Smashing the Black Peanut
Any time you head to a crowded area in almost any province in Thailand you will see them. They are seemingly accepted within the borders of the kingdom more readily than any other nation on the planet. The homosexual community is strong and thriving putting this country on the map as a mecca for gay travelers from around the world, but what makes Thailand such a haven for this minority group?
I never saw a transsexual in real life until I came to Thailand, and then I seemed to see one almost everyday. Some were overly flamboyant and obviously just a dude in a wig, but most were very low key and usually took a double take to know 100% for sure that they were packing heat. It made meeting girls a little more challenging and I quickly adopted the rule that if I even thought there was a 1% chance she was a he I would cut my losses and bug out.
Outside looking in the most obvious reason why such a seemingly large percentage of homosexuals and transsexuals inhabit Thailand is simply because they are culturally accepted here to a larger degree than in many Western nations. The Christian stigma of homosexuality as a fast track to hell doesn’t exist in Buddhism so therefore there is no institutionalized prejudice like there would be in America. For many foreigners to be gay means to reject the values they learned (whether true or false) during their most impressionable years that make “coming out” in Western cultures a very difficult endeavor. This means that more homosexuals in Thailand feel comfortable being “out and proud” as it were because there is less to reject.
Early on in my life in Thailand when I was still toying with the notion of teaching English I was offered a position teaching in an all-boys school. The school was quite prestigious and I felt lucky to receive the offer. When I ran it by my girlfriend at the time she started laughing uncontrollably. I asked her what was so funny and she said basically, “If you go there you should guard your ass!” Apparently this particular school was well known as being a breeding ground for young upcoming gays. There is a large number of all-boys and all-girls schools in the country. Their existence is here as a remnant from the archaic Western belief that boys and girls education should be separate for long since debunked logic. Thailand being a country that is slow to catch on and slow to change in areas like this continues to keep these type of schools and regards them as superior learning environments even though evidence from abroad would suggest otherwise.
Speaking of schools, there was another occasion where I was watching an American movie with another girl that happened to take place in a High School during prom. As ignorant as I was at the time I inquired about Thai proms to which my companion responded with a definitive, “No!” She of course would have loved to go to something like that as a schoolgirl, but she told me Thais would view something like that as inappropriate for youths to partake in. This tells me that even if your son were to attend a mixed gender school his chances of being given an opportunity to interact socially with females would be curtailed. We all know the image of the giggling Thai school girls walking in packs of 6 or more after school gets out. How many mixed gender groups do we see?
Another possible reason why homosexuality pervades Thailand in my opinion is money. Many of us know the horror stories of girls being sold into prostitution by unscrupulous families looking to make money on one of their many indiscretions of life, but it is not impossible to think that some boys are sold into the trade as well. Not to mention young girls who find themselves 16 and undereducated taking the bus to Pattaya to be a “waitress.” Wouldn’t boys who find themselves in a similar situation be tempted to do the same? Long timers won’t be shocked, but weekend warriors might find it shocking to learn that with 1000 baht in hand you can bed many more men and women than evident at first glance. One example would be the women who set up shop near Hua Lamphong train station to sell food and trinkets. According to a male Thai friend they offer extra services on the side if you know to ask.
The process of becoming gay really starts at a young age. Children are raised in an extremely sexual society that tries to sell itself as very conservative. Over the years images of men and women interacting in a natural human way are shielded from the eyes of the youth as they are continually thrust into situations devoid of the opposite sex and taught that keeping friends of the opposite sex or being seen socially with the opposite sex is very negative. As adolescence begins they share their sexuality with the gender they have grown most comfortable with. My personal opinion on homosexuality is live and let live, but I do think that a fair degree of the homosexuals in Thailand would not be such had they grown up in another country, in some cases that is a good thing and in others not so much. We all get one go at life so bat for the side you want to and damn the rest.
If a man rocks another man's boat then so be it. The more conservative & religious would be horrified that I have gay friends in Thailand. Frankly, I'd rather have a gay friend than a friend who was close-minded.