The Third Gender

Arseny Neskhodimov

Published on 02/09/14

© Arseny Neskhodimov

The pro­ject which is called “The third gender” I have star­ted in 2014 year in Thai­l­and where trans­sexu­als (Katoeys –Thai name) are con­sidered to be a third gender in Thai­l­and. 1 out of every 100 Thai men is a trans­sexual.
In West­ern view phe­nom­enal of people who change their sex is an anom­aly but in Thai­l­and it is nor­mal. In Thai­l­and “kathoey” is the com­monly used umbrella term that gath­ers male to female trans­gender people, as well as effem­in­ate men under its cover. «Kothoeys» are bio­lo­gical man who have been born with dis­tinctly female hearts and minds. Some choose to have their ana­tomy cor­rec­ted whilst oth­ers are con­tent or simply give free reign to their effem­in­ate man­ner­ism.
Cur­rently I live in Viet­nam where I carry on work­ing on my pro­ject.
To com­pare with Thai­l­and in Viet­nam trans­sexu­als are very rare to be found on the streets. They are not tol­er­ated by soci­ety.  Just only a few of trans­gender in Viet­nam dared to have had a reas­sign­ment sur­gery while oth­ers either simply can­not afford it or afraid of doing so because of the fear of their fam­ily.  In Thai­l­and people decide to undergo a reas­sign­ment sur­gery because it helps them to find a well-paid job. The more money they invest in oper­a­tion the more money they except to earn in future and even marry a for­eigner hav­ing a body of real woman.
In Viet­nam exists an old tra­di­tion when man dresses up as a woman and enter­tains people.
It can be found even nowadays espe­cially in Mekong Delta where trans­sexu­als earn their leav­ing by trav­el­ing through the vil­lages as a vag­rant cir­cus. They dance and sing and even do odd things such as swal­low­ing burn­ing coals or chew­ing glasses.  Some­times they are invited to enter­tain people on wed­ding and funer­als. Gen­er­ally these people lead a miser­able life and that kind of cir­cuses are becom­ing extinct
In Thai­l­and trans­sexu­als are totally accep­ted by they fam­ily as long as they sup­port them. Trans­sexu­als in Thai­l­and are able to find a well-paid job espe­cially in cab­aret show or in go-go bars.  In Viet­nam hav­ing a sur­gery closes the door on find­ing any job. Hav­ing appear­ance of the woman and at the same time male’s ID brings a great shame on them. So far there is no way to issue a pass­port in a new gender.  Even to wear woman’s clothes in daily life is a huge chal­lenge for many trans­sexu­als in Viet­nam.
In short, to be a trans­gender in Viet­nam is a chal­lenge but they never give up even though they are not tol­er­ated here and forced to hide their per­son­al­ity. They organ­ize com­munity they parade the streets to fight for their rights such as the abil­ity to marry a man and to issue pass­ports. © Arseny Neskhodimov

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