An Open Letter On Why The Thai Hotel Letter Against Ladyboys Is Offensive

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Dear Straight People,

Representing my LGBT organisation recently at a family-themed, community event organised by the National Youth Council, I was faced with some members of the audience who referred to homosexuality as a “brokenness”, claimed a gay couple is “not a family”, & that LGBT people are “broken”.

Despite being a visible member of the local LGBT community, and publicly out as a gay man for many years, it still hurt.

It hurt not because it felt like a personal attack. My years as a professional social worker have thankfully taught me some resilience.

It hurt because I think about all those in the audience who also heard the offensive comments – people who themselves may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer; people who have a loved one, a family member perhaps, who is LGBT; and people who for whatever reason are not ready or able to stand up to that blatant homophobia.

It hurt also because I think about how the people who made those remarks openly have probably been doing it for some time, and will likely continue to do so for some time to come. Who else would they be hurting with their hate?

Discriminating Pic
Credit: Pera Kasayapanandt

The next morning, I woke up to a Facebook post (above) by Dear Straight People, sharing a letter from a Bangkok hotel to their guests. The letter helpfully informed them that they had brought back a “lady boy“, and goes on to ask questions about how much the guest paid for the “lady boy”, using male pronouns to refer to them, and ending off by stating that these “entertainment people” are likely to steal guests’ valuables.

Now, despite Thailand’s reputation as a supposedly LGBT-friendly country, the reality is that transgender persons face such stereotyping and discrimination on a regular basis. If pushed to explain, the hotel would probably say it was within their rights to ensure the safety of their guests. And of course, there is only so much we can do about it here in Singapore.

Yet, this hurts just as much too, because men in Singapore appear to be rushing to defend the hotel’s naked transphobia. Some of the juiciest comments include:

 I don’t see anything wrong with how this hotel handle this lady boy case. It is nothing against the LGBTQ. 

I don’t find anything wrong with this. The hotel are just trying to protect their guest from ladyboys stealing their belongings after sex service.

More of a FYI that your escort is not a lady, important info for someone who thought they would be receiving services from a female. 

It is also very well known, also from crime cases, that ladyboys tend to be thieves, theft with ladyboys happens far more often than with women or men, providing services. Also, many do not discuss the price and then there are two surprises a) its not a real woman, b) the nice and blissful moments were not for free. 

 If you’re finding it hard to imagine how all these comments are offensive, try replacing the word “ladyboys” with “Singaporean gays”. How does that sound now?

The reality is: some theft occurs in hotels. It is the job of Management to deal with it discreetly and properly, rather than to presume guilt, or judge and discriminate against their guests or visitors.

Some transgender women provide sexual services for a fee. It is called sex work, and sex work is work.

Some couples fight over sex and money.  What a surprise!

The key word here is “some”.

If it is a consensual, private arrangement between 2 adults, why should the hotel be the morality police? And if the hotel is so concerned about vice, wouldn’t a sign or letter informing guests of the rules suffice?

More importantly, why do we need people who are openly homophobic and transphobic towards us, when we are doing such a good job of hating each other within our own community?

To quote a slogan from the American queer movement: “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

Written by Leow YangfaExecutive director of Oogachaga, Singapore’s community-based, non-profit, professional counselling, support & personal development organisation working with LGBTQ+ individuals, couples & families. 

Handwriting letter with pen

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