.” Transgenders are regularly seen on TV soap operas and throughout Bangkok, working at department store cosmetics counters, popular restaurants, in office jobs and in the capital’s red-light districts. Thailand also has transgender beauty pageants. I think a lot of those saying they consider themselves transgender are just doing it to be supportive.