6 Ways that Thai Youth Ignore Masculine and Feminine Ideals6 min read

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I’ve been teaching English as a second language abroad in a province of Thailand called Samut Prakan for the past three months. I’ve observed stark differences between a typical American High School and in a high school that I currently teach. Now, I cannot quickly say that all secondary schools in Thailand are the same, but from speaking with my other TEFL (Teach English as  Foreign Langauge) teachers, they too have noticed the same stark differences. Thai youth, from a surface level, aren’t afraid of being and doing things that make them who they are and 6 Ways that Thai Youth Ignore Masculine and Feminine Ideals.

I’m still unsure how friendly Thailand is to the LGBTQ population. Many of the LGBTQ community, from the surface, at least seem quite open to express their different forms of gender identities and sexual identities. I’ve seen lesbian couples more than I’ve seen pad Thai on a menu. Trust me; there’s a lot of pad Thai. I’ve also seen quite a few gay men and MTF trans sashaying through the streets of Bangkok. This isn’t a post about investigating the LGBTQ political climate of Thailand. This post is about the 100s and 100s of children that I’ve seen on a daily basis and how bold they are with their genders, sexuality, and their show of intimacy amongst each other.

Study.com provides a clear distinction between the definition of a masculine culture vs. a feminine culture: “A masculine society has traits that are categorized as males, such as strength, dominance, assertiveness, and egotism. Feminine society is traditionally thought of as having conventional traits, such as being supportive, caring, and relationship oriented.”

Part of my contract as a teacher is that I help to facilitate a weekend English camp for a selected few students. We had 110 students attend this camp. The entire foreign language department was present, and other English speaking teachers that taught core subjects such as Science and Math were also there. I graduated from an American high school. I also worked in one as a school social worker. These opinions are based on what I’ve witnessed personally. The interactions that some of the students have in this Thailand high school should be in many if not all high schools across America. I have witnessed students freely express themselves.

6 Ways that Thai Youth Ignore Masculine and Feminine Ideals

1. Thai students are very affectionate towards one another. If you have the opportunity to teach at a high school in Thailand, you will see a lot of brotherly and sisterly love. The Thai male students will often, wrap their arms around the neck or waist of other male students. Not in the form of a romantic gesture but as a friendly gesture. They hug comfortably and are playful with each other.

2. It’s not uncommon to witness the female Thai students to hold hands with one another. Or walk next to each other with both arms around each others waist. That isn’t something that one would see at an American high school. In many cases, if another student displayed such behaviors they would be labeled a “homosexual”, and often bullied by other students. The climate of America doesn’t support the idea masculinity can share the similar traits as feminity.

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3. It’s not uncommon to see male students in the classroom wear some form of makeup; mainly lipstick, and nail polish. I’ve also seen many of them wear eyeliner. It astonishes me that they are so bold to express themselves in such a way. I remember in my high school; dressed in goth attire and harassed by other students for their self-expression of makeup, dark eyeliner, and black lipstick.

4. I have witnessed individuals who are in the closet (not yet out and open with their sexuality) will suppress their mannerisms to be more masculine or to be more feminine. Gender and sexuality don’t seem to be an issue at this high school. Many of the males are not afraid to sway their hips and expressively gesture with their arms. For the females, this was also the case. Many of them don’t try to be more feminine and are comfortable with their baseball caps and their more “tomboyish” expressions. Students in American high schools would have a harder time being this bold. It’s not socially acceptable, and the students that defy these social constructs do so at their risk.

5. On the final night at English camp, some of the third year students coordinated a farewell performance to the graduating class. There were a lot of tears and hugs. The performance and the farewell wishes were all in Thai. Therefore I am not sure what was said.  But from observing the reactions of the crowd, it was something special. That night turned into a high school dance.

Dressed in prom attire the students didn’t hold back. I witnessed males dancing with males and females dancing with other females. The atmosphere was not tolerable (I loathe that word), but they showed their support and acceptance. Males were not discouraged or afraid to ask another male to dance. It was magical to see this. While in the States, many schools are opposed to same-sex proms. Again the climate of homosexuality in many of these schools are more oppressive than supportive. It was refreshing to see students openly express themselves, gay, straight, or transgender.

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English camp is a camp involved with activity after activity, and the focus is to enhance the English levels of the students. I wasn’t expecting to feel the overwhelming joy that I felt when watching the students be themselves. It was very touching. It reminded me of the time that I was a social worker in an LGBTQ group home. I remember that it was the only space in the world in which the teenagers were able to express and experiment with both their gender and sexuality identity.

It was a place in which their safety wasn’t a concern. I dreamed and wished for a place that children can be themselves and grow into healthy adults. The world is already complicated as it is to add gender and sexuality identity to the mix. Lastly, I wish many more schools and parents allowed their children to experiment, explore, and continue to build a stronger sense of identity. A display of support, love, and acceptance can do wonders to a child’s spirit. These are the 6 Ways that Thai Youth Ignore Masculine and Feminine Ideals which we’ve covered.

What have you seen on your travels in regards to cultural, gender, and sexuality expression?

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