Here's a novel idea: a high school in rural Thailand has provided gender-neutral toilets to protect and support the school's transgender students, not out of a desire to offer solace to the non-trans students.
"I'm so happy about this," Vichai Sangsakul, a teenager with a pixie hairdo pulled back with a pink barrette, told Thailand's PBS new channel on Tuesday. "It looks bad going to female restrooms. What would other people think?"
Most rural Thais are conservative in many ways, but the trailblazing toilet initiative at the school in northeastern Sisaket province reflects another aspect of Thai society: its tolerance of the country's very visible transsexual and transvestite community.
"These students want to be able to go to the restroom in peace without fear of being watched, laughed at or groped," said school director Sitisak Sumontha. Using female restrooms made some of the other students uncomfortable and using the men's room often resulted in harassment, he said. [emphasis mine]
Apparently, Kampang is not Thailand's first educational institution to set up trans toilets, although it is likely the first secondary school. The article also cites a 1,500-student technical college in the northern province of Chiang Mai that set up a "Pink Lotus Bathroom" for trans students in 2003.
I know, I know! One could argue against this idea on a "Separate cannot help but be unequal," basis. But personally, I'll reserve judgment, considering it's not my culture and the trans students mentioned in the article all seemed pleased. Also, I'm all in favor of measures that promote trans safety and make it easier for us to answer the call of nature in public spaces.
One of my good friends in Dublin transitioned in Thailand after having resided there as a British ex-pat for many years. She's stands many inches over 6-foot and was also partial to wearing high-heeled boots. Yet she told me that it wasn't until she moved to Dublin that she experienced transphobia firsthand. Never in Thailand.
(And H/T to Leslie, in Dublin!)