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FRIDAY, October 07, 2022
Big tests await both ‘Pauline’ and society

Big tests await both ‘Pauline’ and society

FRIDAY, August 04, 2017

Man who has become woman aims to start new life

It’s always inspiring and encouraging when people come out of their sexual closets. The latest Thai case involves a man in his late 40s who has emerged as a woman and shocked everyone in the process – because they hadn’t a clue. Reactions to and consequences of the “Pauline” story give us both good and bad news. 
Societies are definitely more open-minded than before, but there is still a long way to go for people like her.
Reporters have scrambled to interview Pauline, who has returned to Thailand after emerging as a woman in the United States, and her case is certainly a boost for a cause that was taboo not so long ago. The reception seemed generally all right, but for the fact that she will go down the same path as many before her. In other words, apart from becoming a celebrity or activist, she has few other choices. Unless she is extremely lucky, a normal life will continue to elude her.
After all, a positive social-media response to her case does not necessarily represent what society thinks. 
By “society”, we mean people who really are in touch with her, are around her or employ her. It’s one thing to give her encouragement on Facebook and it’s another to live or work with her day in and day out.
Coming back to Thailand from America is a big test for both her and this country. 
Pauline was “born” in America after decades spent in Thailand in her “male shell”, doing everything a man was supposed to do, including having a normal family. In an online article she wrote, she said she was worried about returning to the motherland, but she had made a decision to “stop running”.
Her article mentioned “limited career opportunities”, saying men who want to be women often end up as makeup artists or working odd jobs in the modelling business. In the worst cases, she said, many have been drawn into the sex trade, despite their dread of it. 
Politics is absolutely off-limit, at least for now, and very few can thrive as teachers.
In some ways, Pauline is luckier than many. 
The man in her was well recognised for his professional abilities while working in Thailand. 
She has good male and female friends here, many of whom are willing to help her get through some perceived difficulties. It can be said that her social connections, established when Pauline was a man, should provide some kind of a safety net if her new life as a woman in Thailand turns out to be really rough.
In other ways, Pauline, unlike many others, could be constantly under an unmerciful spotlight. The publicity surrounding her “rebirth” means that everything that goes wrong us apt to be magnified. 
In her article, Pauline said one of the biggest challenges for her had to do with career. 
She wants to live as a capable career woman, just like when she successfully was involved in the “Cheer Thailand” campaign when she was a man working as an executive at several business firms. That aspiration, obviously, will challenge Thai society, too.
All the potential problems require understanding by both society and by Pauline. Both are at the threshold of something very new, and that something has many crucial undertones. 
Open-mindedness works both ways, or it’s best for it to work both ways. Society must reach out to Pauline, and vice versa.