Amidst the storm of legal prosecutions against its party leaders, the Future Forward Party (FFP) has gained a small victory after its transgender MPs were allowed to dress according to their gender identity to the opening of parliament.
Future Forward's LGBTQ MPs at the opening of parliament
From left: Nateepat Kulsetthasith, Kawinnath Takey, Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, and Tanwarin Sukkhapisit(Source: Tanyawaj Kamolwongwat)
Following a highly disputed election and a long delay in the Election Commission’s announcement of the official results, Thailand’s parliament finally opened last Friday (24 May). And amidst public suspicion and a storm of legal prosecutions against the FFP’s party leaders, there was still a small victory for Thailand’s first LGBTQ MPs.
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Kawinnath Takey, Nateepat Kulsetthasith, and Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat – all Future Forward MPs – submitted a notice to the Office of the Secretariat of the House of Representatives specifying their intention to dress according to their gender identity at the opening of parliament, the party’s Facebook page said on 13 May.
The letter named Tanwarin, Kawinnath, and Nateepat – Thailand’s first transgender MPs – as the individuals informing the Office of their intentions.
Protocol dictates that all MPs attending the opening of parliament must wear white civilian uniforms. However, Sorasak Pienvej, Secretary-General of the House of Representatives, said on 23 May that the rules do not specify that one must dress according to one’s gender, and all MPs are free to join as long as they are dressed appropriately.
On 24 May, when Tanwarin arrived at the opening of parliament in a woman’s uniform, and Kawinnath and Nateepat arrived in men’s uniforms, there was no trouble.
The long road to equality
Seeing LGBTQ representations in parliament might be a good sign for Thailand’s LGBTQ community. While the country continues to market itself to foreign tourists as an LGBTQ paradise, Thai LGBTQs continue to face discrimination both on personal and systematic levels. When Tanwarin announced her intention to wear the women’s uniform for the opening of parliament, netizens were quick to criticize her decision, citing their concern that she would show up dressed inappropriately if she is allowed to dress as a woman for the ceremony, their image of a transwoman being, for the most part, that of drag queens and comedy actors.
In most universities across the country, transgender students are still not allowed to dress according to their gender identity to class, exams, or to their own graduation. Instead, they must file a request with the university for permission to do so, a process which involves getting a medical certificate saying that they have a “gender identity disorder,” despite the fact that being transgender is no longer classified as a mental disorder under the current revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
In April, it was also reported that a transgender teacher has been denied teaching positions for the past two years due to her gender identity.
And while Taiwan recently became the first country in Asia to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, Thailand’s plan for a civil partnership bill has already fallen through.
During the campaign period for the 2019 election, many parties presented policies to promote LGBTQ rights as part of their election campaign. The FFP itself promised to support marriage equality and push for changes to be made to Article 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code to allow same-sex couples to be legally married and entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples, as well as to push for legislation which will prevent discrimination on the basis of sex and gender.
Now, the hope is that we will be able to see these promises become a reality.