Just and FYI. Easily one of the most balanced discriptions I’ve seen for Thailand.
Appearance can be misleading. Compared to many other societies, yes, Thai society is quite open in day-to-day treatment of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Thai transgender people aren’t killed or beat up because of their sexuality to the extent it happens in some other countries (though this kind of hate crimes also exists in Thailand to some extent). Instead, we have world-renowned katoey shows, arguably the best looking ladyboys on earth, and tourists the world over flock to see them in cabarets, in beauty pageant stages, etc. We have transgender people working prominently in shopping malls, in customer services, in beauty, entertainment and sex venues. But that’s pretty much where most of them are. Very few of them are in regular jobs, often not because they don’t want to, but the opportunities are limited. They are still discriminated against widely in terms of employment. Their opportunities are even officially restricted, in particular in government, police and military jobs. Military service regulations still include “katoey” as a prohibited disease and hence disqualifies anyone who is a katoey to apply for jobs in military service. Only months ago that the official branding of transgender people as “having a permanent mental disorder” on the military conscription exemption paper was finally put to stop. This paper has been the biggest obstacle for transgender people for a long time and has prevented them getting jobs, visas, doing legal transactions, etc.
In short, socially there is a fair amount of tolerance for people with different sexual identities but they are still lots of problems and unfair treatments going on based on attitudes and laws and official regulations in this country, most particularly concerning transgender people. It’s not all peaches! Things are changing gradually for the better however, like we just have the first transgender politician who won the provincial administration office in Nan. Hopefully she will bring positive changes, especially in terms of recognizing transwomen (transgender persons who have had sex change operations to become a woman) like her as legally female, so that they could have a legal identity as female, get married, and live fully as a woman, instead of legally as a man but for all practical purposes as a woman.