A Sign of Progress for Thai “Ladyboys”
Picture trying to wedge a 51st star into the American flag, and you’ll get an idea of the task that may soon face sign makers worldwide, thanks to a new policy at a rural high school in Thailand.
Administrators at the Kampang Secondary School, in the northeastern province of Sisaket, recently created a third set of toilets exclusively for the more than 10 percent of students who identify as “ladyboys,” or transgender.
The symbol representing them combines a male and female figure.
Tolerance of transsexuals, at least those born as males, is widespread in Thai society. They maintain a much higher public profile there than in most countries, working in a wide range of jobs.
Likewise, sex-change surgery has become a Thai medical specialty, common and affordable.
The challenge facing Kampang School officials was to spare girl students the embarrassment of sharing their toilets with boys, who in turn didn’t want to share toilets with the regular boys, whom they consider a different breed.
“These students want to be able to go in peace without fear of being watched, laughed at or groped,” said Sitisak Sumontha, the school’s director.
The solution, they decided, was separate-but-equal facilities, marked by a sign whose gender indicator is cut and spliced right down the middle.
The implications could be far-reaching: If the new hybrid symbol catches on internationally, the set of 50 universal symbols so familiar to us from airports and road signs may have to expand by exactly one. That could mean boom times for sign makers!