Bangkok, Thailand: Some Girls

I’m not sure where to begin here. I just arrived back in Vietnam from Thailand, where I spent the last week working on a new personal project, currently tentatively titled Some Girls. Centered around ladyboys and transgenders in Thailand. I’m still figuring out how to write about it. I went in with notions that weren’t entirely correct, about divisions and discrimination. What I found challenged a lot of what I had read beforehand. So the project transformed. And I guess is still transforming, as I go through the edit. So I’ll spare everyone the half-baked ideas and stunted stories until I’ve had a bit more time with it all.

For now meet Ant. She’s a singer at a traditional Isaan club in Bangkok. She’s 21 years old and has been taking hormones to become a woman since she was 12, in the form of simple, over-the-counter birth control pills. She was kind enough to invite me into her home and backstage at her place of work to take pictures and talk to her about her decision to become a woman. She grew up in northeastern Thailand and moved to Bangkok at age 15. She knew she wanted to be a woman from her first memories. Or rather she knew that she was a woman. Some girls are born boys. She’s never known any other feelings. She’s young and very feminine. Perhaps most so of all the people that I encountered on my trip. Or at least it seemed to come most naturally to her.

Her room was covered in cartoon characters and stuffed animals and glittery stage outfits. She sat pensively on the edge of her bed to be photographed. Though she readily showed me several albums of her in more provocative poses, used as advertisements for her job at the club. I wanted something more innocent that showed her youth and femininity. So here are the first few photographs.

7 thoughts on “Bangkok, Thailand: Some Girls

  1. Interesting POV. A tough topic to shoot, been done so many times, though there’s little done away from the usual cabaret stuff in Bangkok. Would be great to see what’s cooking on this story up in Isaan. Very interested to see where you go with this.

  2. Hey Julian. I’m definitely planning a sojourn to Isaan province on my next trip. A lot of people I met, particularly those in the sex industry, were from there. Plus Ant above.

    I’m also interested to see where this thing goes. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I’d like to meet younger girls. People still living with their parents outside of the big cities.

    I agree that a lot has been said on the matter, but I can’t say that I’m very impressed with the photography I’ve seen. Can you point me to anything that you can recall on this subject that really impressed or resonated with you? Cheers.

  3. Peel away the grimey exteriors of this niche “industry” of the Thais, and you’re almost guaranteed for yourself a bucketful of sad and weighty socio-political issues to play with.
    This post of yours inexplicably brought to mind a Vietnam War themed book titled: “In Pharaoh’s Army”. I read it a long time ago, but your post reminded me of a couple bone tickling tranny related paragraphs in that book. It’s a good read.

  4. I’m also interested to see where this thing goes. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I’d like to meet younger girls. People still living with their parents outside of the big cities.

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