Gender and sexual behaviour that did not conform to heterosexual norms have been recorded as long ago as the 14th century in Thailand. Thai society in the 19th century was relatively androgynous relating to clothes and hairstyle. Around this time, colonial Western norms of behaviour and thinking started to be adopted including the criminalization of homosexuality.1

Although the country is known as a safe-haven for same-sex couples and as the trans paradise of the South Pacific, Thai LGBTQI persons face challenges not experienced by non-residents, as the legal framework and public sentiment are not always as liberal towards sexual diversity as may be perceived by non-residents. Despite the outward appearance of acceptance, and the high visibility of LGBTQI persons, LGBTI individuals still experience hostility and prejudice, as well as institutionalized discrimination.

Despite the outward appearance of acceptance LGBTI people still experience hostility and prejudice, as well as institutionalized discrimination.

Legal and policy reform is seen as difficult both because lawmakers tend to be conservative, and because the existing constitution and national legal framework are seen as sacred. Today’s Thailand is contradictory. It is one where the Tourism Authority actively promotes the image of Thailand as a gay paradise, but where discussions of sexuality in society are still taboo and there is limited sex education in schools. LGBTI individuals tend to be more visible in urban settings than rural.

Although there is no overt persecution of LGBTI people, Thai society does not wholly accept sexual and gender minorities. Attitudes towards LGBT individuals can be somewhat tolerant as long as LGBTI people remain within certain prescribed social confines. Hostile attitudes may lurk below the surface of individuals and parts of society that do not express their views openly.

As in many other places in Southeast Asia, the greatest and often most important struggle that a Thai LGBTI individual faces is that of family acceptance. Being respectful to the wishes of one’s parents and upholding the family reputation is fundamental to how a Thai individual conducts their life, and these social expectations can run counter to the best interests of those with a sexual orientation or gender identity that does not conform with social norms.

1 Being LGBT in Asia – USAID. Thailand, Country Report.

The largest LGBTQI organization in Thailand, originally formed in 1986 by a small group of lesbian feminist activists in order to articulate lesbian issues in the women's movement and the society at large. Their successes include stopping various discriminatory policies and practices, including the Rajabhat Institute's discriminatory rules banning transgender people from enrolment at its institute in 1996. The Anjaree Foundation is now the primary group fighting for same sex marriage rights in Thailand.
For-Sogi formed from a group of homosexual and transgender activists committed to working on human rights following the use of violence against the organizers and participants of the Thai Pride Parade in Chiang Mai on 21 February 2009. Believing that violent acts of this kind are motivated by a lack of knowledge and awareness, this organisation aims to promote an understanding of SOGI-related issues through studies, discussions, and the organization of event and workshops.
M+ Thailand is focused on the health of LGBTQ people in Thailand, promoting content related to sexual rights and sexual health, particularly regarding HIV. Activities are mostly focused on prevention through proactive peer-to-peer counselling; the promotion of events, conferences, and exhibitions; and the production and broadcasting of web-based original content (live-action and animation) exploring health issues critical to the community and specific target audiences (for example young gay men, trans individuals, sex workers, etc).
The Thai TGA is a foundation working to advance the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people in Thailand. Their key activities are: organizing regional meetings to strengthen the capacity of local community-based trans organizations and groups; developing and releasing original material for awareness and advocacy campaigns; building a network of trans organizations and regularly promoting activities within the network; and expanding the network to include other civil society groups who aim to build and sustain a society free from sexual stigma and prejudice.
The Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand is a registered non-profit organization with seven offices throughout the country, 80 staff members and 1000 volunteers. They carry out a wide variety of projects, including sexual education projects that address HIV prevention via special events and regular presentations at schools; counselling services for LGBTQ individuals; and advocacy and agenda-setting activities to promote inclusive public policies regarding sexual and gender diversity with international organizations and United Nations agencies.
The Center collects data from various data sources and provides this information to people who are living with HIV; encouraging them to take care of their health as well as providing access to free healthcare services at the Center. It aims to be an accurate source of information for seropositive individuals and their families regarding self-care and treatments.
The Sex Workers IN Group (SWING) is a sex worker organization with drop-in spaces and offices across three of Thailand’s most infamous red-light districts: Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Pattaya. As an organization working at the local, national and regional level, they are recognized for their expertise in developing creative and innovative core programs and projects which focus on the health and wellbeing of sex worker communities, using a human rights framework and peer-led health promotion activities. They are a member of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) and are widely respected within the Asia Pacific region for the flagship work they have undertaken within male and trans sex workers communities.

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