A better life
For young people like Saeng, there are alternatives to selling sex. Two years ago, outreach workers from another NGO, Dton Naam (Source of Water), approached him while he was sleeping rough on the streets of Nana.
Dton Naam works with Thailand’s transgender community. Executive Director Celeste McGee explains that this group faces particular challenges. “Their options in life are very limited,” she says. “They can only do certain jobs, such as in the entertainment industry, and it’s easy for them to transition into prostitution. They can use the money for cosmetics, hormones and surgery, but it becomes a vicious circle, and they need to keep on selling sex to maintain their lifestyle.”
Thanks to Dton Naam’s work, Saeng is no longer on the streets. They helped him to reconcile with his parents and get medical treatment. They provided alternative employment, including working in a coffee shop, and making arts and crafts. Now, he visits the organization once a week for counselling and painting classes. He missed out on years of education – but it is a start.
“My parents treat me much better now,” Saeng says. “My mum doesn’t shout at me anymore. She’s much calmer and kinder. My father still doesn’t like my kathoey lifestyle, but he has accepted it.”
As far as Saeng’s plans for the future, “I would like to go back to school, and then work as a chef or an artist,” he says.
*Name has been changed.
**Saeng’s gender assignment at birth was male. Saeng’s gender identity and expression are not fixed, and he speaks using both male and female indicators. As interviews showed his self-identification, including language and choice of clothes, leaned more often towards male, masculine pronouns have been used through this article.
Andy Brown is Regional Communication Specialist for Unicef East Asia and Pacific.