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LGBT Travel in Thailand

Editorial by Robert J. Murphy
Freelance Contributor, The Bear Travel

Srisuda Wanapinyosak, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is quoted as saying “I am proud that LGBT travellers can stay anywhere in Thailand with complete peace of mind”, and after a lifetime of world travel for my job and my own interest, I have to agree. I have never been to a country so completely tolerant of the LGBT community, nor one as engaged in assuring that the experience is the best anyone could possibly have, just like the nation’s overall commitment to the comfort and safety of all visitors to the kingdom. We as well fully support the community and wish to give it a special home, so we started a new Blog website called thebeartravel.lgbt. Here you will find detailed information that will assist in making your travel experience in Thailand great!

The relaxation, food, light-hearted fun and the deep cultural roots Thailand is famous for is available to tourists and adventure seekers from everywhere, but those that revel in this should be aware that Thailand still has some ground to cover before LGBT people are fully blended in to the population by law, not just accepted for who they are. To have a same-sex relationship became was decriminalized in 1956 but not fully de-stigmatized until around 2002. In 2015 the Gender Equality Act was passed ending any outright discrimination, but still today there is no civil union of same-sex couples allowed by law. The Life Partnership Registration Bill which has been brought up in parliament many times is possibly up for a vote at the end of this year, if so, it will likely pass with a large margin of support.

While Thailand is known for its ubiquitous and often very beautiful “Lady Boys”, transgender people still face some difficulty in society despite their wide-spread acceptance. It is not actually legal to change one’s gender or name, forcing many to simply conform to gender norms even if they have fully changed their bodies and minds. This is a classic Thai paradox- it is not legal, but done anyway and almost universally tolerated. And there are other typical aspects of Thai culture that need to be recognized in order for the LGBT travel to truly feel comfortable.

“PDA’s” (Public Displays of Affection) is not part of the culture. Thais of any sexual orientation simply don’t do this very much. So, when foreigners of the same sex do this even with a Thai partner, it will raise some eyebrows if not actually provoke any reaction. Remember, as in many Asian cultures, public impression- or “Face”- is extremely important. Going against this kind of norm with continual PDA by anybody is seen as a loss of face, causing a self-imposed lack of respect that the participants might not even realize.

It is also important to note that just like in any nation, what is totally OK in the cities and tourist areas is not necessarily so easy to ignore as normal in the rural areas. Again, there will be no reaction by anybody towards any same-sex travelling companions cuddling and enjoying each other, but all should be conscious of not attracting any unwanted attention. This is especially true in places with cheap hotels, roadside restaurants, and certainly in the homes of rural Thai people. While trouble is never expected and rarely occurs to tourists in Thailand, bad things can happen if there is any perceived disrespect.

Lastly, in exultation the joys of the acceptance and tolerance of LGBT travel in Thailand, it is worth mentioning that the Buddhist religion practised in Thailand has no discriminatory view towards same-sex relationships. While this is a subject of much scholarship and opinions vary around this point, it is true to say that there is no mention same-sex togetherness in early Buddhist literature, and this is perceived in Thailand as there is no prohibition on it. While conducting research behind this editorial, I found a quote in an article featured on Wikipedia that underlies the welcome afforded to LGBT visitors to Thailand “For these (Thai) Buddhists, all sensual pleasure in a non-harmful way is normative”

While predicated with a few courtesies that need to be respected, and a legal status that is still progressing in the nation’s legislatures, it must be said again that nowhere on earth will anyone in the LGBT community find the peace of mind that they will find in Thailand. Just as the Director of the TAT indicated with her statement of pride in this fact. Come and visit, follow our site, and experience this first hand. The venues are plentiful and the cost is so very affordable that this has to be at the top of anyone’s travel fantasies. More information is available on thebeartravel.lgbt, and please feel free to contact us for any further discussion with me on this topic.

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