Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a Thai filmmaker, was elected as a member of Parliament in March, and said that their experiences in film were part of what made them want to run for office in the first place. “I spent years making films talking about the experience of transgender and LGBT people in Thailand but it no longer felt like enough to tell the story,” Tanwarin told the Guardian this week.
But Tanwarin, who is the country’s first trans MP and identifies as nonbinary, won’t accept unequal treatment in Parliament, they said: “I am here because I got elected, meaning I have the same honor and am equal to every other MP.”
Their 2010 film Insects in the Backyard was censored by the Thai courts for its depiction of a trans characters and for “offending the good morality” of the country. It was the legal battle to get the movie shown that also led Sukkhapisit to politics. “Thai society is patriarchal and unequal and does not value all humans the same,” they said. “For my whole life, I have been treated as a second-class citizen and it should not be this way.”
Trans people living in Thailand aren’t allowed to change their gender marker on identity cards, and face routine discrimination—including in employment and the country’s military draft. Tanwarin tells the Guardian that changing discriminatory laws towards trans people is one of their priorities, and removing the stigma in Thailand that being trans is to be “mentally abnormal.”
“Can you imagine, if you are transgender, sitting in the classroom and your textbook said you are mentally abnormal, how could you be brave enough to tell people about who you are?” Tanwarin said.
In the midst of other political turmoil, they told the Guardian that their election is a small, but important step toward a more progressive future in Thailand: “I want to write a new political history for Thailand.”