Kathoey using tourist scenes to achieve sustainable lives and recognition in Thailand

Seminar No. 1178
6 กรกฎาคม 2565 เวลา 14.30-15.30 น.

Speaker: Prof.Paul Statham

Abstract

This article studies life-trajectories of a specific generation of Kathoey and gay men, born into rural poverty in Northeastern Isaan 30–50 years ago, based on biographical accounts. Subjects are male-to-female transgender Kathoey and cisgendered (masculine-identified or gender-normative) gay men. A ‘sustainable nonheteronormative life’ is one providing sufficient resources of recognition for validating gen- der identity (Kathoey) or sexuality (gay men), and wealth to be economically viable. How did they strive to make spaces for nonheteronormative living when confronted by ‘blocked’ social opportunities of double discrimination based on trans- phobia (Kathoey) and homophobia (gay men), and class/ status? The research unpacks which strong barriers of dis- crimination confronted them at distinct life-stages, and their agency and strategies to challenge these. Family, work and place are investigated as core social factors influentially defining a person’s positioning and life-chances, while shaping their pathway through social space over time. The empirical study reconstructs subjects’ lived experiences in distinct life-stages: village childhood; early postmigration city experiences; building lives in tourist-zone scenes; and reaching back ‘home’. The main finding is that tourist-zone scenes present new social opportunities that enable a few to trans- form their social and geographical displacement away from mainstream heteronormative society into an asset and achieve ‘success’. Tourist-zones transgress dominant (hetero) norms and values, but provide social infrastructures, communities and countercultural norms that support specific forms of nonheteronormative living, albeit dependent on foreign men. By migrating to tourist-zones, subjects stepped out of mainstream society, but over time drew on resources to build new social pathways towards living nonheteronormatively.

Moderator: Lect.Dr.Pattraporn Chuenglertsiri