NAN – The story of Mike and Anchaaya is a similar story. Twelve years ago, Mike was visiting Thailand on a holiday. He went to a beauty salon to get a manicure where he met a girl. He asked her out. She told him no. Mike came back the next day. He asked her out again. She refused him again. On the third day, she finally relented and went out with him. They went out for the next three straight days which turned into a relationship that has lasted over a decade.
The difference between Mike and Anchaaya’s story from other couples is that Mike and Anchaaya faced institutional and cultural discrimination. Anchaaya is transgender. Anchaaya was born as a male but in her mind and actions, she knew that she was female.
Anchaaya grew up in a small city of Nan where she felt isolated. She did not know her father and her mother forced her to leave the house. She was raised by a non-family aunt until she was able to leave Nan for Pattaya, where she could live in a place that was more tolerant to transsexuals.
There is an image of Thailand as a country where pleasure, vice, and sexuality is available on the streets. The truth is that Thailand is a socially conservative country. Open hostility towards transsexuals is rare in Thailand. Thailand is a Buddhist nation and it preaches tolerance for people with different views.
However this does not stop transgenders from being socially ostracized. Transgenders are generally forced into lower level work, entertainers, or sexually explicit occupations. This is generally because they have been rejected by their families, refused employment for professional positions, and face daily discrimination.
The laws of Thailand have been slowly changing to stop legalized discrimination of homosexuals. Homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder and the military no longer labels transsexuals as having a “severe mental disorder”. In 2007, a change in the law makes rape a crime when a man forces sex upon other man. Prior to this, rape was only a crime if it was by man against a woman. In September of 2015, the Gender Equality Act came into effect which outlaws blatant discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
While Thailand still does not confer legal status for same sex marriages, non-legally binding ceremonial marriages are allowed. Three years after their first date, Mike and Anchaaya had a ceremonial wedding in her hometown of Nan. Everyone in the community showed up for the curiosity of a transgender marriage.
Vietnam has recently rescinded its ban on same sex unions and many western countries have legally recognized same sex marriages. Thailand has previously taken legislative steps to also recognized same sex marriages. It may take time and a stable government but the legal recognition of same sex marriages in Thailand is not unimaginable.
Since their first date, Mike and Anchaaya have become prosperous business owners. Mike owns several bars and property in Arizona. Anchaaya has her own successful stone and glassware business in Pattaya. Mike and Anchaaya have traveled throughout Europe and Asia and talk on an almost daily basis.
Anchaaya was denied twice for a visitor’s visa to the United States. Until recently, there was no other way for her to visit Mike and his family in the United States. Changes in the marriage laws of the United States have allowed Mike to petition for Anchaaya under a K-1 fiancé visa. Their visa has recently been approved and they will soon be going to the United States to legally get married.
It is not financially advantageous for Anchaaya to move to the United States. She is successful with her own businesses and has a nice home in Thailand. She is going to the United States to be with Mike because Mike cannot leave behind his own businesses. Mike and Anchaaya will probably be regularly flying back and forth between Thailand and the United States. For them, the most important thing is that they will be together.
Mr. Robert R. Virasin serves as managing director of Virasin and Partners. He is a licensed U.S. attorney and represented Anchaaya in her K-1 petition in Thailand. He can be reached via email email@example.com or by his website at www.virasin.com.
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