Trans women in Thailand who are yet to receive gender reassignment surgery are reportedly being forced to to serve in the military.
Conscription laws in the country dictate that at the age of 21 men can either serve six voluntary months, or risk the annual lottery which is being held this month.
For those who risk the lottery, their fate depends on a black ticket which if pulled means they are allowed to go home. However, if a red ticket is pulled then they must serve for two years.
The Thai Transgender Alliance for Human Rights is desperately gearing up ahead of the lottery to provide extra service to trans women who fear they will have to serve.
Jetsada Taesombat, the executive director of the alliance told Reuters that trans suicides often increase around the lottery period because trans women would “rather take their lives” than serve in the army.
Taesombat explained: “Most are stressed and worried that they will be undressed, stared at, or humiliated in public.”
Those deemed with a mental or physical illness are not forced to serve and trans women can be offered exceptions but must undergo lengthy and often embarrassing medical examinations to prove their trans identity.
Once having gender reassignment surgery, trans women are exempt for another two years – or for life if doctors diagnose them with “gender identity disorder”.
Numerous activists have coined this “disorder” status as stigmatising.
The country generally has an acceptance for transgender people, and is making moves to make a better prison system for trans individuals.
The Thai army insists that they are improving their treatment of trans women who get caught in the system.
Lieutenant Colonel Ongard Jamdee, a recruitment officer, said that “the army is instructed to treat and respect transgender women as women”.