‘Everything I have experienced made me stronger and into the happy woman I am today.’

Sarunporn (34): Is a honest and happy kathoey –also known as a ladyboy or a male transgender- from Chiang Mai. In Thailand ladyboys are seen as a third gender, “the second-type female”. Many dress as women and undergo “feminising” medical procedures such as breast implants, hormones, silicone injections, Adam’s apple reduction or a genital reassignment surgery.

What does happiness mean to you?
I feel happiness when something makes me smile and to make and see my parents happy. But also having a boyfriend with whom I see a future together and I feel secure with.

What is your background?
I am born and raised together with my younger brother in Chiang Mai. As long as I can remember I have wanted to be a woman. I always liked to play with the girls instead of the boys. My parents did not support me at once; they needed some time to get used to the idea of their son going on in life as a woman. When I turned 17 I came out to the world. My friends have always been fine with my lifestyle. When I finished high school, I let my hair grow and started to dress and make-up like a woman. After high school I started working. It wasn’t easy to find a job as a ladyboy at the time. Nowadays it is more accepted, we are treaded as equals in society and can get a good job.
I worked in different hotels and guesthouses before I started working in a travel agency. I always liked to meet foreign people and I learned English by practice at my job. I never had a girlfriend; I always knew I liked boys. Starting my 17th I have had some Thai boyfriends, but most Thai parents don’t accept it if their son goes out with a ladyboy. Last year I met my current French boyfriend online. He was travelling in Thailand and we met up. He knew from the start I was a ladyboy. Our long distance relationship is serious, he already met my parents. We stay in contact through Skype and in June he comes again to visit me.

Where do you stand in life?
I am very happy, I have a boyfriend that I love, my parents accept me for who I am and are happy for me. I have a good job, a nice apartment for myself and I have many sweet friends. Life is working out quite well. Sometimes I am in doubt if I would undergo a “feminising” surgery. I didn’t do any medical procedures yet. I always wanted to have boobs but my boyfriend doesn’t want me to undergo surgery.

Are you familiar with the 30 years dilemma?
No I am not. Getting older is a beautiful thing. Age is just a number and I am happy I never worried about turning 30 or goals I had to achieve before that age according to society.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Do you have a dream?
I see myself living together with my boyfriend in Chiang Mai and I have travelled out of Thailand for the first time. Of course I have travelled to France to meet my boyfriends family. Kids would be nice, so you have someone to take care of you when you get older. But I will be an aunt for my brother’s children and live close to them.

What wise lesson did your parents teach you?
They taught me to take good care of myself. To find a good job and save up. Especially in Thailand it is so important to save up if you won’t have your own children. So you have some savings to take care of yourself when you’re older.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would not give myself any advice. Everything I have experienced made me stronger and into the happy woman I am today. I would not change anything.

When was your last moment of happiness?
When I was yesterday talking with my boyfriend on Skype until we fell a sleep.

Under the same sun is an ongoing travel log which you can follow on our travel and lifestyle blog Meet You at the Bridge. The reports show the similarities and differences on what it means to be happy for women between the ages of 25 and 35 who hail from different cultures.

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