Few countries on Earth knows LGBT quite like Thailand To many, Thailand appears to be an LGBT haven Sadly, reality is even disappointing.
Perception of LGBT in Thailand is comparable to sex workers They are paradoxically accepted and despised at the same time To help you put things in perspective As of the writing of this episode Same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized in Thailand It is changing, but not as fast as you'd think And at the beginning of this change When society was at its most conflicted A little film came out That not only challenges Thailand's attitude But many other places in Asia as well.
Today, let's talk about the Thai comedy "The Iron Ladies" A film based on a true story In which a group of LGBT folks come together as a volleyball team And show the world their worth in a national championship Let's take a look at the lives of LGBT in Thailand.
The film begins with our protagonist, Mon Being rejected from entering a volleyball team He very bluntly asks: "I wasn't chosen coz I'm gay, right?" Right away, the film reflects the state of workplace discrimination A very common problem in Thailand at the time How common is it? According to a study "37.
4% percent of non-LGBT survey respondents find it ACCEPTABLE for employers to discriminate against LGBT individuals" Let that sink in for a moment With this frustration Mon and his fabulous friend, Jung Decided to give it one last try at another team "They are looking for people to try out for" "The Lampang Men's Volleyball team" Luckily, that team is lead by a lesbian coach "Hey! She's a dyke!" But the bad news is.
"Coach Bee, Coach Bee, Coach Bee.
" "Stupid Bitch the existing team members are hypermasculine Homophobic sexist douchebags.
Mon and Jung pass the entrance test with flying colors But that only enrages the existing team members Who all resign in protest All but one.
Chai, the bully victim of the team, stayed We'll come back to Chai later.
Instead of giving in The team doubles down They recruit their LGBT friends, Avengers style There is Nong, an effeminate gay soldier A transgender stage performer, Pia And a straight passing gay man, Wit Watching all of them interact reminds me of the after party scene from Age of Ultron It's rare to see LGBT identity being so overtly embraced in media It's so infectious, it started a trend After this film, LGBT characters in Thai media Became much more common Most importantly, the team is damn good at volleyball They defeat 3 teams in a row Winning their position in the national championship "But the fact they beat all three teams of real men.
" "Surely that says something about their talent?" With the team is assembled It's time for training But problems arise Let's start with Wit, the straight-passing gay man He's still in the closet, hiding from his strict family And his fiancee A woman fiancee Coming from a wealthy business family Wit is subject to an arranged marriage A practice that is still sadly more common than most people think In many ways, Asian family value are stacked against LGBT folks The expectation of marriage and children Coupled with the emphasis on filial piety and patriarchy Social expectations of conformity All make coming out of the closet a very big deal Later in the film, Wit and his team play a game on live TV Upon seeing Wit putting on make-ups This is their reactions "No.
This can't be.
" The same problems also apply from the other side Pia, the transgender girl, gets dumped by her cheating boyfriend The reason? According to the boyfriend, his family forces him to have a quote-unquote, normal girlfriend In Thailand, being in a relationship with a transgender person is still looked down upon As "not normal" All the social expectations effectively render Pia as an outcast A sentiment shared by others "We're just the leftovers of society" Which in turn, manifests as self-doubt "But he's better off choosing his fiancee.
" "Than falling for something fake like me" Here, the word "fake" has major significant As legally, Pia would be legally recognized as man It is why Pia can get into a man's volleyball team Legal recognition of a third gender won't come some 15 years after this film Later in the film, Pia's ex-boyfriend keeps coming back to flirt with her And there are even moments where he seems to genuinely love her But the film never tells us if he's real or just being a playboy And that's how Pia is feeling Insecure, unsure In a world where she is constantly the subject of sexual harassment and assault Love is a luxury for her.
Finally, let's look at Chai, the only straight member of the team Chai's view on his LGBT teammates mirrors that of the public in Thailand "I've had enough with your lack of discipline" "And all the crap that goes with it" "Enough is enough" He thinks he's being fair by judging them by their qualities And fails to see his own prejudice "But your drag queens are too much for me" To chai, their effeminate identity IS their quality "They do nothing but pu on make-up and preen themselves all day" They don't act like "normal" sportsmans So they must lack sportsmanship Throughout the teams journey, however Chai's bias against the team is repeatedly called into question By his girlfriend "Be Honest.
Why is it that you dislike them.
" "Because they're not men, or because they're not women?" By his teammate "And how many gays have you known?" "If that's the case, you've got no right to look down on us.
" And by himself "Can I ask you a question? What makes you the way you are?" Effectively, the questions are posted for audience Making us think "Were we really being fair.
" These questions get through to Chai And he realize, he is not the standard for what a sportsman should be His teammates put on make-ups and act flamboyantly Because that is who they are Why can't that be normal, too? As they are about to lose their game Chai tells the team to put on makeup Realizing that being themselves should helpthem play Look at how happy they are When given the chance to be themselves When they don't have to deal with all the extra baggage society throws at them They can be excellent They can prove themselves Did they win? I'll let you find out yourself When this film first came out It stirred up quite a fanfare in Hong Kong Even till this day, most LGBT films focuses solely on gay men In and outside of Asia A film featuring trans? It's very risque to say the least Yet, I don't remember any controversy you'd expect coming from this film And I think I know why.
In this scene, the 5 LGBT team members put on a drag queen show for their lesbian coach To celebrate her birthday Instead of the obnoxiously hyperactive personality They are just being people, having fun "We haven't known you for long, but you're like a mother to us" Regardless of their exterior appearance And the way they express themselves Underneath, there is the same humanity So, why the judgement? I'll leave you with their song.
"Open your heart and take a good look at me" "We were born like this, we had no choice" "Accept me for what I am" "All ask for is acceptance" "Open your heart and take a good look at me" "We were born like this, we had no choice" "Accept me for what I am".