LGBT Expats in Thailand face major issues apart from the standard issues that all expats face. The classic issues typically centre around visas and banking, property and partners. All of these are still issues for LGBT expats but there are some others that are specific to being LGBT in Thailand. These issues have more to do with LGBT civil rights, acceptance in society, and dealing with discrimination. Thailand is maybe the best country for LGBT expats in the world, but all is not perfect. For tourists there are generally no problems, the freedom to be yourself with LGBT identities is wonderful. But if you live here, or want to have a life here, things get complicated.
What are the Issues for LGBT Expats in Thailand?
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender expatriates in Thailand have challenges to do with laws and culture other expats don’t have. Thailand grants unique freedom to LGBT tourists but those that try to stay and live here still face discrimination. The biggest issue is the conflict of views inside Thai society about LGBT identities and their roles. This conflict spawns issues with marriage, parenting, Jobs, Bank accounts, insurance policies, and mortgages that don’t affect other expats. The fact is that the rights of gays, transgenders, and their partners, have not fully evolved in Thailand. This is true for the entire LGBT community in Thailand not just for expats. But expats are affected a bit more because, by definition, they are that one step further removed in Thai society. There has recently been tremendous progress in Thailand, and LGBT people are not total outsiders, but more progress is needed.
5 things LGBT expats are discriminated against in Thailand
1 – Jobs.
With the anti-discrimination act of 2015, Job seekers with LGBTQ identities are not openly prevented from getting jobs in Thailand. However, advancement in those jobs is very difficult for them. There is an obvious glass ceiling in place and the corporate world stresses conformity. This puts pressure on those with gender roles different from their sex making it hard for them to be themselves. There is widespread discrimination in the teaching academies. It almost impossible for open LGBT to become teachers. This affects expats because teaching is such a common job for them. Again, LGBT identities must be more conformist than they would otherwise want to be.
2 – Marriage.
Currently, same-sex marriage is not legal. Same-sex partnerships are recognized by the law but only in a limited fashion short of full marriage rights equality. Ownership of property can be shared by a same-sex couple, and inheritance is allowed if one partner dies. But there is no right to the same public welfare or tax benefits like legally married couples. Expats do benefit from the property and inheritance provisions in the law, but most are not affected by those negatives. What affects expats more is the lack of access to joint mortgages, family savings accounts, and insurance policies. Thai laws only extend these to married couples.
3 – Parenting.
There are two major aspects of parenting that are especially difficult for LGBT expats. One is adoption, the other is In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF). Both of these things are only allowed for legally married couples. This hurts gay and lesbian couples that came to Thailand hoping for children to share their life with. The IVF issue is germane to expats that wanted to use a surrogate to bear them children. Surrogacy is another thing only available to married couples in Thailand. Given this as the legal situation for LGBT parenting, it is safe to say Thais aren’t ready for gay parenting.
4 – Acceptance in Society.
The big deal about this is that LGBT expats live here and want to have a good life. Thai people don’t actually care if you are gay or transgender. The issue is just that you won’t have any of the rights we have been talking about. Thai society is very accepting of LGBT people. But when you become an expat all of a sudden you are facing the same problems the entire LGBT community has in Thailand. The problem is that Thai society is conflicted about sexual identities. This conflict is founded in Thai Buddhism and it extends from there.
5 – Transgender Discrimination in Thailand.
Transgender expatriates in Thailand have one difference from native Thai transgender people, they stand out more and attract attention. This is no problem for tourists. They come here, have the time of their lives and leave. But real life for Thai transgenders is much more difficult that the fun “ladyboys” has in the clubs and shows. Thai transgenders are accepted but marginalized, and that can happen to expats as well. Transgenders in Thailand have a lot more pressure on them in the rural areas and within their families. Expat Transgender people will be expected to be more conformist outside big cities and tourist areas. This situation imposes kind of a boundary on where LGBT expats can find a life of open expression.
Being LGBT in Thailand Pro’s and Con’s
LGBT life as an expat in Thailand can be great, and there are many wonderful things about it. There are also a few downsides. The philosophy should be to make the most of the good and try to mitigate the negatives as best you can.
There are so many cool places for LGBT’s to go! There are gay clubs and resorts, and lesbians have some of the best ladies-only parties in Thailand. Transgenders enjoy a large community of others to share with, and Bisexuals, of course, have the best of both worlds
You are free from harassment and open hate. Thais are very friendly with LGBT people. Aside from the legal rights situation, there is no issue being LGBT and going out to have a good time.
You can relax and be yourself. With the kind of general freedom and total safety LGBT people have in Thailand, there are no restraints on being yourself. There are societal rules that one needs to follow like taking off shoes and wearing proper clothing in temples. But these are not impositions, they are examples of the normal respect given to others in Thai culture.
There are many partners to choose from. Almost 10% of the population of Thailand has an LGBT identity of some kind. There are a great many ways to go out and meet people and become partnered up with them. Dating websites and a thriving bar scene make socializing comfortable and fun.
Being able to meet so many sexually compatible people in Thailand has opened the door to a huge downside to the fun. Thailand has one of the highest HIV rates of infection in the world. All this really means is be aware and practice safe sex.
PDA’s can cause unwanted attention. The tendency when you have so much freedom of sexual expression is to overdo it in public. This is looked down on in Thailand as disrespect. At first someone might just let you know about it and ask that you calm down. At worst it could lead to trouble.
There are not many resources to help the LGBT community in Thailand. Organizations do exist to turn to with questions and for help resolving problems, but not many. And because of the status of human and civil rights laws, you will not get much help from the authorities.
Is Thailand the best country for LGBT Expats?
Thailand is a great country for LGBT expats. It is likely the best. But there needs to be many improvements in civil rights and common laws for it to be ranked that way. Thai society also needs to come of age with itself. Everything to do with the attitude on LGBT is a paradox or a double standard. The good news is that there is a progressive wave in Thailand now that can’t be stopped. The wave has been swelling for a long time and is now rising faster and moving forward faster. Laws will change as well as attitudes, and examples of this are everywhere.