Thai "ladyboy" pictures confuse election officials

Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:31am EDT
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By Nick Macfie

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's community of "ladyboys" complained Wednesday they were being marginalized in next week's general election because their ID card pictures were too confusing for polling officials.

It is the latest in a series of gripes among members of the Trans-Female Association of Thailand which groups transgenders and transsexuals known collectively as "katoeys" or "ladyboys."

"We have a big problem when we use our identity cards in banks, schools, hospitals and now when we vote," said Yollada Suanyoc, president of the 2,500-strong organization.

"The picture may show a woman but it says 'mister' on the card. Or the picture may show a teenage boy and the person now looks like a woman."

Everyone in Thailand has to carry a national ID card with them at all times from the age of 15. It is renewed every seven years.

Transgenders and transsexuals are accepted in Thailand more readily than in most other countries, with one new airline hiring only ladyboys as cabin crew. They are especially common in cosmetics shops and health stores and in bars in some of Bangkok's racier entertainment districts.

But Yollada said the government had been slow to accept them and accused society of grouping transgenders, transsexuals and homosexuals as one and the same when each group had its own issues.

"The government says if they change our title and sex, it's going to make society confused," she said. "The government worries that they won't know about our past."   Continued...