Transgender Air

That's "Little Film," born male and surgically altered to become female. According to Bangkok's Thai-langauge Matichon newspaper, she's the world's first transgender air hostess.

And there are more to come. P.C. Air, a small Bangkok-based airline, has just hired two other transgender air hostesses as well.

Media outlets never tire of zany "first ever" superlatives. Having just typed "first ever" into Google News, I am now aware of Turkey's first-ever camel beauty contest this month. 

But transgenders cracking the stewardess barrier is perhaps a more significant "first ever" breakthrough than you might think. In reporting this recent Global Post story on Thailand's transgender military draftees, I heard repeated complaints from transgender Thais that air hostess positions are coveted. However, so many transgender applicants have been rejected, they said, that those jobs are considered off limits.

An assumed barrier to senior-level employment often steers transgender Thais to jobs that accentuate beauty: stylists, waitressing, sales, cabaret work and, yes, prostitution. Among these types of service jobs, air hostessing would be a pretty high-status gig. 

Still, the hiring of Little Film, the 2007 champ of premier transgender beauty contest "Miss Tiffany Universe," won't necessarily break down the transgender air hostessing wall.

P.C. Air is an incredibly small airline with only one return flight per day from Bangkok to either South Korea or Japan. (I spent more than 20 minutes locating their Web site.) And despite their lofty claims about society's readiness to accept transgender air hostesses, this is clearly a very clever marketing campaign.

The Thai press is currently having lots of fun with this story, raising the profile of a tiny airline few had even heard of.