Thailand Elects First Transgender Member of Parliament

Jun 18, 2019 | GOV, NEWS, Thailand

by Arvin Donguines

Amidst the noise and chaos of the recently-held general election in Thailand, which would be the first in eight years of the country’s political history, there emerged an unlikely politician who would become the first-ever transgender member of the parliament (MP), and she’s not there just for kicks.

A Reel Beginning

The person in question is none other than Tanwarin Sukkhapisit. Before going through politics, MP Tanwarin was a widely-celebrated filmmaker based of in Thailand. Her works primarily represent the challenges being faced by the country’s LGBT+ community.

One of her most recent films caught international attention when it was banned in the country for the grounds of “violating the moral values of society.” The picture titled “Insects in the Backyard” tells about the life of a transgender father.

Tanwarin wrote, directed, and starred in the film. While it has already been shown abroad, it was ironically censored at home for the aforementioned reasons. For five years, Tanwarin battled at court for her work to be shown on screen. It was only after she compromised to cut off a measly seconds worth of the nude scene and put a PG-20 rating that “Insects…” was given the green light.

An Unlikely Politician

The legal troubles that Tanwarin has endured for her art ultimately drove her to join the country’s political arena.

In an interview, Tanwarin said that beyond its entertainment value, the film is an important way to tell stories on what it’s like as an LGBT living in Thailand, which she considers as a highly-patriarchal society.

It is as important for Tanwarin to get the message across. This is why she decided to run for a slot in the parliament. And although there’d still be a few weeks to wait before winners will be proclaimed, the trans politician already has a clear objective once she gets her seat.

In a separate interview, the 45-year-old said she intends to advocate amendments of Thailand’s Film and Video Act.

At The Forefront

Being the first ever transgender MP in the House of Representatives means more than just making history. Tanwarin is now viewed especially among her peers and supporters as someone who is at the front of a new political generation. Needless to say, politics in the kingdom was once dominated either by the elite, members of the military, or those with alleged close ties to the royal family.

Her landslide win in this year’s national election also tells about the Thai people’s hunger for true democracy and fair representation.