Big Brother

Sawadee Khrap

Well, it final. I’m a “Big Brother”, not by that name but as they say here, same-same. I am helping a young man here in Chiang Mai to go to school. I won’t mention his name for his privacy, but he and his family are unable to send him to school for the final classes to graduate and I have volunteered to sponsor him.

He lives with his Aunt and Uncle and he comes from the Southern part of Thailand. It’s a familiar sad story, he is a young Kathoey and from a poor family where going to work is more important for the family survival than his schooling – so he had to drop out and work at his father’s trade – fishing. But being Kathoey – commonly called a LadyBoy – he is not up to doing that muscular work. So he was sent to live with his Aunt & Uncle.

I was introduced to him by a friend of mine and got to listen to his story and dreams. Thailand on the surface is very tolerant toward gays and the LadyBoys but deeper down at the village level there is not that level of acceptance – especially if the boy is the oldest child and expected to help support the family as soon as he is able. In this case being different caused problems.

I came to Thailand wanting to help someone have some of the opportunities I had enjoyed. I had hoped my relationship with Tas would give me that opportunity – apparently not. So I started searching for another I could assist. Schooling was paramount in my life – I know I didn’t really try as hard as I should have and that did make it difficult to land those good jobs or positions – but I had some Great Mentors during my career. Thanks to them I was able to fulfill my dreams. Now I have a chance to help another fulfill theirs. Also I am very aware of what discrimination can do when one is considered different.

The last years I was in San Francisco I had several LadyBoy friends and on many occasions we talked about how hard their life had been – all were Thai and all experienced the loneliness of being different. It’s hard enough to build self respect when you are considered different from the others and even more pronounced when because of lack of education the only minor jobs are available or denied entirely. That leads many, and I see many, in the local sex trade. Hopefully I can have a part – even if it’s only for one child – that I can help see that some of the obstacles are removed from his path so that he can reach a full satisfying way of life. Education is the first step, and here I can help.

From time to time I will post on his progress. I do wish him the best, but I know he’ll make it.