Conflict & Justice

Thailand's policy on gays in the military

At this Buddhist temple, young men line up and wait for their names to be called. This is part of the Thai military recruitment effort which happens across the country every summer. The military uses a draft and kind of lottery system. With few exceptions, all Thai men under 21 have to sign up for the military. This woman has brought a doctor's slip which may allow her to dodge. As a transsexual with breast implants she says she's always considered herself a woman trapped in a man's body. Now she will be exempted. The Thai military has long classified transsexuals as mentally unfit and not prepared to serve. This Thai military officer opens his manual to the chapter on transsexuals�he says doctors will identify them first as a gender. Until last year, transgender and transsexual recruits had to stand under a sign that labeled them as mentally ill. Gay rights groups in Thailand opposed the practice as discriminatory so the military stopped branding them and created a new category which refers to them as neither male nor female. This spokesman says the army is still trying to find a new word for these recruits. Thailand now permits gays to serve, which is not good news for this 21 year old recruit who is gay. He doesn't want to serve in the military. Until recently gays were also classified by the military as mentally ill, but the ban on gays was quietly lifted three years ago. This officer says there's a growing acceptance of gays in the military who are able and willing to serve their country. This gay rights activist says he's not surprised by these changes, and that Thai society is more relaxed and open. Changing attitudes in the military reflect broadening perceptions in the country as a whole, and some predict that gay marriages will be accepted soon as well.

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