In the vibrant and diverse landscape of Thailand, the journey of self-acceptance holds a sparkle of significance for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Despite the unique challenges faced, embracing and celebrating their true selves is a journey that deserves recognition and support. In this article we offer tips and insights for anyone on that journey as we hope to make Thailand even more fabulous for everyone.
Understanding sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression is a crucial step towards self-acceptance. The importance of education, self-reflection, and embracing the diverse experiences within the LGBTQIA+ community is paramount. Nada Chaiyajit, Human Rights Campaign Advisor of Manushya Foundation, is a remarkable individual with an impressive background as a transgender rights activist since 2006. She has used her past experience of discrimination to empower herself. While she was still in the university, Nada–who calls herself “an intersex trans woman” successfully won a case on uniform justice, opening the doors for chosen gender identification and expression in education institutes. She received the Chevening Scholarship in 2019 to study international human rights law in the UK and is also on her way towards a PhD scholarship.
Building a strong support network is essential for LGBTQIA+ individuals. The significance of finding accepting friends, family, and communities, and the positive impact they can have on nurturing self-acceptance and creating safe spaces can be so important. One of Koktail’s 2023 Future List, Chitsanupong (Best) Nithiwana, is the founder and executive director of Young Pride Club, a safe learning community for young people interested in gender equality and LGBTQ+ community. The community provides on the ground activities and online content to develop leadership and participation for gender equality advocacy. In 2022, Best also became an APCOM Hero Award Honouree (Community Hero) under the theme “Unity & Diversity '' in recognition of her inspiring work.
Thailand offers a rainbow of resources and support for LGBTQIA+ individuals on their journey of self-acceptance. To highlight the importance of LGBTQIA+ support groups, counselling services, and online communities, showcasing how these resources can offer guidance, empowerment, and a sense of belonging we turn to a transgender entrepreneur and equal rights advocate for inclusive business, Natthineethiti (Nikki) Phinyapincha. She is working towards an inclusive workplace with LGBTQ+ economic empowerment for socio-economic change which is done through strategic consultation, innovative training and workshops, impact-focused collaboration as well as transgender professional leadership advocacy to help businesses in their sustainable workforce development efforts. In 2022 she formed TransTalents Consulting Group which is a transwoman-led platform aiming at empowering transgender professional leadership and helping businesses to achieve sustainable and inclusive workforce with DE&I.
Sometimes, the journey of self-acceptance may require the assistance of mental health professionals. We emphasise the importance of seeking specialised support, providing insights into how these professionals can guide individuals facing mental health challenges related to their identity. Rena Janamnuaysook is a transgender woman who works as the Program Manager (Implementation Science) for Transgender Health at the Institute of HIV Research and Innovation (IHRI) in Bangkok. She also established the Tangerine Community Health Clinic as the first transgender-led health clinic in the region, and now a model for other countries in the region. Rena provides technical guidance for the development and implementation of HIV and AIDS research and programs for the transgender population. Her greatest challenge in achieving transgender-inclusive policy change is combating the negative attitude and stigma associated with transgender identity.
Self-acceptance is a process that requires patience and a sprinkle of self-compassion. Understand the significance of practising kindness toward oneself, celebrating achievements, and acknowledging that love and acceptance are deserved by all. Another 2023 Koktail Future List honouree, Maria Poonlertlarp, is the model, actress, singer and advocate who caught the public eye by winning the Miss Universe Thailand title in 2017 and reaching the finals in the Miss Universe Pageant in the US. During the competition she cited an interest in combating issues of gender inequality and teenage pregnancy. Since being crowned, she uses her widely followed Instagram account as a platform to advocate for various issues close to her heart, including LGBTQ+ rights. Be patient with yourself as you cultivate the self-compassion practice and remember that you deserve to be showered with the same love and kindness that you offer to others.
Living authentically is a powerful step towards self-acceptance. Embracing one's true identity, regardless of societal expectations or pressures must be strived for. Koktail recognises 2023 Future Listee, Chotika "Toon" Kamwongpin, leader of Stoondio band who has her own way to direct her future. Toon quit her job as an art director and graphic designer in an advertising agency to indulge in her passion for music. She picked up the guitar while she was still in school and started writing songs for fun, sharing them with friends on social media. By the time she was in university, she was producing her own music, and she soon became known through Fat Radio, with invites for gigs. Her songs are mostly about her impressions of city life, but acknowledges that her background in creative design allows her to decode issues and emotions that make their way into her lyrics. Through her concern for society, she has collaborated with various organisations such as the Mirror Foundation and the Peaceful Death Project to highlight sensitive issues including LGBTQ+ rights, women rights, human trafficking and death.
Thailand is a place where self-acceptance is mostly celebrated and empowered within the LGBTQIA+ community and others. By embracing one's true selves, building supportive networks, and tapping into available resources, individuals can embark on a transformative journey of self-acceptance. The inspiring stories of Nada, Best, Nikki, Rena, Maria and Toon serve as inspiration that everyone deserves to strut their stuff and be proud of who they are. Together, they make Thailand an even more fabulous place for all, fostering a society that embraces diversity and promotes self-acceptance in all its sparkling glory.