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Martin Foreman

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Gay life in Thailand 2003 - 2010
list of articles



Bangkok Beach boys Chiang Mai Fang Mook Gay Films


HIV/AIDS Isaan (NE Thailand) Katoey
(Ladyboys)
Love Sex

Bangkok

Young Thais, Changing Thais, December 2009: The volume is much louder than I remembered from six months ago and the music is harsher - or perhaps it's my age catching up with me. I look around for familiar faces and see only a couple. After quarter of an hour, there is no doubt. The change I had begun to notice a year or so ago was not a temporary aberration. By December 2009 the transformation is almost complete: DJ has gone native.
read on...




Basic Bangkok, March 2008: First time gay visitors to Bangkok usually head for Silom Road. The evening routine begins in Soi 4, where a half a dozen gay, straight and who cares? bars compete for customers.
read on...




Table Dancing in Bangkok, February 2004: One Sunday night a Thai friend took me to Sake (pronounced halfway between Sa-geh and Sa-keh), a minute's walk away from Kho San Road of backpacker and The Beach fame. We stood with our drinks at one of the chest-high tables that filled the room, looking out at the crowd. It was packed with young Thais and I could make out only one other farang - a man my own age with his thirties Thai lover. I wondered where people danced; by the end of the evening I had my answer. read on...




Beach boys

Son of a beach, November 2005: Five years ago, Nan had come to Pattaya and found a job in a hotel, paying 2,400 baht (35 / $50) a month. The cost of living is cheap, but 2,400 baht does not take you very far. Friends said he should try the go-go bars, where young men (20 is the minimum legal age) in shorts parade for customers hour after hour, night after night. The pay is the same, 100 baht a night, but if a customer wants you, you can earn much more. For almost three weeks, no-one chose Nan, then a North American took him back to his room. An hour later Nan had 2,500 baht in his pocket, and by the end of the week, when the farang went home, another 10,000.
read on...




Chiang Mai

The Lavender Lanna, January 2010: It was therefore surprising to learn that Asia's biggest gay hotel, the 110 room Lavender Lanna, had recently opened in the city. Since I had to visit the city shortly before Christmas, where else could I stay? I booked a couple of nights in one of its most expensive rooms.
read on...




News, February / March 2009: Protests by anti-government "red-shirts" prevented Chiang Mai's second gay pride parade in February, as reported by the Canadian magazine Xtra (see article). The writer fails to mention the intervention of local gay activist, Natee Teerarojanapong, who argued against the parade on the grounds that it would "encourage" local youngsters to become transgender (see Fridae article), although it is not clear what impact his words had on the "red-shirts". Although the first gay pride parade (in early 2008) passed off without incident, this protest is not entirely unexpected; Chiang Mai, home of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (supported by the "red-shirts"), is a conservative city and while broadly tolerant of most sexual activity in private, most Thais are deeply embarrassed by Western-style demonstrations of any sexuality - gay or otherwise.





Fang Mook

August 2008: I was - perhaps naively - reluctant to offend Jom. Switch on the light, point to the lump, which I assumed was a wart, and ask him to leave? No, I couldn't do that. Instead of which, I whispered in his ear: "An-nee aray?" What's this?
read on...




Film

The Love of Siam, November 2007: I saw the film three weeks after it came out. By then, I thought everyone in the country was aware of the gay angle, but when Mew and Tong kissed, there were audible gasps from several people around me.
read on...

Thai gay films




HIV/AIDS

News, August 2008: A presentation at the 2008 International Conference on AIDS in Mexico reminded the world the serious extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Thailand. In 2003, 17% of men in Bangkok who have sex with other men were HIV-positive. That percentage rose to 28% in 2005 and 31% in 2007.
Source: Wimonsate W et al. Successful start of a preparatory HIV cohort study among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Bangkok, Thailand: preliminary baseline, follow-up and HIV incidence data. XVII International AIDS Conference, Mexico City, August 4 2008. Abstract MOAC0105.




Spirit, Monk, Woman - and sixty young gay men, April 2004 Some DVDs fall out of Son's suitcase. Mother picks them up and is shocked to see that they are pornography. Father angrily attacks son. Mother - a squat overweight figure in garish black make-up, a purple bikini-top under which balloons of silicon gel wobble and a long blue towel over men's shorts - defends her offspring by executing a perfect martial arts high kick against Father's head. Son escapes and the rest of the room collapses in laughter. read on...




Isaan

June 2008 & January 2010: Things looked up in Ubon, the capital of the province bordering both Cambodia and Laos. The two cute bellboys at the four-star Lai Thong Hotel, who both insisted on delivering our two small bags to our room, smiled politely at me and complicitly at the Squeeze. The waiter in the Chinese-Japanese restaurant was also young, good-looking and friendly.
read on...




Katoey

The third toilet, June 2008: Male-to-female transgenderism appears to be more common in Thailand than in any other country. The phenomenon of boys as young as 12 behaving in a very effeminate manner and wearing make-up is common, particularly in the rural north-east. Several years ago Chiang Mai university opened a third set of toilets for transgenders. That news item never reached further than the Bangkok daily papers. However, when a high (secondary) school in Si Saket province in the north-east opened transgender toilets earlier this year, the news went around the world, being covered by Reuters, the BBC and others. (I believe that a school in Kanchanaburi province also has TG toilets; more schools are likely to follow them.)



Because the idea of katoey is tolerated and to a certain extent accepted, many adolescent boys call themselves katoey before growing older and discovering that gay is a more appropriate term. Some even begin taking hormones to develop breasts at an age when their bodies are still dealing with the impact of adolescence, before they understand that they want to be men, not women.
read on...


Love

The third toilet, June 2008: Male-to-female transgenderism appears to be more common in Thailand than in any other country. The phenomenon of boys as young as 12 behaving in a very effeminate manner and wearing make-up is common, particularly in the rural north-east. Several years ago Chiang Mai university opened a third set of toilets for transgenders. That news item never reached further than the Bangkok daily papers. However, when a high (secondary) school in Si Saket province in the north-east opened transgender toilets earlier this year, the news went around the world, being covered by
read on...




Sex

Younger and more often, October 2004: There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that in the Upper North in the mid twentieth century sex between unmarried couples was no great shame and sex between two young men was a more or less acceptable, if seldom discussed, pastime. Such sex appears to have been integrated into daily life; with gay bars and venues non-existent, men would meet and establish friendships and partnerships in parks, in friends' homes, in schools and in the streets.
read on...




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