6 June 2024

That watchers did not take the “War of the Transgender Angels” earlier this week seriously deserves some serious consideration. Political, social and even economic aspects of the clash between Thai and Philippine beauties in the heart of Bangkok can get lost amid the loud shrieks and tongue-in-cheek but overwhelming media coverages and social media content.

So, here are what should have been talked about more:

1 Unity or comradeship of Thai transgender women is second to none. Some of them reportedly came as far as from Pattaya when an SOS was sent. Others who were based nearer arrived at the troubled Sukhumvit area within minutes. Tens of thousands must be watching the development with great concern online.

2 While what drives political mobs can be questioned sometimes, as adrenaline often got mixed up with (or mistaken for) ideology, what brought those Sukhumvit gatherers there is unquestionably tribal pride triggered by what looked like genuine contempt of their strength and togetherness.

It’s not an overstatement to say that LGBTQ movements in many cases are more unified than heterosexual ones. The formers are seen as less active simply because they are only drawn by issues that really affect them. The attitude is pragmatism and not at all selfishness.

3 As “unruly” as the siege appeared, nobody was critically injured, unlike what often occurred at political clashes. The Sukhumvit warriors did not carry guns or ping pong bombs. Online clips showed lynching-style mobbing assaults, but they were nowhere near as awful as they looked. How they managed to create such scary clips without anything truly scary happening is amazing.

It, therefore, is not an overstatement either to say that LGBTQ+ is more considerate of public property and safety when taking street action.

4 “The Iron Ladies” movie has been given a new meaning. The film, renowned beyond Thailand, sought to highlight the transgender fighting spirit in sport, but the Sukhumvit incident has confirmed that the unity and fight are not limited to the volleyball court.

5 Despite all of the above, it will be a big risk to place Thai and Philippine LGBTQ activists next to each other at an international parade like the popular Sao Paulo event in Brazil. The two nations are good friends, but their LGBTQ people can be like oil and water sometimes, and things as minor as whose beauty queens are prettier can be a catalyst for uncontrollable tumult.

6 Smartphone makers must strive to include an “Urgent mobilization” button in their products. It’s not that transgender Thais reinforce their troubled peers too slowly, but such a phone application will come in handy in countries where street protests or gatherings are common like Thailand.

7 Thai police seem more lenient toward transgender “rioters”. This must have given protest organisers in the future some ideas. Then again, those prospective organisers will have to first overcome one chief characteristic of transgender activists: They will not want to get involved if their real pride, dignity and interest are not at stake.

8 Last but not least, kudos to former Miss Philippines trans, who has done what a beauty queen is supposed to do.

“I love the Philippines and our transgender community, but we are not in our country,” Las Pacheco said. “So, the only option that we have is to be respectful. If we’re not in our country, let’s act right, let’s be respectful, let’s know how to bow, somehow. …I just cannot imagine how this will impact other people and other Pinas (Filipinos) who will go to Thailand.”

People in this neighbouring country of hers are “the sweetest” she has ever met.

It’s one of the bravest things to say in the circumstances. Being respectful and not stereotyping is a quality that is hard to come by these days. She should be president or at least work for the UN.

By Tulsathit Taptim