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fighting/going to thailand as a trans person

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No need for me to beat around the bush here I guess: I'm trans, female-to-male. I've been on testosterone for three-ish years now and have had top surgery. I pass completely as male, I even got blessed with good genetics for relatively big muscles. I just have scarring on my chest so being shirtless is a little suspicious. I've been training Muay Thai for about a year now (not 100% consecutively) and I love it. I can't even imagine my life without it, honestly, and I have watched so many documentaries on Muay Thai in Thailand and Thai culture.

I've been thinking about trying to take on an amateur fight for awhile now (I'm in the US), but I'm a little terrified of a few things. Some of it is just being scared of brain damage, while I'm also scared of having to do a pee test and... well... it wouldn't go so well for me. And, whether I fight or not, I want to train Muay Thai in Thailand for at least a few weeks of my life. I tried to research trans rights over there but I could only find anything on mtf individuals. I don't know if I'd be able to bring over my testosterone, or if people would judge me for my chest scars, or if I'm expected to change in front of training buddies, or what.

Just gimme your guys opinions. I'm not asking anything specific, just your general thoughts on all this stuff above. :)

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"The term “kathoey,” which is often used to refer to transgender women in Thailand, has been used for centuries. Additionally, traditional Thai culture has a concept of a “third gender” known as “sak-sra,” which includes people who identify as transgender, as well as gay and bisexual people."

You won't be the only trans-person in Thailand, that's for sure. If you look like a male, and you want people to perceive you as a male, then just don't tell them otherwise, unless you want to. You will be interacting with strangers just the same as you do at home, so it's up to you to disclose or not. In my opinion, 99% of people will not care, and will leave you be like anyone else. 

The only question I would have is regarding fighting rules, and if trans individuals are allowed to compete against formerly opposing, but now same genders. I don't have any knowledge about this. Researching 'Ladyboy Muay Thai Fighters' might be a starting point.

The only other thing I can comment on from your post is regarding scars; everyone in every gym has scars... wear yours proudly. And if someone asks, joke with them and say you took a double elbow combo to your breasts in a heated round-4 exchange with a former Lumpinee Champion. 

Good luck 🙂

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I thought of you just now when I came across This Article from two years ago. I will also post the article text below.

Yokkao Founder Philip Villa Supports Transgender Fighter Nong Rose in Fight for Inclusivity - February 21, 2021

Thai trans woman Muay Thai fighter, Nong Rose Baan Charoensuk is on a mission to strive for transgender rights in Thailand and around the world. She now has the popular Muay Thai brand, Yokkao behind her campaign as the brand’s founder, Philip Villa is supporting her with a 3-year sponsorship contract.

Nong Rose made the headlines in 2017 when she became the first transgender fighter to enter the ring of Rajadamnern Stadium. Recognized the world over as one of, if not the most prestigious Muay Thai arena, Rajadamnern Stadium had for many decades imposed a dress code that prohibited sports bras and long hair. The archaic rule essentially barred women and transgender fighters from entering the ring. 

Famous Muay Thai promoter, Songchai Rattanasuban overturned the legacy dress code when he featured Nong Rose in the main event. Sporting a ponytail, heavy make-up and her signature pink sports bra, the trans woman fighter did not let her promoter or fans down, winning the historic bout via the judges’ decision.

Nong Rose is not the first transgender Muay Thai fighter to get into the media spotlight. During the late 90s, Parinya Charoenphol caught the attention of the whole of Thailand and subsequently the world. Parinya, now more commonly known as Nong Toom, ignited national interest when she fought with make-up (with short hair and bare chested) at Lumpinee Stadium. She was fighting to save up for sex reassignment surgery, which she eventually underwent in 1999. Her story was retold in the award-winning international film, Beautiful Boxer.

Although Thailand is generally seen as being an open-minded country towards LGBT visitors, there is still a persistent stigma towards her own transgender community. Thai transgenders often face discrimination at work and in the case of Nong Rose, she had been insulted many times by her opponents. 

Despite the name calling and prejudice, there is no quit in Nong Rose. On the contrary, it spurred her to train and fight even harder. The 24-year-old now has over 300 fights (all against men) on her record along with several championship titles to her name.

Inspired by her story and fighting spirit, Yokkao founder, Philip Villa is joining her fight for inclusivity. Villa has been a passionate proponent in promoting Muay Thai to a wider global audience, supporting Muay Thai gyms and athletes in achieving their professional goals. On signing Nong Rose as a sponsored athlete, Philip Villa explains 

“Transgender people should be given the same rights and respect as everyone else and I do believe that in the Muay Thai world when even females are not considered given the respect they so deserve, this will be the beginning of many changes within Muay Thai. For there to be a change, actions are required and this is my contribution to social equality.”

Now with Philip Villa and Yokkao on board her journey, Nong Rose’ inspiring fight for inclusivity is more optimistic than ever before.

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While I can't give any Muay-Thai-specific info on this, there are some resources and communities in Thailand that might be useful for you.

There's a Facebook page for trans men in Thailand that you might want to reach out to, TRAns Man Peers - TRAMP เพื่อนทรานส์แมน. The content is mostly in Thai, but I'm sure they'd be happy to help if you sent them some questions in English. I'd also recommend contacting Young Pride Club, either on Facebook or IG. It's run by student activists who have been putting on lots of community events in Thailand. There's also the TEAK - Trans Empowerment page. ILGAAsia is also a good resource for information on trans rights here.

I hope this helps!

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  • 2 weeks later...

From my experience, you'd never be expected to change in front of anybody. Lots of folks arrive in their training outfit and leave in it, but there are almost always bathroom where you can change in private and shower, etc., that aren't group spaces. I would imagen that  you'd be asked about the scars on your chest, just because both Thais and other nationalities training in the space tend to be forward in asking questions about and pointing out each other's bodies. Not necessarily in a mean way, but not always in a way that feels very good, either.

If you have some kind of document from your doctor, I imagine you could keep that on your person for any issues at customs, regarding bringing your testosterone with you. It is, afterall, a medication. I don't believe it's a heavily regulated medicine in Thailand (in Pattaya there are bodybuilders who do their HGH and steroid cycles here, although the market for that is technically not legal but definitely not heavily enforced).

Regarding your worries about fighting, those don't seem pretty common. You just have to decide whether it's meaningful for you to do it or not. If you do choose to fight in Thailand, I highly recommend you do not disclose being Trans, simply because it will severely complicate the task of finding an opponent. You'd be entering into a low-level, low-profile kind of fight situation and, since you pass, matching you with another inexperienced man would be the thing to do. If you disclose being Trans, they might be obligated to match you against a cis woman, which would require you to more or less "perform" being a woman for the fight (you'd likely have to wear a sports bra, for example, and you'd be referred to as a woman by the announcer, etc.) That said, many people come and train in Thailand without fighting and have wonderful and fulfilling experiences. But it's also a much more straight forward opportunity for you to get to fight than if you try to do so in the West.

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