Why Jobhunting is Harder for Trans Men and Women in Thailand
Bangkok/ Venture/ Careers

Trans for Career THL is Supporting Trans Men & Women in Their Job Hunts

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Despite the ostentatious celebrations we hold for Pride Month, it’s obvious that true equality has a long way to go. In Thailand, one of the most difficult aspects of life that members of the LGBTQIA+ community have to navigate is their careers. Those seeking to better themselves may find difficulties in climbing their desired ladder as the path to success comes riddled with prejudice and discrimination.

Coming from the firsthand experiences of three successful trans women in Thailand is the birth of Trans for Career, an organization dedicated to helping trans men and women find better job opportunities during such difficult times.

A portrait of Risa “Mai” Siriwat, Khemmanath “Kob” Naradech, and Nishanaaj “Sarina” Sudlarphaar

Founded by Risa “Mai” Siriwat, Khemmanath “Kob” Naradech, and Nishanaaj “Sarina” Sudlarphaar, Trans for Career Thailand has done an exemplary job of using social media to reach their desired audience.

Today, we speak to Risa Siriwat on the true climate of how Thailand views trans men and women, specifically, and how she and her team can help.

A portrait of Risa Siriwat

How did your personal journey inspire you to establish Trans for Career?

Risa: My personal journey has been marked by significant challenges and discrimination in the workplace due to my identity as a transwoman. One pivotal moment was when I applied for a position as a stock and investment analyst and was dismissed despite my qualifications, simply because of my gender identity. This and other similar experiences inspired me to co-found Trans for Career Thailand (TFCT) to support transgender individuals in their professional pursuits and to advocate for their rights and inclusion in the workforce.

How are trans people viewed in Thailand?

Risa: Transgender people still encounter significant discrimination and stereotypes, especially in professional settings. The media often perpetuates negative stereotypes, portraying transgender people as comedic or solely belonging in entertainment or beauty industries, which affects their employment opportunities and societal acceptance.

For example, when I applied for an equity analyst position at a major securities firm, the interviewer suggested I work as a makeup artist despite my finance background and lack of makeup skills. Many talented trans women are pushed out of the professional market and forced into jobs they dislike simply to make ends meet. This kind of tragedy always breaks my heart.

Thailand has few laws to support the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQIA+ community yet it also touts itself as a very LGBT+ friendly country. Why do you think that is?

Risa: The disconnect arises from Thailand's desire to present itself as a progressive and inclusive society to attract tourism and international attention, while the actual legal framework and societal attitudes lag behind.

Although Thailand is marketed as LGBTQIA+ friendly, the country lacks comprehensive legal protections for the LGBTQIA+ community, including laws against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. This discrepancy highlights the difference between external perceptions and internal realities.

What are the laws in place right now that protect and empower those in the LGBTQIA+ community?

Risa: Currently, the Equality Act of 2015 is one of the few laws that offers some protection against gender-based discrimination in Thailand. However, it is not specifically tailored to address the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. The community advocates for more comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, legal recognition of gender identity, and equal marriage rights. Strengthening these legal frameworks would significantly improve the rights and protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Are there certain sectors that are less welcoming of trans and or LGBTQIA+ members than others?

Risa: Yes, certain sectors are less welcoming to transgender and LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly those that are seen as requiring "high credibility," such as finance, law, and corporate sectors. These industries often hold conservative views and are less accepting of gender diversity compared to more progressive sectors like entertainment and beauty, where LGBT+ individuals are more visible and accepted.

What are the unique problems that trans people face in the work environment that people may not be aware of?

Risa: Transgender individuals face unique challenges in the workplace, including discrimination during hiring, lack of legal recognition for their gender identity, and workplace harassment. Trans women often face issues related to credibility and appearance due to negative societal perceptions influenced by media portrayals.

In contrast, trans men face the problem of lack of recognition; many people are unaware of their existence, leading to their issues being overlooked and unresolved. This results in different types of discrimination and lack of support for their community. Both groups struggle with the lack of policies and practices that accommodate their needs and ensure their safety and inclusion in the workplace.

Why are Thai transgender candidates rejected for career opportunities more than other people in the LGBTQIA+ community (i.e., lesbians, gays, bisexuals)?

Risa: Trans women are disproportionately affected in the job market compared to other LGBTQIA+ individuals due to media portrayals that depict them as comedic figures, which undermines their credibility. This creates unconscious biases, making it difficult for society to envision trans women in professional roles. According to a World Bank paper, about 77% of trans women are immediately rejected during the pre-screening process in recruitment. These biases result in higher rejection rates and less acceptance in professional environments.

What does Trans for Career aim to do for the community?

Risa: I want to clarify that advocating for the hiring of LGBTQIA+ individuals does not mean pushing for their employment regardless of qualifications. What we seek is fair consideration based on our qualifications. I never advocate for preference, only for the opportunity to be judged on an equal footing. Trans for Career Thailand is dedicated to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for transgender individuals in the workforce.

We believe that diversity and inclusion are crucial for the success of any organization and that every individual, regardless of their gender identity, should have the opportunity to pursue their career goals without facing discrimination. We continue to work towards raising awareness, changing perceptions, and advocating for the rights and inclusion of transgender people in all sectors of society.

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