For as long as she can remember, Cheekii has always known that she is a girl. Back in her village in Chanthaburi Province in eastern Thailand, people discriminate against transgender women. People talked about her and questioned her identity. But Cheekii didn’t rise to their provocation.
“My grandmother was my only supporter, ever since I was little. My father once tried to hit me because he caught me putting on lipstick. My grandmother stopped him. When I was 17, my grandmother passed away and my world collapsed. I realized that from that point on, I would have to stand on my own feet.
“I joined the Retreat of RSAT (Rainbow Sky Association in Thailand) because I wanted to be connected with other transgender people. At the retreat, I felt connected, like I belong to the community. I felt comfortable in expressing myself there. I met many transgender friends in the camp. The retreat changed the way I feel about myself. For the first time, I learned that I have rights as a transgender woman.
“Before the retreat, when I received negative comments or labelling I would just turn away and try to ignore it. For instance, I was in a bar once and a man came and flirted with me. I wasn’t interested, so he became angry and said that as a transgender woman I had no right to play coy. I was frustrated and asked what being a transgender woman had to do with anything, I was still human. He shouldn’t look down on me like that.
“If I had the same situation after the retreat, I would speak to the man calmly. I would tell him that I understood that he wanted me, but he doesn’t get to disrespect me just because I didn’t want him. I would tell him that I have worth, and he doesn’t get to take it away.
“I have friends who have experienced the stigma of being transgender, and who feel alone and with no one to turn to. I now play a role in making sure that they know their rights. When friends are denied jobs because they are transgender, I encourage them to file a report. My friends are learning that they too have worth, and they don’t ignore the discrimination they face any more. I speak out for myself and for my friends’ rights, and it makes me feel fulfilled.”
by Yoomi Jun and Devikara Devakula
Source – UN Women